As I wake up this morning to another Christmas in Austria, I can’t help but think about how I’ve changed since living here. It’s 8 years since I left the UK and whilst I absolutely love living in another country, the longer I’m away, the fonder I become of my homeland and it’s traditions. I’m getting used to Christmas as an expat. But there are certain things that have now become a tradition in our house that never used to be.
When I get together with other friends who are also expats, the conversations often turn to things we miss about home. So I thought it would be fun to put together a list of things that I think other expats will relate to, especially over the holidays.
5 Things You Can Relate To If You’ve Lived Abroad During Christmas
1. You Miss Food You Never Even Liked
I wouldn’t say that my family were particularly traditional at Christmas. In fact, it was almost the opposite. We had our own traditions though. Like getting Chinese takeaway on Christmas Eve and playing the game Mah Jong with our Grandparents. The closest we had to a traditional Christmas dinner was on boxing day when my other Grandmother would cook a turkey dinner.
But since moving abroad, I’ve almost become adamant that we need to have a “proper Christmas dinner” on Christmas day (which is the 25th December people, but that’s for another point!). And for me, a proper Christmas dinner simply has to have all of the trimmings. Cue searching everywhere for Brussel sprouts and getting packets of bread sauce sent over from the UK. I DON’T EVEN LIKE THESE THINGS and Menno isn’t particularly keen on some of them either! But it’s Christmas. So I’m cooking them anyway! I wasn’t much of a fan of Christmas pudding or mince pies either when I was living in the UK. Now it wouldn’t be Christmas without them!
2. You Pay A Fortune For A Taste Of Home
Whether it’s those traditional Christmas dinner items you love or loathe, you’ll spend a fortune tracking them down. My first Christmas with Menno, I hadn’t been able to find Parsnips anywhere in the supermarkets so we went to the big market hall in the city. My eyes lit up as I saw a vegetable stall with lovely big parsnips. Christmas had been saved. But I think I paid around €5 for two. And of course, there’s the massive food order that has to be shipped over with my sage and onion stuffing mix and gravy granules. And don’t get me started on how much I will pay for a tin of Heinz Baked Beans!
3. Other People Think 24th December is Christmas
I know. It sounds crazy right! In Austria, along with many other European countries, they celebrate Christmas on 24th December. I’m all for integrating into society BUT! I’m not going to change Christmas. For me, Christmas always has been and always will be on 25th December.
4. You Actually Miss Watching TV Adverts
In your home country, it’s not unusual to start complaining about the Christmas adverts when they start playing in November. But what’s even worse than that? When your friends and family start going mad over this year’s amazing John Lewis Christmas advert and you’ve no idea what they are talking about. Cue searching on YouTube to actively look for commercials!
5. You Feel The Need To Cram In Every Tradition You Can Remeber
Similar to the food issue, since I’ve lived in Austria, I’ve pretty much forced every Christmas tradition I’ve ever heard about on my poor husband. And the crazy thing is, we didn’t even do half of these things when I was living in the UK. Advent calendars, Christmas stockings with little nick-nacks, chocolate coins, candy canes on the tree. I even burn incense that reminds me of going to Chruch, even though I have no intention of going to mass ever again. Basically, anything I can remember from what Christmas is like in the UK, I try to cram into our Christmas in Austria.
What about you? Can you relate to any of these feelings? Or perhaps there are some others that I’ve forgotten about. I’d love to hear more expat stories from you guys.
I’d love to hear how you are celebrating Christmas wherever you are in the world.
In the meantime, we’re off for a ski before I come home and cook the world’s largest Christmas dinner for 2.
Want to see one of the things I love about Austria at Christmas time?
The Innsbruck Christmas Markets