‘Tis the season to be jolly, or so I am told. Christmas, my second favourite day of the year, is once again just a day away. But, living in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, I feel I am lacking in Christmas Spirit this year. I seem to move between feeling great excitement and a sort of…emptiness. Why, I hear you ask? Well, dear reader, let me tell you.
Christmas in Korea is just another couple holiday. People here don’t understand why you would be unhappy (or even a little sad) on Christmas if you are in a relationship. My girlfriend was told that she would have a great Christmas and not to be unhappy because she has a boyfriend this year. I feel that, in this, Koreans miss the hardest part of being abroad for Christmas. Despite what people say, Christmas just is not the same without family. And yes, we have Skype now and communicating is easier than ever. But nothing compares to waking up with your family, or knowing that you will go and see them later. In my house, Christmas was always a big family day. I miss that here. I miss having my cat thrown at me around 4am so I get up. I miss my Mum’s amazing Christmas dinners. I miss my loud (and at times, annoying) family. This Christmas will definitely be better than last year (when I spent most of my day alone) because Marta and I have plans to Skype home and eat amazing food, but we will both miss our families terribly.
What else is different here? Well, the fact that it is Christmas Eve and I am typing this from work. Not a special work day, either. Just a regular day, like any other. In Korea, it is business as usual until the 31st December (with the exception of Christmas Day). I understand that I am a guest in the country and I certainly don’t expect them to change their culture to fit mine. But it is still hard to be away from home, in a strange country where your efforts to communicate sink faster than the Titanic.
Another thing I struggle with living abroad generally is I am missing my family…growing up I suppose. I am going to miss two weddings next year, my little sister turning 21 and my cousins growing up. And every family event I miss makes it a little harder to cope with missing the next one. Now, I know my family will be reading this and I want to say don’t worry about me. I may seem down, or like I am pretty sad in writing this post. But I assure you, I love the benefits of living here too.
But, as with most things, there is another side to this coin. It has certainly made me appreciate the company of my family so much more. As I said above, I miss them terribly this time of year. I appreciate being woken up at a ridiculous hour by my Mum’s boyfriend to open presents. I miss the amazing bacon sandwiches he makes for us all. I miss seeing his excitement, which is always so much more than the kids in my family. I miss my Mum moaning that she has been up since 4am. I miss hearing her moan at me for being useless as I try to help her cook and fail. I miss my sister helping my cat unwrap his gifts. I miss her moaning at me, in the exact same way my Mum does. I miss hiding in the kitchen with my Dad and drinking and talking with the other (mostly) sane members of my family.
So, let me end this post by saying this. Merry Christmas to you all, where ever you are and whoever you spend it with. And to my family – have a fantastic day. I love you all. Make sure you have a drink for me and raise a glass to me. I miss you guys more than words can ever describe.