Welcome to the Journey Count Christmas Abroad Survival Guide!
As you may have guessed from my last three Journey Updates, I pretty much adore Christmas. As a kid my family made sure Christmas was exciting, magical and always spent together.
My family are pretty good at keeping in touch and getting together throughout the year, but this is especially true at Christmas. It makes me so happy to be surrounded by all my amazing family, eating delicious food, exchanging gifts and generally being merry.
So, it’s safe to say I was more than a little anxious about spending the holidays away from all that, here in Korea. I was worried that it wouldn’t feel Christmassy, that the day would pass by without notice and that I would be miserable the whole time from missing my family.
Luckily, that hasn’t been the case. In fact, this year the Christmas spirit has gone to my head a little and seems to be all I talk about! Yay for Christmas!
I wanted to share with all you travellers and expats out there, far from home this Christmas, my guide to Christmas Abroad Survival. Along with some tips from a few expat friends I will try and show you how I made sure there was no grinchiness in Uiseong, Korea.
No matter where you are in the world craft materials are never far away, you just have to be creative! From ransacking a local stationary shop to finding fir cones in the forest, making Christmas crafts is a sure fire way to get you feeling festive.
This is a really cheap trick too. Whether you can find red and green card to fashion a Christmas tree out of, or whether you have to take to stealing restaurant napkins to make snowflakes, paper is usually inexpensive and easy to find.
Oli and I made this Christmas tree for his apartment using just two large pieces of red and green card, some cotton wool and a pack of star stickers. It was so simple and instantly brought some festive spirit into the apartment.
Even if you aren’t the crafty type, buying a small Christmas ornament to hang in your apartment, on your hostel bed, or even on your backpack, will remind you that Christmas, like it is at home, isn’t too far away.
Get everyone involved!
This was a pretty easy one for me, being an elementary school teacher. I simply made sure that the whole week leading up to Christmas was festively themed! I even planned my entire 3 day winter camp around it! It starts today and I can’t wait to have a classroom full of Christmas cheer on Christmas Eve!
But you may not have hoards of impressionable, excited kids around you, so turn to your friends.
Your family away from home are so important around the holidays, so don’t ignore them in a bid to be on Skype 24/7.
Plan ALL the things! Organise festive nights out in Christmas get-up, have movie nights in watching Elf (another great way to get in the mood!) and make sure your friends are there on the big day. Organising a big mess in on Christmas day will keep you busy and build anticipation for your very own Christmas away from home. Oli and I feel pretty grown-up hosting Christmas for the expats of Uiseong- something we wouldn’t have done for a few years yet if we were back home.
Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp, Kakao, Line, Viber, take your pic. These avenues of communication are such a blessing when you are abroad and can really make you feel closer to everyone at home.
But try not to spend your whole time trying to ‘be there’ over the internet. Many friends have pointed out that calling home too often can sometimes make you miss your family even more, as you see just how much you are missing out on. Find out what works for you and, depending on time difference messiness, you can even try have a meal together or open cards and gifts.
Speaking of cards and gifts, one way to feel like part of the festivities at home is to send stuff there. Knowing that your family will be reading a merry message from you will make sure you are not missed! It’s also really fun to find the most funky foreign card and gift possible from the country you’re living in! I went SO Korean with my Christmas cards!
And although it’s not up to you, try and get someone to send you a little something too. Everyone loves receiving post!
As well as doing not one, but two Secret Santas this year, we are also making Christmas goodie bags for the kids we volunteer with at the orphanage. Oli’s uncle very generously sent us some money to get the ball rolling and then 10 or so of us put in for the rest. We will go to the orphanage Christmas morning and hang out with the kids while they decorate Christmas cookies and open up their gifts of socks, candy and stickers!
Find out who you can help and hang with around the holidays.
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” Elf really does know what he’s talking about 🙂