So it’s finally December and wow has this year gone fast with Christmas just around the corner! A time to put the tree up! Who’s already got theirs up? Time for me to get my British Christmassy things out for the holidays. This inspired me to write this post about 10 British Christmas Things You Miss As An Expat.
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.
10 British Christmas Things You Miss As An Expat
1. Christmas Music
In England you start hearing Christmas music in shops and supermarkets at 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!
For those living abroad, my 13 Things to Help Overcome Those Homesickness Feelings Abroad post may 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!
In the Netherlands it is often a Christmas brunch or evening meal together with loved ones.
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 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.This year I will definitely be putting some biscuits, sweets and presents under the tree.
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, 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.
Check Out My Other Expat Posts
Advantages Of Living In A Small Country: The Netherlands Edition
Summary Of My 10 British Christmas Things You Miss As An Expat Post
Do you recognise these as a Brit abroad in the Netherlands? Or maybe a Brit abroad in another country? This was my opinion of 10 British Christmas Things that I’ve personally missed as a British person living in the Netherlands. Maybe you have more or the similar experiences while living in the Netherlands.
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Thanks for reading and sharing my 10 British Christmas Things You Miss As An Expat post!
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!
Unta15th December 2017 at 6:19 pm
I love boxing days! 😀 😀 Maybe some of these things you can achieve in Netherlands too.
Zoe | Together In Transit15th December 2017 at 6:23 pm
I try, we’ll see this year! 🙂
cassiepearse15th December 2017 at 6:22 pm
Gosh, reading this as a Brit about to become an expat again I wonder which I’ll miss: proper Xmas lunch and presents, for sure. But awful adverts? Never! I know it’s a contentious issue but i loathe all xmas ads!
Zoe | Together In Transit15th December 2017 at 6:24 pm
haha you have a good point there! Where will you be living as an expat?
kylieuk15th December 2017 at 6:36 pm
I completely agree! I’m now living in America and I try to recreate as many of my British Christmas traditions as possible but it just isn’t the same! My favourite Christmas Song is Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas!
Zoe | Together In Transit15th December 2017 at 8:14 pm
Oh I totally have that song also on my playlist!! & yeah it sure is a struggle!
Christina Guan15th December 2017 at 9:30 pm
Aw wow this post managed to make me nostalgic for something I haven’t even experienced hahah. I’m actually having my first British Christmas this year – spending it with my boyfriend’s family in England. SO excited!
Zoe | Together In Transit15th December 2017 at 9:58 pm
Oh I must say I’m a little jealous haha! Have a wonderful time!
lisannevanbeurden15th December 2017 at 9:03 pm
Ah I can imagine you miss these things!! I had the same when I was in Australia during Christmas as a Dutchie.
Zoe | Together In Transit15th December 2017 at 9:04 pm
Can imagine! I think i’d be lost if I went back to the UK now where I wouldn’t be able to eat oliebollen during the Christmas holidays!
willsavefortravel15th December 2017 at 11:38 pm
love these! I live in Canada but most traditions are the same! Happy Christmas 🙂
Ticket to Adventures16th December 2017 at 11:11 am
I totally know what you mean. Back in the days when I lived in Australia, the UK and Spain I spent way tooo many Christmases away from home. I was so home sich at Christmas time but at the same time it was good fun learning about Christmas traditions of other countries and cultures.
Zoe | Together In Transit16th December 2017 at 2:50 pm
Yes I know that feeling! Luckily there is always different christmas traditions to pick up in those countries that are always welcoming too!
Kate - Travel for Difference16th December 2017 at 11:47 am
I miss all of these things and I’ve never even experienced a British Christmas 🙈 The UK seems like one of those places that just KNOWS how to do Christmas 🙌🏼
Zoe | Together In Transit16th December 2017 at 2:51 pm
Haha well from my experience I agree! but I think Christmas in big cities like New York might be an amazing experience too!
invertedsheep16th December 2017 at 8:29 pm
On a positive it looks like your Dutch Christmas dinner requires a lot less washing up!
Zoe | Together In Transit16th December 2017 at 8:44 pm
haha yes thats for sure! 😉
earthsmagicalplaces16th December 2017 at 9:35 pm
The John Lewis advert is the best part of Christmas in the UK haha… To other countries I bet this fact is so confusing lol
Zoe | Together In Transit16th December 2017 at 11:37 pm
Haha yes I think so! Glad to be sharing it though 🙂
Twins That Travel 👯 (@TwinsThatTravel)16th December 2017 at 9:36 pm
We live in England and even we felt nostalgic after reading this!!! So lovely xxx
Zoe | Together In Transit16th December 2017 at 11:37 pm
So lovely to hear! thank you for commenting and wishing you lovely christmas in the UK 🙂
damecacao17th December 2017 at 1:51 am
Many of these are so similar to what I’m missing as an expat living in Korea. But I’m from the US! You’d expect Korea to be completely different, but actually the Christmas lights and music are everywhere– except Christmas here is a couple’s holiday! Thanks for the reminders of home.
Zoe | Together In Transit17th December 2017 at 2:23 pm
Thanks for your comment!
🌻🌻🌻 (@feliciabroccolo)17th December 2017 at 2:43 am
This is my first year away from home for Christmas and I’m totally feeling these! So relatable!
Kristine Li17th December 2017 at 10:52 am
The one falling asleep – I totally didn’t expect that in the list, lol! So heartwarming at the same time though =)
Zoe | Together In Transit17th December 2017 at 2:24 pm
Thank you for commenting! I had fun writing this post 🙂
Emma12th December 2020 at 9:43 am
I’m so with you on this. I’m a Brit in Canada and I went out and bought After Eights and chocolate oranges yesterday to put under the tree and my boyfriend didn’t get it. I’m going to attempt yorkshires for Christmas dinner so we’ll see how that goes. My mum is shipping me stuffing and always sends me my Cadbury advent calendar
Togetherintransit12th December 2020 at 1:22 pm
Thanks for commenting Emma! Hope you enjoy these treats while in Canada – and good luck the yorkshire puddings!
Katherine12th December 2020 at 2:22 pm
I can relate to this so much! I spent a few Christmases in London, which was wildly different to what I was used to in Australia. And now I find that I miss those cosy Christmases by the fireplace, and heading to Oxford Street to check out the window displays and beautiful lights!
Ophelie12th December 2020 at 6:22 pm
It’s hard to spend Christmas far from home for sure! I love the penguin video it was so cute! I hope you will be able to experience the next Christmas at home again!