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Home for the Holidays... or Not

21 December, 2011 15:25  Erin Erin

christmas theme - globe and gift © air - Fotolia.comThe holidays are an emotional time where people are nostalgic for "the old days", tradition is observed, and everyone thinks about going home for the holidays. For some of us, that's harder than it seems.

Being away from friends and family and the place you once called home is one of the most difficult aspects of being an expat. "Going home" may be impossible considering work, transportation costs, and attachment to your new home and traditions.

How to Make Home a Little Closer

Consider Going Home

Though the place you are from may have lost the title of "home", family and friends can still make a place special. Despite realistic issues of time and money, you should consider the emotional reward of being home for the holidays.

For flights, use search engines that track prices and can show you the best time to buy like Kayak, Hipmunk, and Skyscanner. Consider hiring a travel agent for stress-free travel.

Gifts can also be helpful in getting you home. Frequent Flyer Miles can be gifted and Airline Gift Cards can make a trip home possible. Put it on your wish list!

Transfer Money

If you can't physically go home, the gift of cash for your loved ones can make your presence felt. Unfortunately, this gift can be difficult to give. There are many different options for sending money abroad.

Send Money through the Banks - This method is often the easiest as most people are familiar with the banks and they can guide you through the process. However, this method can be expensive and a bit slow.

Money Transmission Services - Money transmission services are helpful for recipients that aren't online or you don't know their details. These services are often used for emergency cash, but can be used to send cash presents. The best known are MoneyGram and Western Union. This method is best for sending small amounts very quickly.

Currency Brokers - Currency brokers are best for moving a large amount of money quickly. The rate offered by currency brokers can be up to 4 percent better than those used by the banks.

Internet Transfers - Internet transfers don't allow for a surprise, but they can be ideal for sending small amounts almost instantaneously. The most popular services are PayPal and Moneybookers.

Prepaid Cards - Similar to a gift card, these offer the independence of spending the money anywhere, for anything. They look like a credit cards with Visa or Mastercard and can be used in retailers which take either of these. Cards have the recipient's name on it but will be sent to the main account holder (i.e the sender). They can then load the card up and send it to their chosen recipient, and in future can just add extra funds to the card for presents. Note that there is a usually a charge for cash withdrawals from ATMs.

Indulge Yourself

While you may not be surrounded with the warm embrace of familiar surroundings and a loving circle of friends and family, you can take away the sting with some of your favorite things. Take a spa day and slough off the stress, take a mini-vacation to a place you've wanted to explore, or just enjoy the simple pleasures of a good movie and a cup of cocoa.

Share Your Traditions

It can be hard to re-create your most-loved traditions in a far-off land. Common ingredients are hard to find, the atmosphere and traditions can be entirely different, and the holiday you are celebrating may not even be a holiday. Americans struggle finding a proper Turkey abroad for Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year is only celebrated in expat pockets around the world, and Ramadan is almost entirely ignored in some places.

Despite these difficulties, sharing old traditions can bring about a new form of holiday cheer. Invite friends to a big celebration and prepare a traditional meal. Explain the symbolism of the decorations, food, and holiday. This can help re-unite the reasons behind the tradition and help you re-connect with it's significance.

Celebrate Your New Home and Traditions

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
Living in a different country opens you up to a new world of possibilities and a host of different holidays and celebrations. Jump in and celebrate with the natives.

Discover the two Santa Clauses of Belgium, St. Nicholas and Pere Noel.
Meet the Brazilian Santa Claus, Papai Noel, who travels to Brazil every Christmas from his home in Greenland.

Embrace the Catalonian tradition of Caganer, a Christmas statue found in nativity scenes in Andorra and parts of Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
Go for fried chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken in China for Christmas.
Get to know Zwarte Piet, Black Peter, Santa's helper in the Netherlands.

Acknowledge that there will be differences as an expat or traveler this holiday season, but different doesn't always mean bad. Recognize the opportunity to learn more about traditions around the world and re-connect with what is important to you this season.


He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

ALBERO AUGURI INTERNAZIONALE © gret@lorenz - Fotolia.com



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