Traveler on laptop plotting on a desk globe

A guide to help expats combat loneliness at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 15 December 2020 | LAST UPDATED: 4 December 2023

It’s been said already, but 2020 has really been a year we won’t forget in a hurry. Almost the entire world has felt the impact of Covid-19, and the precautions we’ve all taken to prevent the spread of the virus have changed our lives in unimaginable ways. 

As we approach Christmas time, many of us who celebrate will be experiencing a very different festive season than we usually enjoy. Whilst this can still be a time of joy and happiness, it can also magnify any underlying feelings of loneliness for those that are separated from loved ones. International travel may not be an option for some expats, making it impossible to see their extended families and friends. 

Here are just a few ways to combat these feelings:

Stay connected 

For those of us living abroad, staying connected to family and friends in different countries is likely to be second nature. During this time, however, you might need to step this up and think even more creatively about how to share experiences with your loved ones. If you know they’re attending a festive quiz or tuning in to a remote carol concert – why not dial in too or get them to video call you? Not only will you feel closer to the action and more connected, but it’s a great way to fill any time you may be facing alone. 

Connectivity has been so important throughout 2020, so try to maintain these vital lines of communication. Those on the receiving end of the phone will undoubtedly enjoy your presence during the festivities, so try to resist feeling as though you might be a burden. 

Pack your schedule 

If you do find yourself alone on Christmas Day, try to keep as busy as possible. Set a schedule for the day and fill it with fun and engaging activities that you will enjoy. Cook your favourite foods, watch your favourite shows or films and try to spend some time outdoors. Keep busy so you don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the situation. To some, eating alone can be upsetting, so if your respective time zones line-up, consider even organising virtual drinks or meals with your families and friends.

Focus on the positives 

Whilst this might be a case of easier said than done, there may be some enjoyment to be had if you’re elsewhere this festive season. Perhaps by doing something you normally wouldn’t – getting up to watch the sunrise, walk by an historic location, cooking an alternative Christmas meal. The fact that it’s different to what you’re used to could even be what makes this a Christmas that you always remember. Try to accept the situation and appreciate where you are. The benefits this has may go a long way towards soothing yourself and will help make your Christmas feel as special as it should.

Try not to overindulge 

Something that many of us look forward to at Christmas is the wide array of food and drink. Whether it be Christmas pudding or roast turkey, there’s plenty to enjoy. However, the festive season can often be a time of overindulgence. If you’re feeling lonely and down, it can be especially easy to slip into bad habits and find yourself grazing or drinking more than usual throughout the holiday. Try to be aware of this and set yourself limits; you’ll feel much better – both mentally and physically – if you maintain a healthy balance. 

Similarly, we all know that keeping busy is vital for staying fit and healthy, but it also has a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. If you do find yourself feeling particularly low, or at a loose end, take yourself out for a walk or a jog. You’ll feel better for the fresh air and the exercise, and you might burn off some of those Christmas calories. 

Find others like you 

As an expat, you’ll know the importance of meeting people in a similar position to you. Thanks to the current climate, there are likely to be many others close by, who are experiencing very similar emotions. Reach out to these people and develop your own support network. This will help keep yourself occupied and cover any gaps where you might be facing time zone issues. 

This isn’t forever 

It’s important to always keep in mind that this situation is ever-changing. Whilst ‘normality’ may still seem a long way off, it is starting to feel as though it is within reach. Remind yourself that this is only temporary, and that next Christmas will hopefully be very different to what we have experienced this year. 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.