"Incorporating holiday traditions from your home country can be an important way to feel comfortable and happy in your new country and to stay connected to friends and family back home,” shares IMPACT Group Coach Jean Renouil. While it is especially hard to be away from the comfort of loved ones and familiar surroundings during the holiday season, Jean has found that there are many ways to carry on traditions – albeit in a slightly different way than before. Below are ways to create a holiday to remember.
Add the old with the new.
“For some, this means finding a new restaurant or venue to celebrate holiday events together. For others, it is finding the ingredients or supplies to create the perfect holiday meal or decoration." Jean notes that while this often takes a little inquiry and planning, the effort is worthwhile. "Maintaining some family traditions while adding new experiences can help the entire family celebrate in a way that brings continuity and joy." During their own relocations, Jean and her family discovered that while celebrating the holidays with new friends, they learned fresh ideas, tried different recipes and foods and began to develop friendships and connections in their new community.
Find unique ways to communicate with your family and friends back home.
George Dutch, an IMPACT Group coach in Canada, explains how personal friends kept in touch while living abroad in Germany for 5 years. "They prepared a quarterly newsletter that included news about a local or national tradition, photos of the family, and updates on their work, health, and interests,” he shares. "My friend said it took about an hour to pull it all together each quarter. There was something formal and friendly about receiving the newsletter,” which made it feel special to everyone who read it.
Sometimes how you communicate with others will vary depending on the country you are in. IMPACT Group Coach Xiaofan Null, based in Asia, notes that WeChat is popular in China since Facebook is not allowed. "You can also FaceTime or set up a blog to document your experiences in the new country," suggests Xiaofan.
Incorporate the culture of your new country.
Vicky Kennedy, one of our career coaches who lives in the UAE, shares that Christmas is not celebrated in Dubai by the locals. You may have to get creative. “I recently saw a family put up a decorated Christmas tree on top of a sand dune. They then put Christmas hats on and had photos taken them for their holiday card.”
You may also consider ways to share local attractions with loved ones to help them experience your new culture. “Expats in the UAE can download a picture the New Year's Eve fireworks display off the Burj Khalifa building and use it as an e-Christmas card. The building looks like a Christmas tree when the fireworks are shooting off it!"
Vicky points out that it is becoming more and more common to send Christmas cards to all friends and colleagues in Dubai – even if they do not celebrate the holiday. "When done in a sensitive way, the ‘seasonal spirit’ will be well received," she says, "but avoid religious images and use terminology such as festive greetings, season greetings or best wishes instead of Merry Christmas."
Food is the common denominator for all holidays – no matter which country you live in!
There are special dishes in every country. Brazilian coach Tatiana Botta, who assists many Brazilian expats living abroad, talks about how significant this is. "In our culture, food is really important. This is the big concern for the expats I work with, and it was a big concern of mine when I moved, too," admits Tatiana. Mixing foods from your home country and your host country is a funny and interesting way to learn the new culture. Your new friends will likely enjoy tasting the interesting dishes you prepare as well!
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