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          Christmas far from your loved ones? Make your holidays special with these tips

          With the festive season under way, many of us are looking forward to spending some well-earned, indulgent downtime at home with family and friends.

          However, if you are an expat or working abroad on a contract you may not be able to get home for the festivities...

          It can be hard to keep up the jolly spirit when you are away from loved ones and everyone else is emptying out of communal haunts and retreating to the nest. So, would you rather choose to make an event of it, or ignore it completely?

          With apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime, you can catch up with your loved ones virtually and - if the time differences allow - you can feasibly all sit down to dinner together.

          However, if time zones make that impractical, there may well be other colleagues in a similar situation, so reach out and collaborate on a festive meal together, maybe on a beautiful beach. Get everyone to bring a dish, or just order a takeaway – it’s the sharing that matters, not the ingredients!

          Find a carol service. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the ‘feelgood factor’ and sense of community that singing together can bring, so you can join in with gusto.

          Wander around a festive market and maybe buy some local decorations to take back home. Seeking out the Glühwein is a sure way of absorbing some festive spirit. Moreover, seeing the decorations on the tree the next time you’re all together will have a special meaning.

          Call on that elderly neighbour you’ve seen around and about. Many old people are on their own, so a cup of tea and a chat - especially at this time of year when they can feel forgotten - can really lift the spirits – for both of you! If you like animals, offer to walk a neighbour’s dog. It’s a hectic time for pets who may get less exercise when everyone is busy, so you will both feel the benefits of some fresh air.

          Volunteer at a charity. Those for the homeless or age concern often serve festive dinners and provide extra support at this time of year for vulnerable members of society. This can be an extremely rewarding act of charity that provides a real sense of community at a time when the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is particularly wide.

          Christmas far from your loved ones? Make your holidays special with these tips

          Not sure yet? If you chose the ‘ignore it’ solution, because the holidays without your folks just isn’t the holidays, there are still plenty of options to make it different to the other 364 days of the year (if you’re not actually working on the day itself that is) …

          Catch up on some sleep! Expat life can be hard on both your body and mind, which need time to recuperate. No one’s judging if you decide to indulge in a duvet day with a good book, film or box set and enjoy the luxury of time alone without interruptions or demands from others.

          Eat well. It can be tempting to comfort-eat all the wrong foods when you’re alone, but balance the indulgent with the healthy and you shouldn’t pile on too many pounds!

          Pick that thing on your personal to-do list you’ve been trying to get around to all year, and get it done! You’ll start the New Year with a sense of satisfaction at ticking it off the list.

          Go for a walk and make the most of the empty streets to create some great photography – the only day of the year you’ll get such an opportunity.

          Create a wonderful photobook of your memories saved in your phone, there are plenty of great online apps to create a memento of your time in the country or somewhere else. Collect the best images that you can present to your loved ones with a book as a gift when you are all back together again.

          Ultimately, if it all does get too much, ask for support, whether this is from family, friends, work colleagues or neighbours. And don’t forget that there are counselling services available if you need them, with specialists on hand to talk through any issues you have. You may have this as part of your  international health insurance which can include an international employee assistance program (iEAP). This is a helpline you can call and speak to one of the consultants who will talk through the specific issues you are dealing with, whether financial, family or related to loneliness or just how to settle in to your location.

          Whatever you choose to do, be proactive and we wish you a happy festive season.