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How to Survive the Holidays: TEFL Edition

survive the holidays


The winter holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year”. It’s filled with fun, festive activities and time spent with loved ones. But what happens to your holiday cheer when you find yourself living alone thousands of miles away from your friends and family? How do you celebrate while living the expat life? In this article we are going to share our top tips on how to survive the holidays as an EFL teacher living abroad.


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But before we jump into these tips, a little disclaimer: we totally get that not everyone feels the holiday blues while living abroad.

We’ve all got those friends who are perfectly cool with spending their Christmas or New Years days alone in a coffee shop or at the office or really anywhere for that matter. And that’s great…for them.

In our experience though, the holidays can be particularly rough for expats who aren’t able to travel home. You don’t get to eat grandma’s Christmas pudding, have an ugly sweater party with childhood friends, hop downtown for the annual parade or even dress your family dog up with antlers! What? No Fluffy the Reindeer?!

So what do you do when your winter wonderland is replaced by 90 degree temps and a single cartoon Santa poster hanging up in a shopping mall? Well first off, you plan. Planning in advance can really make all the difference.


Start Small With Your Plans

Start small by creating a few holiday traditions of your own to get into the spirit of the season.

Try things like:

  • Buying a few simple decorations to add some sparkle your condo or apartment.


  • Playing some holiday music while you’re relaxing after work.


  • Buying a special dessert or fun food item that you wouldn’t normally indulge in.


  • Choosing a few holiday movies to watch at home.


Treat Yourself

Whether you are in a country that celebrates the holidays or not, the end of the year tends to be busy no matter where you are in the world. Your school might be in exam mode, the paperwork is piling up, and you wonder how to make time for all your to do’s. With all that stress in the air, self care becomes a key element in being able to enjoy the season (and maintain your sanity).

Try things like:

  • Booking yourself a massage.


  • Buying a new book to read before bed each night. (A relaxing one….no extra work research allowed!)


  • Going for a pedicure or manicure.


  • Finding a new herbal tea that you can make for yourself after work.


Yes, these items are just for you. And yes, that can be hard. Oftentimes what we are willing to do or give to others is much different than what we are willing to give to ourselves. Take some time this holiday season to show some good ‘ol self love – you won’t regret it.


Plan A Few Holiday Week Experiences

Like we said before, planning activities in advance will be a huge boost towards helping you cope well with the holidays. It will give you something to look forward to. Plus it will alleviate the stressful feeling of “ugghhh it’s a major holiday and I’m probably going to spend it alone on my sofa eating ramen and feeling sorry for myself.”  

Try things like:

  • Scheduling a video chat “party” with loved ones. You can even plan this one for the big day itself. You eat your meal while your family eat theirs all while sharing stories and having some quality time together.


  • Inviting your foreign friends to a holiday themed activity. It might well be their first time celebrating your holiday. This can be a fun and unique experience of sharing different cultural traditions. You could even have them come over to cook some of your favorite dishes together!


  • Having a truly expat holiday. Gather all your fellow expats together and have a potluck. All you need is some holiday music playing in the background, an ugly Christmas sweater or two and you’ll have your very own holiday party abroad.


  • Doing something totally different. Plan a weekend getaway, schedule a yoga retreat, sign up for a workshop – do anything that gets your mind in a different mode for a day or two. Sometimes attempting to recreate your memories from home while abroad just makes the pain of being away worse. If that’s the case for you, change things up!


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Do Something For Others

Our final tip might just be exactly what the doctor ordered. That’s because nothing quite says the holidays like helping others. Humans seem to be programed to feel better when they do kind things for their fellow man. Whether this is giving someone a hug, buying a stranger a cup of coffee, helping out at a local shelter, or writing a thoughtful card to a friend, doing something good for another person will spread some holiday joy and make you feel great in the process.  


We hope these tips have given you a few helpful ideas for surviving your holiday season as an expat.

Cheers to happiness, love and joy!

<3 TEFLPros


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