Celebrating the festive season in an unfamiliar environment can be challenging - you may be on assignment by yourself and be worried about being lonely or you may be based in a country where Christmas is not recognised at all which means that even if your immediate family have come on assignment with you, you may still struggle to celebrate traditionally.
Whatever your situation may be, it’s important to think about how you can make the very most of the festivities while based abroad. To help, here are some suggestions to help make Christmas and New Year a great occasion whilst you’re on assignment abroad.
Keep in touch with loved ones with scheduled video calls
These are lots of different apps you can use for global communication, and picking one that offers video calls can be a great way to see your family on Christmas Day and/or New Year – but some remote locations don’t have the best or most reliable internet facilities. There can also be great pressure on the available networks at particular times, so to make sure your family video call goes ahead smoothly, you should agree with your colleagues ahead of time when each of you can call home. A good tip is to schedule your calls when the demand on the internet is lower to limit disruptions.
Oil and gas roles can require 24/7 cover. To ensure that everyone gets some time off on Christmas Day see whether rotas can be flexed to allow for that special family video call. With colleagues from all around the world, you can potentially agree to flex shift times to match home country hours so everyone gets a chance to contact their family.
Consider celebrating with work colleagues
If your work colleagues are also expatriates, remember they’re in the same situation as you – consider celebrating together. For example, if you’re based in an oil and gas compound or camp, you can still celebrate with a Christmas lunch or dinner. Some operations have accommodation with kitchens and dining space. Book this early and invite your work friends and local colleagues along for a festive meal. You can look for ingredients that can create a meal similar to that of your home country but if these aren’t available, don’t despair! Look for local produce and prepare a festive meal aligned with local customs.
You don’t need to take on all the effort of preparing the special meal yourself - encourage your colleagues to take part. Consider sharing the work and help each other with the preparations. For example, everyone could contribute a dish each to a shared meal.
You could also organise a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange – this is great fun and provides a way to keep the spirit of the season through swapping gifts while apart from your family. Each person will need to learn what their allocated gift recipient likes (without that person suspecting who will be giving them their present!). This means getting to know them better, also helping to build team spirit that will extend way beyond the festive period.
If your work colleagues are locals who don’t celebrate Christmas or have their own plans for the festive period, don’t worry. There are many expatriate networks and communication groups you can get involved with. Sign up to some of these to ensure that you know what festive events are planned and go along to make friends and enjoy the holiday season with others who also are away from home.
Plan in advance
If you know you’ll be on assignment during the festive period, plan in advance to ensure you have everything you need. This can include bringing formal clothes so that you can dress up for the occasion, a musical instrument to entertain your friends, special items of preserved food suitable for the occasion, and even fancy dress for party celebrations. If you’re unsure what to pack or what you can take with you, ask your employer for advice.
Don’t forget about family reunification visits
If you can’t make it back to your home country for Christmas, ask your employer if they can come to you. Employers’ relocation policies frequently make provision for family reunification visits. For example, children who remain in the home country in boarding schools are usually offered flights to re-join their parents abroad.
If a cash allowance is offered by your employer for travel home but you are unable to get time off to go back, find out whether close relatives can make use of your allowance to visit you in the host country. Many expatriates don’t fully utilise all of their home leave so make sure you know how much home leave you are able to take and use it. Plan your time off in advance so that rotas can be covered at the workplace effectively.
Christmas abroad with your family
If you’re on assignment with your immediate family (partner and children) you may still miss other family members (parents, siblings) and close friends. Festive traditions may not be the same as back home but you can follow these as far as possible and try out some new local customs and activities as well.
Talk to local people and find out what they do to celebrate Christmas and incorporate these ideas into your plans. Children will certainly enjoy learning new ways to celebrate and can discuss these with their international school friends once the holiday season ends and term begins again.
NES & Global Mobility
At NES, we have a team of Global Mobility experts who are able to alleviate the mobility burden for clients and candidates alike. We currently look after 12,000+ contractors across the globe and are well placed to support clients with their mobile workforce needs.
Our Global Mobility team are expatriates themselves so they know how stressful relocating can be. It’s important you seek help and advice from experienced professionals. At NES, we can help candidate’s experience a smooth relocation via our designated assignment support services.