How To Survive Christmas When Living Abroad

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year! Christmas songs, Christmas jumpers, unlimited amount of food, no judgement for being drunk before 12am…. I could go on and on …

How to survive Christmas when living abroad

… presents, silly games, Christmas crackers …


So yeah. I love Christmas.

It’s almost December so we are getting into the festive spirit already – well, we are trying! Living abroad makes it more difficult as China doesn’t celebrate it. In Beijing, we are a bit luckier because there are so many western expats, which means there is a bit of a demand for Christmas decorations!

Santa in Beijing at a Christmas Market

Sometimes though, if you are living abroad it might be hard to get into the festive spirit – missing family makes it difficult and you might even have to work! *cry cry cry*

Here are five tips to get you through the Christmas season even if you are living abroad!

1. Visit a Christmas market

This may or may not be possible, depending on where you are. However, a lot of big cities will hold some sort of Christmas/winter market, even if it just purely to exploit the gesture of goodwill! In China, people don’t celebrate Christmas but there are plenty of Christmas markets during November and December to cater for those who do (check out the German Christmas market this year!). And if you’re in Europe, there is NO excuse to miss a market!

Christmas Tree at Beijing Christmas Market

2. Bring Christmas themed food with you

No, I’m not suggesting that you roast a turkey and ship it over to India (although hats off to you if you manage that). But if you’re desperate then you can be prepared! We LOVE  mince pies and I was not prepared to give up a 25 year run of eating them.

Sneaking some mince pies at Christmas

Last year, Kev’s family visited so they brought a few boxes over. This year, we bought a huge jar of mince meat before we left for China and had a good long think about what clothes we could sacrifice in order to bring it … We can make the pastry ourselves and enjoy the most Christmassy snack for the whole of December! And yes, we will get through the whole jar.*

3. Sort out a Christmas playlist

It’s more than likely that you already have this (we’ve been playing ours since October…) but make sure it’s full of the cheesiest Christmas music you can find. Learn the lyrics and embarrass impress your new friends with your knowledge. Nothings says Christmas like blaring out Mariah Carey at inappropriate times …

Spotify in China for Christmas Playlist

4. Teach others about your country’s traditions

Starting with the Christmas songs! Seriously though, whether you’re an English teacher or you work in an office, you’ll find at least one person who doesn’t know about that great thing your country does at Christmas.

ESL in China

We spoke to an American girl the other day who didn’t realise that British people eat turkey on Christmas Day. WHAT ELSE WOULD WE BE DOING!? Drinking tea, listening to the Queen and moaning about the weather? Okay … okay.. I see your point but still … Turkeys aren’t bred just for Thanksgiving, you know.

5. Do something different on Christmas Day

I know it’s tempting to try and recreate your family Christmas but the chances are, if you’re living abroad then it just won’t be the same without a snoring grandparent in the corner. So, do something completely different and exciting.

Skiing in Beijing on Christmas Day

Last year, we went skiing for the day and it was fab. It made us forget that we didn’t have a turkey and we had so much fun. There might be a really good show you want to go and see, or if you’re lucky enough to live in a hot country you might want to cool down at a water park. Make it memorable so that you can look back and say you still enjoyed Christmas even though you were living abroad!

Christmas Tree in China

Yes, Christmas is all about family, and yes it can be hard being away from your home comforts but if you’re living abroad, make the most of it and enjoy the day anyway!

*If you’re not British and are baffled by the idea of us eating a jar of meat, please make your world a happier place by looking here to find out what a mince pie is and then thank me by sending me more.

Have you spent a Christmas abroad? What did you do on Christmas Day? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to Pin us too!

How to survive Christmas when living abroad

About Jade Mortimer

Hey, I'm Jade! Currently I'm teaching English in China but will soon be moving to Australia - bring on the kangaroos and vegemite! I love a good cuppa and John Travolta is my hero....

Leave a Reply