Expats, Not Home for Christmas? 7 Ways to Feel Closer to Your Family

“So you’re not coming back home for Christmas, are you? Oh, we’ll miss you so much.

Expatriate, not home for Christmas?

Not home for Christmas?

The house will be empty. It’s so sad.
I was hoping you could make it. I was so looking forward to seeing the girls. It’ll be more than a year that I have not hugged them.
I planned to bake some cakes, and particularly the one with cinnamon, a speciality of your grand-ma. The recipe dates back from 1956 and we always ate it during Christmas time.
It’s one of our family traditions.
Well, this year, it’ll be the first time we’re not together. It’s a shame.
Your children won’t have those memories. And you know, at my age, it might be the last Christmas I’m enjoying in good health.
Our next door neighbor, Susan, do you recall her? She is 5 years younger than me and she has just been diagnosed with cancer. Totally depressing.
Are you sure you’re not coming?”

Silence on the other side.

… Hello, are you still there??”

You can’t find the words. “OK mum, I have to go now. I’ll call you later.”
You hang up. And you burst into tears.

It’s so true. You made the decision to move abroad: you just could not refuse that job, or perhaps you followed your partner. Whatever the reason is, it does not matter.

Right now, this decision hurts.

It’s hurting you but more importantly, it’s hurting others.

You made the decision. But you’re hurting people you love, people who did everything for you when you needed it, people who cared for you. Be it your parents, your brother, your best friend.
You’re hurting people you cherish, people you want to protect, people you want the best for: your children.

You feel guilty. You feel frustrated. You feel bad.

I know. I’m in that situation too.

But under those circumstances, at that moment, you can’t change it.
The only thing YOU have the power to change (and this immediately) is what you think.

As stated by Napoleon Hill
“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage.”
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You’re not going to see each other for Christmas but there are ways to feel closer to your family.
Here are some ideas I came up with, brainstorming with my kids.

1.   Use the full power of technology to bridge the physical gap: call or skype for instant chat, pictures, video.

Plan a backup solution if the Internet connection lets you down. Make videos, podcasts, take pictures and send them a few days in advance.

2.   On Christmas eve, dress up as one of your relatives and guess who’s who

3.   Mimic familiar expressions or behaviors from typical relatives and find who’s who. Fun guaranteed.

4.   Write 2 “did you know facts” about your personal achievements this year.
Ask your kids and your partner to do the same. Send the list to the grand-parents or the aunties, cousins and other uncles back home. Ask them to identify who’s who.
In return, they could offer their list of goals or New-Year’s resolutions for you to guess.

5.   Find recipes of typical dishes in the place you live in
and exchange them with your family back home

6.   Experience other traditions and share those moments through pictures or video with your  relatives

We attended an event called “Carols by Candlelight“, a typical Australian tradition where people, holding candles, gather to listen to Christmas songs.

7.   Share a spiritual approach.

If your parents are struggling for example, invite them to find a meaning in this hardship.
Viktor Frankl, who survived more than 3 years in concentration camps, said:
“(For) the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”
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For each of us, suffering of not being with our beloved ones, wherever we are…

Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves:

What’s the meaning of this hardship? What does life expect from me? How am I supposed to answer to this suffering?

And coming back to our story at the beginning of this article: what if this year, not being with your parents on Christmas Eve would enable them to invite Susan, their next-door neighbor, alone and sick?

Do you have other ways to feel closer to your family while being far away? Share them in the comments.

Merry Christmas!



  1. These are great tips. We Skype with my mom who is in Mexico. My sister, who is in Chicago connects, too. And we share memories and drink wine. It’s fun.


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