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The excitement of a relocation, or an assignment abroad like anything always comes at some cost… With the pandemic making travel increasingly difficult, finding yourself away from home and loved ones when you have holidays to take; or for those special times of the year, full of cultural and familial traditions is often quite difficult…

According to a research report published by Finaccord ‘the total number of expatriates worldwide amounted to around 66.2 million in 2017, with an expat moving abroad every 44 seconds!’ Arguably one of the best things about moving abroad is the opportunity to experience a new culture, new food, new holidays, festivals and traditions. These are often the aspects that can break routine and reinvigorate your work life balance. They’re also a great way to experience your new home culture.

With the inability to visit home in these current times, culture shock and homesickness can pop up at the most unexpected times. Having relocated myself, spoken to friends also working and living abroad, and to the many individuals we have been able to support; we have compiled the following:

How to Guide to making the most of your holidays!    

1. Do your research…

Doing your research around the holiday is a great place to start, not only to get to grips with the occasion but also the logistics. Where your new home is, the cultural significance of the holiday, and the time of year will indicate how many things are closed and the usual behaviours around these dates.

It’s good to get a realistic idea, if for example all the shops, banks, and doctors surgeries really do close? Do the schedules for transport change perhaps operating with reduced timetables? Do most people exit the city and leave for the suburbs or countryside? Do any of the major roads close, are there any processions and road blocks? Will there be significant traffic in certain areas at certain times? All these aspects will not only help you navigate your potential holiday plans but also the logistics you may need to address! Get prepared!

2. Religious or Secular holiday?

Understanding whether the holiday is rooted in religious history, and has or hasn’t evolved into a secular celebration is key. Adapting to different religious influences, respecting and understanding them to the best of your ability is very important when integrating in your new home country.

Easter for example is regarded as a religious holiday, however for some it merely marks the beginning of spring and time spent with family; for others it’s just about the chocolate eggs! It is best to inquire, ask local friends about it, or  their childhood traditions around the holiday to get a better understanding of how the holiday has evolved and it’s significance today!

3. Offer well wishes irrespective…

It’s sometimes hard to work out if the holiday requires jubilant well wishes, or is, perhaps, a more sombre occasion. I personally have always taken the opinion that it is best to offer well wishes, knowing that locals will understand that I am not a local, and with the sentiment you have expressed always appreciated! Perhaps, have a stab at learning the greeting or well wish in the local language for the holiday – this always helps and will also immediately tell you the type of holiday it is.

4. Plan on being a little homesick… it’s normal!

Homesickness is a normal part of a relocation, we’re all human! Ignoring it and not registering it will just make it worse, so accept that it’s to be expected, really quite common for most; and find the best behaviour that suits your personality. For some being busy, in company and distracted is the answer; for others perhaps spending some time alone doing something you enjoy is better, either way facing it head on will keep it at bay!

5. Focus on what you are gaining…

There is no quick fix for homesickness, but distraction and gratitude are a great place to start at least to combat it. Instead of dwelling on those things you miss, why not write a list of those things you’re going to gain!

Framing things differently, isn’t simple but with a little dedication and effort you can view it as a self-enriching experience, and one you won’t be able to have again, easily, anytime soon.

6. Decorate, learn the dance, cook the ‘holiday food’ and embrace it even just a bit!

Creating a nice environment to celebrate the holidays whether big or small is always a great way to get yourself in the spirit of whichever holiday is approaching. It’s also a great way to feel part of the community, so if you’re used to holidays lying on a beach but find yourself inland in England for example why not explore the countryside! Purchasing decorations, cooking a traditional local meal, or going to a local festival could be a new holiday tradition. Getting creative with your own space is just another way to make home feel more like home – if you put a little care and attention a staycation can also be a lot of fun!

7. Don’t ignore the holidays, create new traditions!

Taking from both the traditions of your new destination, and the traditions of home is a great way to create new ones! Ignoring the holidays, is not the answer especially if it is your first holiday alone, so why not plan and invite people, and see what happens.

Bringing people together, over good food and drink – cooking is always a great way to get into the holiday mode – and making new memories is a great approach for making the holidays part of your new life.

8. Accept an invitation.

If invited to take part in a celebration, go on a trip or visit somewhere new, say yes! It is generally deemed good manners to arrive with something to offer, or a small gift if invited somewhere for an extended period of time or specific occasion. Again, depending on the situation – the holiday you are observing, or individuals drinking habits etc – perhaps best to leave alcohol of the gift list. Bringing something from your own culture is brilliant way to collaborate, let people learn a little about your traditions and offer something new to share.

9. Take the opportunity to explore other areas of your new home… 

One of the main reasons anyone does an assignment is for the adventure, the new environment, experiences, culture and to see more of the world! So, why not consider taking mini holidays and discovering another part of your home destination or perhaps it’s neighbouring country.

Finding yourself for example in Europe with home being the United states means that there are endless opportunities of different regions or countries now on your doorstep. With some travel restrictions easing, short haul flights being very well priced and traveling times relatively short, do some research and see where you can travel to. Exploring destinations you’d otherwise struggle to see when living on the other side of the world is what a holiday is all about! 

10. Seek out fellow expats.

Why not seek out those too, that may be missing holidays with family and loved ones and make an occasion of it. There are lots of platforms out there to strike up conversations – forums – and create groups to do fun things. Facebook is home to a milieu of expat groups worldwide. Meetup is another great site to see who’s organising something already, or why not even set up your own event. Whether it be going for dinner, seeing a show, doing some sport, having a picnic, organising a hike you name it… put it out there and you might just make some new friends!

Finally, in this day and age we are lucky to be so incredibly connected and a Skype call, FaceTime to those loved ones, never hurts! Perhaps, you can share with them all the new things you have learned, created, people you’ve met while embracing those holidays… 

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