Far from home this holiday season? Mango Writer Jillian Rodriguez gives some suggestions on how to feel right at home for the holidays.
This holiday season, planes from around the world are descending into the United States, gradually bringing into view ten foot tall Christmas trees, city streets lined with lights and wreaths, and entire neighborhoods glowing in holiday cheer. But as weary travelers pour into the airport, the loudspeaker’s piercing rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” may have arriving expats feeling pretty overwhelmed. Behind the life-size plastic snowmen and cringe-worthy soundtracks, there is a shared feeling of warmth, love, and giving that can serve as the perfect welcome to overseas guests. If the United States is your second home for the holidays, here are a few ideas that’ll make your days here merry and bright.
1. Join the Fun
In the United States, even the smallest cities transform into tinsel-towns during the holiday season. Festive events, activities, and displays pop up all over the country, serving as the perfect excuse to visit new places and meet new people. Shop around and decide which holiday events and traditions are right for you – you might not pay a visit to the mall Santa, but the community tree-lighting provides just the right amount of holiday cheer. And while you’re out there sampling the season, why not buddy up? The holidays are all about celebrating together, so enlist a local expert or fellow expat to join in on the fun.
2. Try Something New
You endured the freezing cold to see the Thanksgiving Day parade; you stormed Wal-Mart to get a half-priced big screen television, you spun the dreidel – you even dressed up as Santa for the company holiday party. But, American holidays just don’t do it for you. Well, lucky you – while those around you are swept up in the hustle and bustle, you can hit the tourist spots that are usually too crowded to visit. This time of year, many of the country’s most popular attractions have the lowest tourist numbers, so you’ll enjoy low-key, peaceful visits to America’s most famed destinations. And if you’re feeling out of place in the holiday hoopla, chances are some other expats are, too. Log on to http://www.internations.org/usa-expats and plan a potluck dinner, night on the town, or touristy adventure for your group of fellow globe trotters.
3. Preserve Your Traditions
Above all, preserve your traditions. Sharing your culture with American friends is a great way to exchange ideas and promote understanding. If you have children, strong cultural roots will enrich their lives and keep the family connected to your home country. Expat kids are often called “3rd culture kids,” which, in our book, translates to “coolest kids in the entire world.” Keep your kids on top of their cultural game by regularly incorporating family traditions, new and old, into daily life. Check out local community centers and clubs for fellow compatriots – your family’s small celebrations may quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
In America, the holidays are a time for joy, giving, and celebration. Some of you will spend the season stocking up on ugly sweaters and “2014” New Year’s Eve glasses; others will invite new friends over to swap culture and traditions over food and drinks. However you decide to celebrate, we hope that you’ll feel right at home for the holidays.