The countdown has started. 12 days to Christmas.
The expat community is divided:
* either you’re going back home,
* or you stay put.
“So what are you doing for Christmas this year?”
This question, you’ve heard it 100 times, 200 times.
At school, at work, from your neighbors, even from the cashier at the supermarket.
Invariably you tell the same answer “This year, we’re going back home”.
“How exciting!” exclaims your interlocutor.
You put your best smile on and answer politely. “Oh, yes! It’ll be wonderful!”
It’s funny how everybody assumes that you’re delighted to go back to your home country and see your relatives.
Family, I love you…
But when you scratch just a little bit under the surface, the reality can be very different.
Gathered around the table on Christmas Eve, you’ve got them all.
1. The egocentric auntie
You were looking forward to telling her your adventures in detail, but she does not let you get a single word in. She leaves you after a 2 hour “conversation,” speechless. She’s told you everything about her job, the mistress of her boss, the performance of her kids, her holidays last summer and her latest visit to the manucure.
She did not even ask “How are you?”
Still struggling with the jetlag, you start to doubt about your ability to make it this year. Welcome home.
2. Your mother-in-law, the guilt tripper
“That’s really a pity. You’re only staying for 2 weeks. It’s too short. I’ve been waiting for so long. I wish you were still here. It would be so much easier for me. What a silly idea to move so far away! I can’t stand it any more.”
“But mom, we just arrived! You’re happy to see us now, aren’t you?”
She then victoriously proclaims: “Yes, and I’ve a great surprise for you. Next year, I’ll come to visit you for 6 months!”
Now, you’re sure. You need to throw up. It’s not only coming from the 24 snails you just swallowed.
3. The jealous cousin
“And how is life? Not too hard at the beach? And I heard you were surfing every week-end.
Do you still remember where is the gas pedal? Sure with your driver, you must have lost the habit.
And Suzanne, with the maid and the cook, is she still able to make an omelet? What? Here? Nothing changed. Except the president and the tax increase. The surf, we watch it on TV!”
4. Grandpa: the encyclopedia
He studied all the history of the country. He knows all the interesting sites.
Of course, he bought the special edition of the National Geographic Magazine which was just (what a coincidence) on your country of residence last month.
He can’t understand you live 30 minutes from this amazing museum and did not even visit it.
You want to hide under the table. You had never heard of those places. So embarrassing!
“Grandpa, we’re working!!! We’re not on holidays”.
5. The uncle who can’t see beyond the tip of his nose
He retired at 50 having secured a good deal with his company. He’s making some money on the side to pay for his cigarettes.
Each time, he opens his mouth, he whines. “Life is hard. Everything is so expensive. I have to make sacrifices. I can’t afford to go skiing this year. That’s a shame.”
In the meantime, in China, the average well-paid worker earns 12 USD a day.
6. Your brother-in-law: the moocher
His goal in life: ENJOY. Restaurant, party, holidays. That’s the only thing he’s interested in.
He’s the expert in spotting all the good bargains: an apartment lent for free by a friend on the French riviera, an invitation to the concert from his boss.
When he comes, he drinks all your bottles. When he invites you to the restaurant, he “forgets” his wallet at home.
At your 40th birthday party, he gave you a cheque. Useless. With the bank fees you’d have to pay to cash it (from a foreign bank in a foreign currency) it’d cost you money!
But this year, he has changed. Operation seduction. He invites himself for a 5 weeks’stay so he has to make a little effort. If he’s lucky, he’ll even manage to get his ticket free of charge!
7. The resentful sister
“So is everything alright? Not even a phone call every month. And do you read your emails sometimes?
You’re too busy at the beach I guess. Here, we work hard. And since mum is sick, I have to pay her a visit every week-end, to do the shopping and the cleaning.
And this without talking of all the time I spend to comfort her. I’m exhausted. I’d also like to be on holidays.”
8. Cousin Arthur always drinking too much and making jokes below the waistline. The less said about that, the better.
9. Your grandma
“You’re pale. You’ve lost weight. You look tired. Eat a bit more “foie gras”. And take some meat.
Don’t forget to taste the cheese. I purchased the one you like, specially for you. Take the whole piece. But what do you eat over there?”
And all the diet and the jogging you did to get rid of those 5 kilos you were so proud to have lost.. are just ruined in 10 days.
10. Your niece: the downer
“Thanks for the boomerang. Really beautiful. A pity that it’s made in Indonesia though.
Did you know that airplanes are the worst contributor to CO2 and climate change, amongst all means of transportation?
With ice cap melting breaking records in the Arctic, it won’t improve.”
And in the end, you think like her.
When you’re abroad, you feel guilty. When you’re back, you feel guilty.
Except it costs you the plane tickets. And they’re NOT cheap.
Next year, it’s decided. You won’t come back.
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another
George Burns Click to tweet
And you, who do you dread to see for Christmas? Speak your mind in the comments… if you dare!
* This article was inspired by this. Thanks to Monika, Margaret and Michael for their contribution.