Spending the Holidays Abroad

It’s that time of year when everyone at home is traveling to be with family for festivities, holiday treats, and all the traditions your relatives take part in. Meanwhile, you’re in a small apartment in China feeling nostalgic, and maybe a little lonely, maybe missing mom’s holiday dessert tray. Let me dispel the idea that being abroad for the holidays is a bad thing. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s vastly superior to doing the same thing everyone does, and that you’ll have plenty of opportunities for in the future. Life abroad is an adventure and this is exactly that, so let’s talk about what’s weird, what’s tough, and what’s awesome about spending the holidays abroad.

What’s weird? Well, first off, you work on days like Christmas that are typically off days at home. While there is some acknowledgement of the holiday and things are a little slower, it’s mostly business as usual. You go to work, you have to do your paperwork, you eat your cold lunch, all the usual things. This throws you off even more because there are decorations in shopping malls and tourist districts, and even music. Weird.

What’s tough? The hard thing is just missing your family and friends. All your high school buddies having a drink at the old haunt, your favorite food, the festive decorations, and just spending time with everyone. It’s hard to miss out on these things, and there will likely be at least one sad phone call. Also, while this may not be true for everyone, the vast majority of new teachers overseas are taking a path far different from your friends at home that are on career path that matches their degree, purchasing real estate, getting married, and doing what most people do at home. This is one of the most exciting things about living abroad, but during the holidays many of us have the inevitable “what am I doing with my life?” moment. Don’t worry, it’ll pass

What’s awesome? Exactly the last point on what’s tough – what are you doing with your life? You’re living outside the same path everyone is on. Instead of listening to your uncle rant about politics and watching your brother drink too much, you are standing on a city wall watching maddening traffic half a world away. You are living the adventures everyone else dreams about. Also, new fun traditions come out of this and you still celebrate, expat style. I spent one Christmas in a restaurant by myself with a good book, and another with an apartment full of friends cooking spaghetti. There is nothing more invigorating than the thrill of new adventure.

Happy holidays to all of you abroad, living the life everyone wants!