Surviving and Celebrating the Holidays Abroad

Spending the holidays abroad can be rough. You’re missing friends and family, traditions no longer seem traditional, and what if you’re in a place that doesn’t recognize the holiday at all?! 

This year, I’ll have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Spain. The previous year I spent Christmas in Ireland and the year prior to that, in Korea. Needless to say, I’m no stranger to spending the holidays away from family, but that doesn’t make it any easier. 

Whether it is your first holiday abroad or your fifth, here are some ways to make your holidays abroad something to celebrate instead of something to cope with.

Holidays abroad

An Opportunity to Learn About New Traditions and Cultures

While there are bound to be holidays that aren’t celebrated while you’re abroad (I’m lookin’ at you Canadian Thanksgiving), there are also likely to be some new ones. Whilst living in Korea, I worked during Canadian Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Despite some bitterness about it at the time, I also got to celebrate Chuseok (basically Korean Thanksgiving), and Lunar New Year. 

In Spain, I’ll still be getting my Christmas holidays as I usually did back home, plus there are other religious or political holidays throughout the year that I come across festivities for throughout the city. Typically, they’ll have to do with a saint, but you may also come across seemingly random events and festivities – like sheep passing through the central plaza!


A post shared by Wanderdolls (@wander.dolls) on

Create New Traditions for Yourself

Spending your holidays abroad allow you to create various takes on a holiday that you already celebrate. For me, I found myself celebrating thanksgiving in November with my American friends. Same food, good friends, and overall a similar holiday. 

One of the best ways to cope with holidays abroad is to know that you aren’t alone. It’s unlikely that you’re the only Canadian, American, British, Irish, Australian, etc, etc, person around. This is particularly true if you’re in a larger city. In Korea, on Canada Day, I found myself at a Canadian bar, drinking a caesar and eating poutine. Was the best caesar or poutine I’ve ever had? No. Of course not. But it brings the excitement back, it brings in a sense of home and nostalgia and that makes up for the lack of real cheese curds.

On that note, when you’re looking to make a food for a specific holiday, sourcing that specific food can be difficult. Again, it’s easier in a big city. There’s likely a foreign food mart somewhere. Whether you need cranberry sauce, or someone with a Costco membership to get a turkey, or whatever it may be. Still can’t find it? Plan ahead and if possible, buy it online or have someone mail it to you!

If you don’t want to make it yourself there are tons of expat bars, or university groups or other organization that hold events for those from your community. Not only will it give you that sense of home, but you’ll meet some great new friends in the process!

surviving the holidays as an expat

Focus on where you are instead of where you aren’t

By | 2017-12-20T06:37:49+00:00 December 4th, 2017|Living Abroad, Travel|12 Comments


  1. Karolina | But, First, Tea! December 10, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I feel you girl! It’s not easy being in a foreign country during the holiday season. But I agree with what you said – there’s a chance for you to learn something new and basically have lots of fun doing it:)

    • Ashley December 12, 2017 at 3:41 am - Reply

      Exactly! One of those take the bad with the good things – and the good can be so good!

  2. Cynthia Nicoeltti December 10, 2017 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Great information for those that do travel during the Holidays. I have not done that yet but would love to.

    • Ashley December 12, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

      Glad you liked it, and you definitely should some day!

  3. lucicoo December 11, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    I always wanted to travel abroad during the holiday seasons just to see how other cultures celebrated them. Great post.

    • Ashley December 12, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

      Glad you liked it! You definitely should some day!

  4. Hang Around The World December 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    We are going to share this post with some of our friends who we will celebrate the holidays abroad! You can learn new traditions and cultures 🙂

    • Ashley December 12, 2017 at 3:36 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing glad you like it!

  5. Indrani December 12, 2017 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Yes it can be difficult celebrating festivals in new places. Best would be hunt out people with similar traditions and beliefs. Very thoughtful post.

    • Ashley December 12, 2017 at 3:36 am - Reply

      Yes I agree. Getting that sense of home and tradition while abroad is nice

  6. MissKouture December 13, 2017 at 3:55 am - Reply

    This is such a great resource for people who plan to travel abroad for the holidays girl! Amazing post!! 🙂 –

    • Ashley December 13, 2017 at 6:18 am - Reply

      Glad you enjoy it!

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