Expat Experiences: Three Tips for Merging Cultures for the Holidays

While most American expats I know are happily settled into their new lives, being abroad for holidays, birthdays and special occasions can still be tough. We miss our families. We miss our friends. We miss the customs and traditions that made these events back home so darn special.

Dundee Gardens IIIphoto credit: di_the_huntress

If you are an expat living with your expat spouse and expat children, it might be easy to celebrate holidays in the same ways you did back home. However, for expats like me, who tied the knot with one of the natives, there is a little thing called compromise.

Here are three tips for merging cultures during holidays and special events.

1. Celebrate

This might seem like common sense, but get out there and celebrate your holidays. If you don’t introduce your spouse and family (and new friends, future children, etc) to American holidays … who will? My husband and I make an effort to celebrate as many American holidays as possible and in fact, we are busy planning our Turkey Day celebration right now.

Anybody have any cranberries??

2. Integrate

For holidays that are shared by your cultures-Christmas, New Year, Easter, etc.-find a way to blend traditions that will honor both cultures. For example, if you are an expat in southern Italy, you can place an Italian presepi nativity scene under your large “American” Christmas tree.

You can also design your meal to include favorites from both traditional American holiday dishes like turkey, dressing or pumpkin pie to Italian favorites such as baked pasta and panettone.

3. Create

One of the best things about getting married and starting a family-whether both partners are from the same culture or not-is that you have the opportunity to create new family traditions. Take a look at some of your favorite customs from both your home country and your adopted country and creatively invent ways to infuse them into your holidays and celebrations.

For example, here in southern Italy, my husband and I could celebrate Christmas Eve Calabrian-style by creating a meal with seven fishes and playing bingo, then celebrate a Texas Christmas the following day using my grandma’s favorite recipes.

What other tips do you have for merging cultures over the holiday season?

* This post is written on behalf of AffordableCallingCards.net where they sell affordable calling cards to Italy. Click here to read similiar posts written by other expats in the ACC expat community.

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