Santa Claus is coming to town and you know what that means...Christmas is on its way! They may not have their sleighs and reindeer just yet, but these Santa-wannabes can still take you on a heart-warming ride as they visit some expatriate households, eavesdropping through the chimneys as these expats relate their Christmas wishlists and memorable tales of the season. Maybe some wishes will come true...
…a family vacation and a warm log fire
Lorraine Gordon, UK
Long-term expatriate Lorraine Gordon has celebrated 15 Christmases in Kuala Lumpur and is looking forward to enjoying her 16th in the city she now calls home. But Lorraine didn’t always spend Christmas day in the sunshine.
In fact, Coventry, where she is from originally, offers something totally different. “I grew up in England and have very vivid memories of snow in December, but I don’t remember feeling the cold. We used black dustbin bags or the old metal dustbin lids as sledges to fly down the hills in a nearby park.”
Lorraine recalls a family tradition that saw her dad take her and her brother to a Christmas tree farm to choose their tree on 12 December every year.
“We were given very specific instructions from my Mum about the size and shape, but ultimately that was all ignored as we ended up always choosing the biggest tree we could fit into dad’s van! Shouts from mum invariably followed along with us having to cut the top off the tree.”
Christmas was a very social affair with Lorraine’s parents hosting several parties during the festive season for neighbours, friends and family.
“Our house was always buzzing in the run-up to Christmas, culminating in our extended family members coming to us for Christmas dinner. On Christmas evening, we would head over to my uncle’s house to play games, before going to another aunt’s house on Boxing Day to do it all over again.”
“This very social Christmas has stayed with me and when I moved to London, I would organise several Christmas lunches on behalf of my employers and for friends. My favourite lunch was on my return home to Coventry, where I enjoyed it with school and college friends.”
Then Lorraine had her two boys, Freddie and Harry, and the lunches became more focused on the children with the inevitable glass of gluhwein for the mums and visits from Santa.
“My childhood Christmas traditions were repeated with our boys, but now that they have left home, I rely on my friends to continue those traditions with me.”
…EurAsia golf tournament tickets
Nick Fuller, UK
Nick lives in KL with his wife and two young daughters. He has celebrated four Christmases here, but 2015 will be his final one in Malaysia; such is the transient world of the expatriate, moving on to pastures new next summer.
Although they have lived in Malaysia for five years, they have chosen to spend the festive season travelling rather than staying at home.
“Both my wife and I are from the UK originally. Since we’ve been living in KL, we have only stayed here to celebrate Christmas once and that was the first year we moved here. We had Christmas back in England, one in Perth visiting friends and one in Hua Hin where my wife Kate’s mum lives. This year, the plan is for Kate’s mum and her brother to come to us. So we will have spent our first and last Christmases in KL.”
While Nick and Kate have naturally had their own traditions growing up, their eldest daughter Freya, who is two and a half, is just at the stage where she will actually understand what Christmas is all about.
“Freya will really know what’s going on this year, unlike previous years where she has been too young. We are really excited about carving out some traditions for her. As for Kate and I, we always start Christmas day with pancakes, bacon and maple syrup. And later in the day we play board games, which trumps TV every time!”
Living in a foreign country usually means making new traditions as the old ones aren’t always doable.
“My personal tradition each Christmas is thinking I’ll walk into L’Occitaine to get some nice stocking fillers, then taking a look at the prices and walking straight back out again. It’s hard to get your head around buying presents that you could get back home for half the price.”
Besides the rather inflated prices, Nick tells us that the weather plays a huge part in what he misses about Christmas at home, as well as quite a few other things that actually made us feel somewhat nostalgic ourselves for the green green grass of home.
“Bizarrely, I really miss the cold climate. I miss the constant Christmas songs playing repeatedly on the radio and in all the shops. I miss carol singers in the rain and the smell of a proper real Christmas tree. I miss going to a Boxing Day football match. I miss wrapping up warm in coats, scarfs, hats, gloves. And I miss Starbucks gingerbread lattes that warm you up from the inside rather than making you sweat. I miss fake snow gathered in the corner of shop windows, open fires and Noel Edmonds.”
…for my family to all be here together
Paula Johnstone, UK
Paula and her husband, Frank, left the UK to start their expatriate life some 35 years ago so they have actually spent more Christmases outside of their native England than in it.
“We headed to Saudi Arabia when our daughter was almost three years old and our son was just 10 months. As you can imagine, Saudi wasn’t the most Christmassy place, but we still made our own fun and have many happy festive memories form our time there.”
Dubai was their next expat posting and that was slightly more Christmassy than Saudi when they first arrived in 1987. Over the 17 years they lived there, it got more Christmassy by the year and more Christmas things became available over time.
“I used to go to a lot of the Christmas fairs. The best one was always the American Ladies Christmas Bazaar – I picked up some gorgeous handmade decorations, a lot of which I still have now.”
This coming Christmas will be Paula’s 15th in KL, but wherever in the world she has been, her two children have both made every effort to be with her on her favourite day of the year.
“We have been fortunate to always have been able to have our family with us at Christmas; had that not been the case, that would have certainly been the part we would have missed the most about not being in the UK. The thing is, we have been out of the UK for so long now, I am not sure either of us could handle the cold English weather in December anymore!”
While Paula’s son lives in London with his girlfriend, her daughter, along with her family, lives in KL as well.
“We are lucky now as our daughter, her husband and our three grandchildren all live in KL too. So while naturally we miss our son, who spends alternate Christmases with his girlfriend and her family, it is lovely to have our grandson and two granddaughters around over Christmas.”