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Celebrating the Holidays in a New Country

Published by Chris Townsend

Celebrating the Holidays in a New Country
Celebrate holidays in a new country

Moving to a new country can be as exciting as it can be scary. Whether you are going with your family or alone, you will most likely come to find that things aren’t exactly quite like you knew them back in your home country. This culture shock can be particularly egregious during the holidays when people feel more homesick than ever.

But you don’t need to let this culture shock detract from your ability to enjoy the holidays. If anything, this can be an opportunity to learn more about other cultures and find new ways to enjoy a holiday that you have never considered.

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of tips to help you enjoy the holidays no matter where in the world you are.

How to Celebrate Holidays in a New Country

Before we get started with the list proper, there are a few things we need to keep in mind. Holidays can be just as stressful as they are exciting, and if you add on top of that the uncertainty of being in a different country, you could quickly find yourself being a bit of a mess. Being homesick, which is normal during holidays, certainly won’t help.

An important thing to do in order to enjoy yourself is to be patient and kind with yourself. Try not to feel too worried about understanding the meaning of the holidays, as many locals will probably be happy to explain them to you. Try to consider this opportunity as a way to break away from your routine, and enjoy the displays of culture that you’ll get a chance to experience.

Do some research

Do Some Research

The first thing you’ll want to do to get started is to do some research. You can find guidebooks to use, or just opt for the classic option of searching online. There are important details that you’ll need to learn, both culturally and logistically.

From a cultural perspective, you’ll want to know what their dos and Don’ts are for the holiday. From a logistic perspective, you’ll want to know if this holiday is one where businesses are closed, or how else it could otherwise impact your daily routine. You wouldn’t want to realize too late that everything is closed when you need to make some purchases.

Researching the holiday will also give you something to do, and you might learn details that wouldn’t normally be shared by people.

Find an Opportunity to Join the Celebrations

If someone invites you to join them at a party for the holiday, be it at their home or another location, don’t be afraid to jump right in. These are the best opportunities to immerse yourself in the celebrations and learn firsthand what goes into these holidays. Expect people to approach you with questions if you are a newcomer to the country, and be open to discussion and conversation. Even if told that you don’t have to bring anything, it is a good idea to a least get a small gift for the host. Alcohol might seem like a good choice, but it can be tricky if you don’t know the person or the celebration well. You can check with a friend or online to see what are acceptable gifts to bring.

Some examples of gifts that are usually okay for any occasion are potted plants, a box of tea, or a basket of fruit. You could also cook a dish of your own to bring to the celebration, even better if it is one that you would make if celebrating the holiday back home. Don’t bring anything that requires cooking or heating at the location, and try to limit it to something that doesn’t need to be eaten right away.

Don’t be afraid

Don’t Be Afraid to Offer Good Wishes

In some places, finding an expression to commemorate the celebration of a holiday can be tricky. Some holidays are celebrated purely for fun, while others are more of a time for deep thought and contemplation. A safe way to approach this is to simply wish the other person well, or to their family. Good wishes for the day, or the weekend, are never badly received. Most of the time people will recognize your effort to mean well and will focus on your intentions.

You could learn the particular expressions used to commemorate the holiday as an additional sign of respect, but be careful of how you use them. Make sure to discuss their use with a local to ensure that you remain respectful.

Be Respectful of Other’s Beliefs

Many holidays come specifically from a religious background. As such, you need to be careful and respectful regarding the particular practices and beliefs surrounding said holidays. It doesn’t mean that you need to tiptoe around people, but just that you are mindful of what goes into this celebration and why people care about it.

In some countries, like the United States, Easter is mostly a family celebration without a particular heavy theme. But in others, like many Latin American countries, it is a deeply religious time for contemplation.

Don’t be afraid to ask people, such as your neighbors or coworkers, about how they celebrate the holidays. It can be a great opportunity to connect with people. You could also compare notes on how they celebrate something and how you used to do it back home.

Differences can make uncomfortable

Try Not to Pay Too Much Attention to the Differences

Even for places that celebrate the same holidays, there can be a lot of differences in the way that they do so. Some of these might be smaller than others, but all of them can catch the unprepared off-guard. No turkey during thanksgiving? No Santa for Christmas? That’s something that can throw people off.

These differences can make some people feel uncomfortable, or even intensify the feeling of homesickness or nostalgia. But the trick is to think of these as entirely new holidays and separate yourself from the way you did things back home. Open up to this new opportunity. The whole idea is celebrating a different culture and finding ways to adapt to a new location.

Alternatively, you could just celebrate the holidays the way you always have. Who says that you need to limit your celebration? Set up a party and invite your neighbors to see how you do things back home. Always keeping in mind to be respectful to their traditions. You could also set up video calls with your family and friends back home to celebrate with them too. If cooking home dishes that are traditional to your home country, you’ll want to go out with enough time to make sure you can find all the necessary ingredients. Don’t wait until too late to do the shopping as some stuff might be more difficult to find than you would initially assume.

Enjoy Unofficial Holidays Too

Unofficial or so-called commercial holidays, like Valentine’s or Halloween, can be a perfect excuse to have some fun with your new friends. A lot of these holidays are celebrated all around the world, sometimes in very different ways.

Be mindful of the way you choose to celebrate it. You wouldn’t want to dress up for Halloween if no one else does. Pay attention to how other people do it and don’t be afraid to ask.

You can also celebrate seasonal occasions, like the arrival of Summer or Winter. If you are visiting a place with very different weather from what you are used to, see if there are any seasonal activities you can partake in that you won’t normally get to experience back home. After all, the point is having fun.

Celebrating the holiday directly

Use the Opportunity to Travel

If you don’t feel like celebrating the holiday directly, you could always just take the opportunity to travel around the city. If this holiday is one where people don’t need to work, you’ll have a lot of free time to explore around. Be mindful that some places and services might be unavailable, including transportation and museums. You can check before the date to see what services are available and what places are closed for the date.

Even so, that doesn’t need to take away from your fun. Take a mini-vacation and go explore the world!

Wrapping Up

Celebrating the holidays in a new country can be a scary experience at first, but if you open your heart and your mind to new cultures and opportunities, we are sure you won’t regret it. Whether you are visiting these places temporarily, or you have decided to make them your new home, you will have a much easier time adapting to their holiday customs after following the tips we have shared today.

Check out other posts in our blog about celebrating the holidays on the move, and many more topics.

If you are thinking of moving abroad, or want to ship something back home, you will need the assistance of someone that knows the international moving process, like us. Contact us if you need help with an international shipping project.

International shipping project

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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