So it’s finally December and wow has this year gone fast with Christmas just around the corner! We are planning to put our tree up this week! Who’s already got theirs up? Time for me to get my British Christmassy things out for the holidays.
As an expat it can be very hard to be away with a distance from home during those Christmas vacations and away from family and friends who are all getting together to celebrate. It’s one of the worst times of the year to feel homesick. Being abroad for a long time sure isn’t as easy as you may think it is!
For this list, it is written compared with the United Kingdom and The Netherlands from my expat experiences living abroad. To get into the Christmas spirit in the Netherlands you usually start after December 5th which is Sinterklaas, the Dutch Santa. But it sure a very different experience to celebrating Christmas in England.
1. Christmas Music
In England you start hearing Christmas music in shops and supermarkets from the end of October, with all stores stocking up on their chocolates, presents and decorations. A little early but something I actually miss – a great excuse to already eat those Christmas treats! Now that it is December I’ve got my Christmas music playlist sorted on Spotify – with my favourite song from The Pogues!
Christmas is a time to be surrounded by loved ones. Your parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents and even those crazy family members who drive you crazy up no matter what time of the year. It’s always difficult to be away from all your family but during December it’s really highlighted of the importance of being together. I miss them dearly, but it’s not just at Christmas but all year round!
I’m definitely blessed to say I have a strong bond with my partners family, seeing each other during the Christmas holidays. We always make sure to eat together and watch a fun film together!
For those living abroad, my 13 Things to Help Overcome Those Homesickness Feelings Abroad post help!
3. Christmas Dinner
Those British dinners full of delicious roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and a delicious piece of chicken, beef or turkey next to your veggies. Followed of course by Christmas pudding, pavlova, mince pies or some cheddar cheese and crackers. My mouth is already watering just thinking about it all!
Last year here in the Netherlands we had a delicious Christmas lunch together.
4. Expect One Person To Fall Asleep
There is always someone like a grandparent or aunty to fall asleep after the Christmas dinner and pudding. You will be all talking about good memories from the year or thinking back to younger days when you realise that someone in the room is snoring, causing everyone to pull those funny eyes to say “look who it is” while smiling. This is something I have definitely never experienced while living in the Netherlands – but never is never!.
5. Television Advertisements
One thing I love looking to are the advertisements made by John Lewis for Christmas. Those videos always gives me the warm christmassy feelings! I’ve never seen a feel good Dutch advertisement so 1-0 to England on this one. If you know one, let me know!
In 2015 we looked up to the moon to see the unhappy man living there, who receives a heart warming gift to connect with the little girl at Christmas. In 2016 Buster the Boxer brought joy to the tv screens jumping on the trampoline after seeing the wild animals doing the same. For 2018 we see the story of Elton John, going back in time back to when he was a little boy getting a piano for Christmas. True feel good stories.
But my ultimate favourite is back from 2014, the John Lewis advertisement was with Monty the Penguin. I grew up loving penguins and watching Pingu as a child, so if I could had a pet penguin like this I would! Seeing penguins in the wild sure would be a dream come true!
6. Presents Under The Tree
It is highly likely that you will not see presents under a Dutch Christmas tree, as this isn’t the tradition. However I do think it is becoming more popular to celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands with presents. That feeling of waking up on Christmas day excited to open the surprises under the tree is a feeling I will never forget. But I cannot complain, as we celebrate with presents on Sinterklaas so it’s a different feeling. This year I will put our biscuits and sweets under the tree to be eaten on the day.
7. Boxing Day TV Programmes
The day after Christmas is when you get to stuff your face with all the leftovers from Christmas day and that means its totally acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast. The UK Boxing day television is usually pretty good, allowing you to relax on the sofa watching all those BBC comedy shows, Blue planet specials and those feel good films that are worth watching again.
8. Boxing Day Walk/Shopping
To me, it wasn’t always about watching TV of course, it was usually planned to join the family on a wintery walk (maybe even in the rain based on British weather). Grabbing your winter coats, hat, scarf and gloves and walking somewhere like along the beach seafront or somewhere in nature where it was likely very empty.
For others, they would venture into the towns and cities as many shops and stores would already start their Boxing Day sales. So even though you already had tons of food and treats in the house, this is the perfect excuse to go out and buy more. But also to spend any money that you received on Christmas Day on a new pc game, clothing or that present you still have your eyes on. This is something I feel the Dutch are doing too on their Boxing Day. As well as seeing more family and spending time together.
9. Christmas Cards
This one is maybe less interesting, but it was always surprising how many Christmas cards I would receive since living in the Netherlands from British people compared to Dutch people. It’s just so normal to send everyone you know a card in England. However I think sending Christmas cards are becoming more popular here too. That reminds me, time to start writing mine!
10. Viewing Christmas Lights
On the Isle of Wight where I grew up the local bus company would make a special route of all the houses that had impressive Christmas lights on outside their home. Many of these would collect money for local charities and it was always amazing to see how many lights they had flashing, blow up polar bears and igloos, Rudolf on the rooftop and music playing in sync. This is similar in other places of the UK I believe, and big cities having an evening where the public can get together to see the lights be turned on.
Have you ever lived or are living abroad and experience a few of these? Every country is different but I absolutely love these different moments of new experiences. Share with me yours!