‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas… Just Like the Ones I Used to Know’

66709638200327622_ntnm5KpF_cIt is this time of winter holidays again – the time when everyone goes back home in one way or the other. I am sure this sounds very familiar to many expatriates, it sounds like an expat Christmas dream.

Being an expat myself, I look forward to my home family visit for the holidays too. It is important for me to follow the traditions of Christmas, which are closely connected to spending time with my family members, and do so in my home location. In a way, keeping to such traditional celebrations may be one of those core aspects that anchors us expats to our non-expat past, helps to keep in touch with home and ‘refresh’ our original cultural identity. When back at home, I will be speaking my native language, eating my native food, drifting back into my childhood and youth memories, and indulging in everything familiar. ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…Just like the ones I used to know’ – having this Bing Crosby song in the background would be ideal for illustrating this very moment. Yet, my expat experience tells me that it actually sounds too good to be true J

First of all, returning home for the Christmas holidays, ‘just like the ones I used to know’, is very likely an unrealistic expectation. As discussed in terms of repatriation in one of my previous blog posts, when heading back home, even for a shorter visit, it is important to expect change. Places change, people change, and most importantly, you change as a result of the experience abroad and the time spent away from home. These changes are not easy to see when being either here or there, but they become quite obvious when ‘here’ and ‘there’ is contrasted during a short visit. As brought up in my other post, expats may find themselves ‘being caught between two worlds’, trying to fit into the ‘old me’, yet being less able to do so because of the ‘new me’.

Secondly, coming back home for holidays may reveal discomfort with actually defining home. Many expats may question themselves, am I going ‘home’ for holidays, or am I leaving ‘home’ for holidays? Which location feels more like home? Realizing that ‘home’ does not feel quite like home anymore may spoil our initial expectations.

Finally, still keeping with Bill Crosby’s song, do we expect the holiday to ‘be merry and bright’? Sure, but I believe that many expats would agree that holiday at home is not really a ‘holiday’. In fact, visiting home once or twice a year requires good time management and planning skills, because within the short period of time, the expat is supposed to visit as many family members, friends, and relatives as possible. Although well-intentioned from both sides, continuous storytelling and bonding can become somewhat intense and overwhelming.

As such, the expat Christmas dream needs some reality checks from time to time. Naturally, holidays at home may still be wonderful and merry, yet, it is important to manage our expectations, be ready for slight setbacks, and most importantly, be open for experiencing it in a new way. With that being said, happy holidays!

6 thoughts on “‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas… Just Like the Ones I Used to Know’

  1. would be interesting to look at the expat situation of economic refugees, those who move from their country not because there is war, but because the economy is not perfoming well and there are no job opportunities, so these highly qualified people move to where they can find employment in another country, when it comes to xmas, they ,might go as many as 10 years before going home because they will want to regularize their citizenship status in their adopted countries after which they will be free to travel home for xmas, maybe they might be even illegals in the country they are expats in

  2. “Am I going ‘home’ for holidays, or am I leaving ‘home’ for holidays? Which location feels more like home?” This is an interesting way to look at it, where is home? Where the heart is? I am trying to decide where to spend the Christmas holidays this year. Decisions, decisions! Wherever we decide to be, being amongst family and friends is the most important thing of all. Enjoy the festive season x

  3. I agree with you and Claire! 🙂

    I think that if you had a good relationship with your family, being home for holidays will always have its perks. As you said, you get to eat good food, speak your native language and many more. Can’t really deny yourself a few special moments, this life is tough enough!

    Anyways, wish you only the best!

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