Can you believe Christmas is right around the corner? Where has the year gone? Seriously, I swear it was July about two seconds ago. But no, it’s almost the end of 2019 apparently. And the end of 2019 marks our very first expat Christmas abroad.
This year, Colin and I will be celebrating Christmas in Prague, just the two of us (and Ellie!). It’s the first time we’ve celebrated Christmas outside of Canada and without either of our families. It’s our very own expat Christmas!
Christmas is my favourite holiday! I love this time of year and I start blasting Christmas carols on November 1st. I love decorating the house, Christmas baking, cozy nights with tons of candles, and I even love wrapping presents. In fact, I love wrapping so much that my family used to save all of their Christmas gifts for me to wrap until I would get home from university. I would just shut myself up in the living room and spend all day wrapping!
But my favourite part of Christmas is definitely time with family. Back home in Toronto, I attend a countless number of Christmas dinners, lunches, brunches and more with family on my mom’s side, dad’s side, stepmom’s side and with friends. It’s super busy, I’m never not full, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. To me, that huge swarm of family and love and food is Christmas.
But this year, we won’t have that. There won’t be tons of dinners to attend or family members to see. Heck, there might not even be any candles (because apparently, Christmas candles aren’t a thing in Prague! Where my Bath & Body Works at?). Instead, it’ll just be us three in our Prague apartment, celebrating an expat Christmas.
Of course, I’m sad that we won’t be home and celebrating with our loved ones over Christmas. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I’m even getting a little teary every time “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” comes up on my Christmas playlist (and that playlist is over 500 songs strong, so you know that song comes up a lot).
But I’m also looking at it as an opportunity! We get to start some new traditions with our little expat Christmas. Back home, Colin works for most of December, and sometimes has to work on Christmas or New Year’s. But this year, Colin is working from home with me so we’ll be together for the entire holiday season. We’re also planning a road trip to visit some of the best European Christmas Markets – which I could not be more excited for!
So expat Christmas has both its pros and cons for me. But what about for my fellow expats? I asked some expat and travel blogging friends to share their holiday experiences with me and let me know what’s on the top of their expat Christmas wish list!
From the serious to the sentimental, here’s what expats all around the world are hoping Santa will bring them this Christmas!
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) subscription is an expat must-have that prevents your data from being stolen on public wifi networks. Popular, reliable VPNs for travel include NordVPN, Express VPN, and Hotspot Shield. As an American currently based in Portugal, a VPN allows me to watch shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO restricted to viewers in the US. A VPN also gives you access to social media networks like Facebook in countries where they are blocked. Another benefit of using a VPN is to obtain cheaper airfares by accessing promotional fares only available to certain countries.
From the US, currently living in Portugal
By Ingrid at Second-Half Travels
I am originally from Russia and I have been living in the U.S. for 14 years now. What I miss most about Russia is healing resorts and a trip to one of them is on my Christmas wish list. Russian healing resorts are similar to spas but they help you with a certain health issue (digestive, muscular, etc.). The treatments are non-medicated: special diet, exercise, massage, water therapy, etc. People usually stay at such resorts for one to three weeks to achieve optimal results. These resorts are typically located away from busy cities, in nature, so walking and breathing fresh air is part of the healing regimen. There are dozens of these resorts all over the country and they are popular vacation destinations for many people.
From Russia, currently living in the US
By Tatiana Sorokina at Family Road Trip Guru blog
The #1 thing on my expat Christmas wish list this year is a Tinggly experience. I value experiences more than stuff, and as I’ve been traveling for the past five years, I’m afraid I can’t fit anything more in my luggage. Receiving an experience gift box is an amazing alternative for expats and travellers. We don’t always have the budget to do epic experiences everywhere. That said, the Tinggly experience box allows you to pick from a wide range of activities around the world from cooking class to bungee jumps, from scenic flights to sunset cruises. After experiencing a few of these magic travel experiences, I personally think this is the best gift to give to an expat.
From Canada, currently living in Thailand
By Melissa at Nomad Life 101
Since moving to Bulgaria, I’ve found that I can get most things here, but there are some clothing items that I consider basics that I can’t find in the same quality. The thing I truly miss the most is good, durable black leggings! Even though I can find cheap ones at H&M, there’s nothing like the solid brands from the States where they’re made to really last.
Whenever someone visits me in Bulgaria from the US, this is ALWAYS the thing I ask for. I’m sure they think that it’s strange, but I need them to bring me three or four pair of solid leggings. I’ll even give them the instructions for exactly the pairs that I want. They’re so crucial to my wardrobe that I even list them on all of my packing lists for Greece and Bulgaria. My advice to travellers coming here is that you’ll want to look dressed up in the cities, have warm layers you can add and subtract, and that means ladies should come with a few pair of solid leggings! In my experience living abroad for the past three years, it’s the practical, unsexy items that make the best gifts!
From the US, currently living in Bulgaria
By Stephanie Craig at History Fangirl
We’re close to celebrating our second anniversary living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While we love exploring Vietnam, we miss the easy access to hiking trails. We’re originally from the San Jose area, California, U.S., so it was convenient to drive to dozens of hiking locations within one hour from our house. Ho Chi Minh City is a very flat city and the closest hiking trails are 2+ hours one way by car. Since we don’t have a car (the traffic is horrendous!), driving a motorbike and taking the public bus requires more planning and time to get our nature fix.
From the US, currently living in Vietnam
By Jackie and Justin at Life Of Doing
South African braai
The most difficult part about moving from South Africa to South Korea is the lack of space one has. In South Africa, you have plenty of open space, from vast planes to expansive vleis (lakes) and people usually live in houses with backyards. In Korea, it’s all about apartments where only the crazy rich or really poor live in actual houses. The thing I miss most is having a good old South African braai, where friends gather around an open fire for several hours to slow cook some meat while chatting, relaxing and listening to music. A braai or BBQ is the only way to enjoy the best food in South Africa, from lamb chops and boerewors (sausage) to ribs. South Korea has their own version of BBQ of course, but the vibe is less relaxed. It’s also summer in the southern hemisphere during the festive season, so long days on the beach are also on my wish list!
From South Africa, currently in South Korea
by Cal at Once in a Lifetime Journey
The #1 gift on my expat Christmas wish list this year is a quality leather travel journal. I’m from Michigan and bought an awesome journal before leaving on my trip through South America. Now, I’m based in Cali, Colombia and my journal is completely full. It’s one of my most prized possessions with over three years worth of travel memories. Unfortunately, in Colombia, finding a travel journal isn’t as simple as logging on to Amazon and doing a quick search. I’ve hunted high and low with no luck. I’ve since resorted to writing my travel memories in my phone, but it’s not the same. I can’t wait to get my hands on a fresh leather journal.
From the US, currently in Colombia
By Mitch Glass at Project Untethered
I come from Vilnius in Lithuania, a small country in the north-east of Europe, which gets a fair share of snowy cold winters. After moving around Europe for a bit and trying out life in Sheffield, London, Budapest, Copenhagen and Strasbourg, I have settled down for a while in Brussels. Although Belgium is not a tropical paradise either, the climate here is much milder than in Lithuania. The thing I miss the most from home, apart from the home itself, is frost and snow for Christmas, for the New Year and for my birthday in January. The picture above is taken from my terrace in Vilnius in April.
From Lithuania, currently in Belgium
By Ana from Merry-Go-Round. Slowly.
After living in France for nearly 10 years, I’ve slowly shed my Canadian reticence to many things. But there is one thing I absolutely cannot get behind: Chicken flavour potato chips! Actually, all the chip flavours here in France are pretty atrocious; maybe it’s how French people stay so skinny? Bad snack food to discourage eating!
France may be a cultural capital of gastronomy, but this is one area they are sadly lacking. Why would anyone want chips that taste like herbed chicken or sausage? And so this Christmas (and every Christmas!), I’m asking for a care package of some fabulous all-dressed and jalapeno chips from home. I will still dig into the 13 desserts from my French side of the family though! Joyeux Noël!
From Canada, currently living in France
By Nassie at Snippets of Paris
Ice Skating Rink
From the US, currently living in Portugal
By Wendy at The Nomadic Vegan
Portable coffee maker
After traveling around South America and deciding to settle in Colombia it quickly became evident that I can’t live without coffee. With so much great coffee at my disposal and the lack of decent coffee shops in the rural town I stay, one item I have recently added to my Christmas wish list is a portable coffee maker which I can use daily. This means I can prepare barista-style coffee wherever I am in the country. The Aeropress is my favourite coffee maker as it allows me to be in control of my own brew while I’m both at home and on the road; without taking up hardly any room in my travel bag.
From the UK, currently living in Colombia
By Dan at Layer Culture
As an expat living in Japan, the thing I always asked my mother to send me in her Christmas care package was a pavlova egg. A pavlova is a meringue desert, covered in cream and fresh fruit. We always had one at Christmas in Australia, and decorated them in the season’s colours of red, green and gold with strawberries, kiwi fruit and passion fruit. It doesn’t seem like Christmas without it, even when living in countries where it was cold at Christmas.
It’s possible to make a pavlova from scratch, but I’m not a great cook, which is where a “pavlova egg” comes in. It is actually a plastic egg with a dry premix so you just need to add sugar and water and bake it. I spent many Christmases enjoying a pavlova and introducing it to my new local friends. Of course, finding passion fruit in December in a non-tropical country is another challenge and I have on more than one occasion paid $5 for one passion fruit – and I was happy to pay it!
From Australia, previous expat in Japan, currently in the US
By James Ian at Travel Collecting
Living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico was a dream, but our #1 wish as expats was to have family and friends visit us. As we’d love to take them out exploring our new backyard! Like jump on the ferry to Cozumel to explore for the day!
Cozumel is a beautiful Caribbean island that has plenty to do. We’d take our guests to see the Mayan Ruins, snorkeling or diving if they’re up for an adventure and visit the ecological parks. A Cozumel food tour would be a must and the final stop would be to catch the sunset from one of the beautiful beaches. Oh and some peanut butter margaritas at Wet Wendy’s is a must! Trust us it may sound gross but it’s amazing.
From the US, living in Mexico but currently home having a baby!
By Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz at GettingStamped
One of the things that I miss most about being an expat living abroad is Chipotle. Now, when we first moved to Germany 5 years ago that was one of our go to places after the gym. The food was always fresh and the choices were great for a post gym workout. While Germany has one Chipotle, it is located in Frankfurt and unless we are in the area, it isn’t exactly worth it to drive there all the time. So we only get it on occasion when we are in town. It is definitely something that is missed, not only by us but by a large portion of our local American community as well.
From the US, currently living in Germany
By Diana at Travels In Poland
I’m a Brit who went on an (as yet unfinished) journey to try and be in an expat in 10 countries, over a lifetime. It has taken me around much of Europe, Latin America and Australia, and there were definitely things I struggled to be without.
In several countries, I worked hard to get to a certain level in the local language. But, for pleasure reading, I just wanted books, magazines and more in English. These could be really expensive locally and stinkingly expensive to import by post. Even in Paris’ shops, you can buy books in English but it’s a smaller selection at a premium price. Supplying someone’s reading material at Christmas would be a really thoughtful and special gift!
From the UK, currently travelling
By Danni and Livein10countries.com
What does every Nigerian living abroad want for Christmas? There is only one answer: Zobo drink. What is a Zobo drink? In case you are unsure, it is a type of tea made from dried hibiscus petals. It is a refreshing drink enjoyed throughout the world, originated in North Africa, and is extremely common in Southeast Asia and West Africa.
Not only is Zobo a great tasting drink, but it is also healthy. It is packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants and may even lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. You can drink it hot or cold, and some people even add a bit of rum, wine, or pineapple.
Growing up in Nigeria, my grandma would make the best Zobo drink from fresh hibiscus leaves. Every time I remember the cleansing taste, I get homesick and wish I could get locally sourced Zobo here in the States. Although I have lived in several states in the U.S.A and tried hundreds of different drinks, nothing comes close to homemade Zobo. So if you are thinking of visiting Africa, stop off at one of the safest countries in Africa to try it out. You will be glad you did!
From Nigeria, currently living in the US
By Lydia at Africa Wanderlust
What’s on my expat Christmas wish list?
As for me, I’m definitely inspired by a lot of the wish list items my fellow expats have come up with. I would love to have a visit from family back home and there are certainly some food items I’m missing (sushi!). But I think my greatest hope for our expat Christmas in Prague is that it still feels like Christmas. To me Christmas always feels so cozy and warm – it’s just all about love and being together. I know our expat Christmas won’t be quite like Christmases back home but I still hope we get that Christmas feeling and enjoy our holidays as a little family in Prague!
Are you celebrating expat Christmas abroad this year? Tell me where you’re celebrating and what’s on your Christmas wish list!
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