Christmas as an Expat

By Jill Hanby

Well, aren't we fast approaching Christmas?

Are you all in the festive spirit? Have you braved Rue St Catherine or Allees de Tourny to start your Christmas shopping yet?

Picture taken from: curatedstyle
As I start to face the reality that I need to shop and think about gifts, food, drink, trees, decorations... the list goes on, I have been wondering about all the other expats here in Bordeaux and your plans for Christmas. It seems that there are so many options as to how expats might spend their Christmas period ...

  • Visiting friends and family back home/outside of Bordeaux
  • Welcoming their friends and family into their home in Bordeaux
  • Staying in Bordeaux and enjoying time away from work and the usual routine of life
  • Travelling in general
  • Or maybe life might just continue as normal, regardless

For me, Christmas, as usual will be spent battling the airports back to the UK, then spending hours on the motorways travelling up and down  (and sometimes even across the country) to visit friends and family. We are lucky enough to have two weeks off work to see people, eat too much, drink too much and take in everything that is English before heading back *home* to Bordeaux... and hopefully some sunshine!!

Picture taken from: Vtinteriors blog

I sometimes think it would be lovely to stay here and spend time enjoying Bordeaux. If our flat were big enough, I would love to host Christmas for my family, a little holiday for them and time to enjoy home and a French Christmas. However, the logistics of over ten people travelling to France somewhat outweighs just the two of us expats heading back to Blighty!!

Or what about staying in Bordeaux as you are, not making a huge journey anywhere and having a break from work and life in general. This too could be a great idea, time for relaxing, catching up on that book/film list that you have been creating for most of the year or even just spending time exploring the city that you live in but don't always get time to enjoy. A walk through the illuminated streets on Christmas Eve, a trip to a church to hear a choir sing carols, then heading home via a bar and glass of vin chaud. I for one, quite enjoy those days when you do the things you never usually have time for and what better time to do it than at the end of one year and the beginning of  the next with new plans and new ambitions?

Picture taken from: theframedtable.com

Or maybe Christmas is a time when you have to work, lets face it most bars, hotels and shops work right up until the time when Père Noël is heading our way and then re-open not long after he has left our French skies, so quite possibly many expats might still have to work over Christmas. I used to do this and although sometimes it felt a bit grim working when all my friends were having a holiday, it was also pretty great serving people who were happy, cheery and full of Christmas spirit - more often than not it was the best time of year to work behind a bar!

Traditions are also important at Christmas, whether family traditions or even cultural traditions I always think that Christmas is a time when we rely on those traditions more than ever. I might be thirty (gulp!) but I still get up on Christmas morning and open a few presents sat round in my pajamas with my sisters and parents... all fairly standard in BritGirl's family traditions!

Do you adopt any French traditions into your celebrations now that you live here? Foie gras and oysters with your turkey and cranberry? Do you manage to smuggle mince pies into the country? Or one of my personal favourites, please tell me that you have chosen the 'buche chocolat' for your Christmas menu... this is one I plan to introduce to my family asap!

Picture taken from : cuisine-addict.com
It would be great to hear some of your Bordelais Christmas plans and maybe even get a few of them up here on the blog for the start of 2013.... stories of how you made Christmas your own in a foreign country, how you managed to fit all your presents into a suitcase or even how you snuggled down and finished your first French book during the holidays - all these stories and more would be great for us Bordeaux expats to read and enjoy; the wonderful mixture of culture, traditions, food and celebrations!

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