Facebook can be your worst enemy if you are abroad for the holidays. Seeing photos of friends and family gathering back home, reading posts about Christmas trees and peppermint lattes, and all of the general merriment of the season being expounded upon you from every outlet can give a major case of FOMO and homesickness. You’re missing out on the most important time of year and baby Jesus shall smite you down! it all seems to yell at you.
But after experiencing my second Christmas away from home (in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas), I can now say that there are certain things about being being abroad for the holidays that I really appreciate. It’s not to say that I don’t wish I were home with my family, but since that’s out of the question I’ve learned to make due with what I’ve got and I’ve even come to enjoy it–in some ways even more than Christmas back home! Here’s why:
You Can Choose and Create Your Own Traditions
You’ll find yourself trying to recreate the holiday experience from back home, but you are at full leisure to draw only on your favorite parts. For me, baking cookies, exchanging gifts, and laying in a food coma on Christmas day while A Christmas Story plays on repeat in the background are my favorite traditions, so that’s exactly what I did. You can also adopt the traditions of your friends or host country (I refrained from adding kimchi to my Christmas meal, however). Being removed from home makes you realize what you really want out of the holiday and I loved being able to create that for myself.
There’s No Stressful Build Up
America goes into a frenzy in the weeks leading up to the holidays. The stress of buying everyone all the right gifts, dealing with family drama and working out who is going to which house, all the decorating and baking and wrapping and writing cards and—-aaaahhh it’s all just so much work! Here in Korea, Christmas is a very casual holiday. While we get the day off of work, Koreans view it more as a “couple’s holiday” akin to Valentine’s Day. There are Christmas lights and some tinsel decorations, but none of the materialistic aspects of gift giving. It’s so refreshing to not feel stressed and overwhelmed by all the festive obligations leading up to the big day.
You Have Extra Time To Buy Presents
Ok, reservations about materialism aside, you are probably still going to want to buy gifts for your family back home– but you are off the hook for getting it to them by Christmas! “Darn that slow, unreliable US postal service” is always a great line or, in my case, “I’m coming home next month, I’ll just bring your gifts then!”
You Can Still Gain Holiday Weight!
I mean, that’s a great thing, right?? Living in another country does not disqualify you from eating like a fat kid who just got off his diet. My friends and I banded together to create a Christmas eve feast of hip-widening proportions, with nearly every course including copious amounts of cheese. We then spent the entire Christmas afternoon lounging in pajamas and eating leftovers every hour on the hour until we felt that we’d have to be removed from the house with a crane. It was perfect in every way.
I don’t want to miss out on the holidays at home forever, but it’s been a great learning experience to spend the time somewhere else. It gives you a new appreciation for what it’s all about and puts a lot in perspective. With the right friends and attitude, holidays abroad can actually be really awesome and I’m so thankful for the people in Korea I was able to share it with. The only problem now is that those 14 cookies I just ate went straight to my ass and I’m going on a beach vacation in a few days… Stay tuned for sightings of a beached whale in the Philippines!
And now let’s play a game: Caption this photo!