The smell of gingerbread floats through the house, lights are twinkling in the tree and on the windowsill flickers a candle silently. Christmas is just around the corner and awakes memories of familiar traditions – some long lost, some meticulously revisited every year. It reminds us how difficult it can be to celebrate a holiday abroad – far away from friends and family – and that things are completely different now.
When moving to a new country, there are many factors to adjust to: language, manners, food, family roles -the list goes on and on! While adapting to your new home can provide a sense of comfort and a feeling of fitting in, it’s also important not to drift away from your own beliefs, practices and traditions. Balancing both cultures is important in maintaining your identity and staying true to who you are.
Finding a balance between two worlds is not easy, however, there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier. We asked three expat partners how they keep their traditions alive. Here are three ways how they maintain their own culture as an expat:
1. Keep in touch with friends and family back home
Luckily, modern day technology helps us keep in touch with family and friends anywhere in the world. Staying in contact with your network back home allows you to have a foot in both worlds and feel connected to your roots. While this may sound obvious, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in expat life and gradually lose touch with those back home.
“My husband and I speak only Romanian to our daughter here in Denmark.“, recounts Sandra. She moved to Denmark from Romania with her husband.”Since we talk to our family back in Romania quite a bit, we want to make sure she is able to communicate with them.” As their family in Romania doesn’t understand Danish, Sandra feels this is a good way for their daughter to continue speaking their native tongue. However, spending too much time talking to family back home may lead to missed opportunities in your new home. So be careful and try to find a balance.
2. Keep your cultural and family traditions alive, but also embrace the new!
We all have our traditions, whether it be related to food, holidays, daily rituals etc. Maintaining your traditions as an expat can provide a sense of comfort and the feeling that not everything has changed with the transition into a new country. In addition to preserving your own traditions, try to also keep an open mind to the traditions in your host country.
„Denmark is big on Christmas and there are many traditions that I look forward to partaking in every year”, Noelle tells us. She moved to Denmark last year and especially enjoys the tradition of dancing around the Christmas tree with her Danish family. However, to make her feel more at home during the holidays she likes to make sure to implement some of her U.S. Christmas traditions, like making gingerbread houses. ”This makes me feel more at home during the holidays while also giving me the opportunity to share my own cultural traditions with my Danish family and friends.”, she adds.
3. Meet people connected to your culture
Getting out and meeting other people connected to your culture is a good way to build a network of supportive, like-minded individuals who also share the experience of living abroad. A good way to start with this is a search for expat groups online. In these groups you can find a community that shares news, events, and potential organizations or clubs connected to your culture. If you cannot find any groups online, perhaps contact your embassy or consulate to see if they know of any.
Meenal, who lives in Denmark with her husband and daughter, was able to connect to a lot of likeminded people from India through an event. “My husband and I got to know that there’s a Diwali event that happens every year in Denmark.”, she tells us.” At this event, we met so many people from almost every part of India, and instantly I was a part of the many get-togethers to happen over the next few weeks. For ultra-social people like me and my husband it was no less than a blessing to have people to talk to.” The connections she made at this event alone, helped her family to navigate the unfamiliar grounds in Denmark, as she says, “the Indian way”.
Meet2Talk can help you keep your traditions alive
Signing up on Meet2Talk is a great way to get in touch with likeminded people that share the same culture. Connect with them to celebrate familiar traditions. But keep in mind, that while it is nice to know people who come from a similar background, as an expat, you will meet all sorts of people from different backgrounds, ages, and stages of life! They will all have different traditions and at the same time, they will all know how you feel spending the holidays abroad!