How To Survive Christmas As An Expat

How To Survive Christmas As An Expat - Proudly South African In Perth

With yet another Christmas upon us, it’s hard not to start feeling like this one might be the strangest one yet as a migrant in a strange new land.

2020 has been the year that no-one expected and with international travel so limited currently, it’s not going to be a Christmas filled with visitors from home and those festive family traditions.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a wonderful Christmas! I’ve put together a guide on how to survive Christmas as an expat.

I hope this helps you find some festive cheer and ensures you enjoy Christmas this year in a new way.

How To Survive Christmas As An Expat in Australia

Explore Your Surrounds

If you’re new to Australia, and if you aren’t, take some time out to explore your local area over the Christmas holiday period.

Most of us get at least a few days of holiday this time of year, so don’t waste them moping around at home – get out there and do things.

Visit places you’ve always wanted to, from your local restaurant that’s been on your list to try or a new experience like swimming with dolphins – start exploring more.

Decorate Your Home

One of the easiest ways to get into the Christmas spirit is to decorate your home. With shops like K-mart and Spotlight, decorations don’t have to cost the earth either.

Get that tree up, hang your stockings and get those advent calendars at the ready!

Just seeing Christmas all around you will help to banish those expat blues.

Ask To Join A Local

If you’re feeling brave enough, why not ask a local if you can join them on Christmas Day?

It can feel daunting to put yourself out there, but most people are so welcoming and friendly, they won’t want to see you spending Christmas alone. Chances are, you’ll crack an invite and help to cement your friendship even more.

Arrange An Orphan Christmas

Know other expats or migrants that are spending the holidays on their own?

Take the initiative and arrange an orphan Christmas for everyone. Invite anyone who might be along during Christmas and organise a picnic, beach day, BBQ or whatever works for you. Ask each person to bring a plate (with food, not just a plate!) and have a buffet with everyone’s favourite foods.

You could even arrange a Secret Santa so everyone gets a small gift as well.

Stick With Tradition

Do you have family traditions for Christmas? A special recipe you make each year or a certain outing you always plan?

Stick with it – even if you’re far from those you normally do them with. There’s no reason not to do things – find a way to make it work and enjoy that familiar feeling of comfort and tradition.

Try Something New

Blue Holes Kalbarri Snorkelling Spot

Sometimes a change can be a good thing (and we should know right?). So maybe it’s time to head off on a new adventure this Christmas.

With international travel severely limited at the time of writing, and let’s face it, risky, it’s the perfect time to holiday in Australia.

State borders are currently fairly open so why not visit another state, or explore your home state? Here in WA, we have a vast amount of space and places to see, so much so your bucket list really could be endless. I rounded up some of the most amazing places in WA you have to visit if you’re looking for some inspiration.

Get Christmassy in the Kitchen

Get Christmassy in the Kitchen - How To Survive Christmas As An Expat

One of the ways I like to get into holiday mode is to bake. Cookies, mince pies, shortbread, banana bread, brownies, you name it, I bake it.

This is a good one to get your kids involved with too as most children love to make a mess and eat things so it’s really a win-win!

Make A Christmas Bucket List

If you have time, think about making a Christmas bucket list to tick off this year. It can be anything from eating fish and chips on the beach while watching the sunset, to some mini golf fun at Holey Moley.

Just don’t make it things around the house you’ve been meaning to do all year – fixing shelves and tidying garages do not make a fun bucket list!


Have some free time to spare? You could find a local charity to volunteer at over the holidays or on Christmas Day itself.

A good place to start is Go Volunteer which lets you search for opportunities near you.

Another great initiative is the Christmas Lunch in the Park run by Mission Australia. This event aims to bring hope, compassion and celebration to Perth’s most marginalised and disadvantaged people.

What better way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas than by helping and celebrating with those less fortunate than you?


Working through the holidays is another way that you could look to survive Christmas as an expat.

Your colleagues may be super thankful if you take a shift or two that allows them to spend more time with their families.

And think of the extra cash and great pay rates for working on public holidays!

Video Call Your Loved Ones

Last, but definitely not least, calling your loved ones has the power to bring us all closer together even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

In this day and age, it’s so easy to video call someone and being able to see your family and friends makes a massive difference when we live so far from each other.

I remember back in the early 2000s when I used to live in the UK. I’d have to call a special phone number, and then dial my Dad in South Africa. It was far too expensive to just use the regular line, and this was a cheaper way to make calls. I’d call him once on a Sunday evening, (before the M-net movie at 8pm!) for a 10-minute chat and that was the sum total of our communication.

So now that we have FaceTime and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, life is SO easy when it comes to keeping in touch and bridging that gap.

And there you have my top tips on how to survive Christmas as an expat – whether you’re in Perth, Sydney, Seville or New York!

I hope these have been helpful to you – and remember – it’s OK to feel sad at this time of year, especially in a year where we can’t all cross the globe to be together. Just remember, this too shall pass, and there are plenty of things in your life to love and be grateful for. You just have to see them.

About Author

Helping you move to, settle in, and explore your new home in Australia. Avid reader, beach lover, and horse addict. As someone who has emigrated, not once, not twice, but three times, I know exactly what you’re going through. The ups and downs of emigration are faster than a rollercoaster and I’ve been there – three times!

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