As a time when friends and families get together to celebrate the winter season and bring in the next year, the festive period can be a particularly difficult time for expats, especially if you’ve only recently moved abroad.Knowing that your loved ones are far away and you don’t have the option of sharing a traditional Christmas dinner with them can make the holiday period seem dark and depressing. But there are a few ways to make the festive season feel less lonely.
Keep In Touch
Although it’s not quite the same as physically being there, advances in technology mean that nowadays it’s possible to have a virtual connection with your loved ones even if they’re an ocean away.
Programs such as Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime provide free, easy ways to communicate with your friends and family. You can call to chat to each member of your family, or even set up a video link so you can take part in the proceedings from afar. While it may seem laughable to have a computer sitting at the table with the family, it might make you feel less lonely, and will no doubt bring about a few laughs too!
Find Your Community
Despite being a sprawling city in which it’s easy to remain anonymous, when you properly get to know London it can seem more like a group of villages. Each area has its own culture and community spirit, and getting to know local people might just mean you end up being invited to participate in the festivities with their friends and families.
One good way to get to know others is by joining a local choir – these often have public singalongs at Christmastime, and there’s nothing like belting out the Christmas classics with a group of newfound friends to get you into the festive spirit!
Some neighbourhoods even organise community get-togethers for people who would otherwise be lonely in the holidays. Often these involve young or able-bodied people making meals for those who are older or less able to do so, and then sharing the meals with each other, keeping each other company throughout Christmas. Take a look at our Facebook group for expats in London to see if anyone from your neighbourhood might be interested, or join your local community on Nextdoor to find out if there are any plans already in place.
Reach Out For Help
Sometimes even our best efforts don’t beat the holiday blues, though, and at those times it’s important to remember that it’s OK to ask for help. Even if you’re feeling very isolated and don’t feel able to call a friend or family member, there are still people who can help just a phone call or email away.
Founded in 1953, Samaritans are available 24/7, including throughout the holiday period, to help people who need to talk. They cover all subjects and will be there to provide a listening ear should you need it.
Tanya’s* story is an excellent example of how Samaritans can help expats.
Tanya arrived in Scotland to study after travelling away from all her family and friends in Europe. A few weeks into study she began to feel pressure building and she felt she had no one she could turn to.
A long way from home and without her stable friendship base Tanya began to isolate herself within her room, having minimal contact with the outside world. She tells us: “I felt emptiness, I didn’t want to eat and I was desperate for help. I looked up Samaritans online.”
Tanya visited her local branch: “In the beginning, I was desperate for anything to help me with how I was feeling, I had no idea how Samaritans would help. I was surprised how much opening up about your feelings and having someone to simply listen to you, can have such a positive impact.”
That contact with a listening volunteer meant that very next day Tanya could enjoy life again– “It was like a huge weight had been lifted and I was free from how I was feeling.”
Tanya has been able to manage her feelings and has been very comfortable within herself for almost a year now. She feels like just talking helped and that anyone experiencing loneliness should reach out to a friend, family member or work colleague. But if you don’t have anyone the Samaritans will always be there 24 hours a day.
“You may feel there’s only darkness sometimes, but Samaritans are able to shed some light and give you hope.”
Samaritans are available all day, every day. You can call them on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to write. Between the hours of 9am and 9pm, you can also drop into their Central London branch if you’d rather talk to someone face to face.
Find out more here.