23 tips to beat expat loneliness this holiday season

You don't need others to be merry 🎅

As we inch closer to the holidays, spending time with loved ones is everyone’s to priority. However, if you’re an international in the Netherlands who isn’t going home for the holidays, this season can be excruciatingly lonely.

So how can internationals in the Netherlands find their holiday cheer this year?

If you’re one of the many internationals spending the holidays in the Netherlands, we feel you — because we are you! So here are 23 things you can do to beat loneliness and help boost your holiday spirits this year. 

1. See the city lights

Stroll through the Christmas lights in the city — they’re sure to add a sparkle to your step.

2. Get in the festive spirit

Turn on some of your favourite festive tunes and decorate your flat or house — and have some hot Chocomel while doing so.

3. Have an ‘orphan’ Christmas

Know any other internationals in the same boat? Invite them over for a very small and intimate holiday gathering!

People-wrapping-presents-in- colourful-wrapping-paper-in-the-morning
Even if you can’t spend time with your family, you can always invite your friends. Image: Pexels

4. Have some oliebollen

Stop by a street cart and get some warm oliebollen to-go. This delicious Dutch doughnut is a seasonal speciality.

5. Bring home to the Netherlands

Take a trip down memory lane with some of your favorite traditions back home. From the US? Maybe string popcorn. Danish? Go for a solo dance around the Christmas tree! From Japan? Go ahead and order some KFC.

6. Have a gourmetten party

Indulge in enough meat, sauce, and wine to hold you over till next year. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)

7. Embark on a baking adventure

Are there any traditional Dutch recipes you’ve been itching to try out? Perhaps, an appelflap or two?

baking-utensils-on-counter-for-expat-in-the-netherlands-baking-to-combat-holiday-loneliness
You stay busy and get a delicious treat. Win-win! Image: Depositphotos

8. Get crafty

Go for DIY Christmas trees and ornaments this year for some hands-on merry-making.

9. Host a virtual secret Santa

Organise a secret Santa with a Zoom reveal party. Order gifts online in the recipient’s country if you’re running out of time. Online generators work wonders for this.

10. Practice your Dutch poetry

Coin your first gedicht (even if Sinterklaas has already passed). Impress your Dutch friends by writing one of these unique holiday poems and take part in an important Dutch tradition!

11. Prepare a deluxe dinner

Cook up a Christmas feast and invite a few friends to enjoy. 

People-having-Christmas-dinner
A small Christmas dinner is the perfect way to beat expat loneliness. Image: Pexels

12. Send snail mail

Make greeting cards by hand and catch up on some old-fashioned correspondence.

13. Get guttural

Work on your Dutch by singing along with some classic Dutch Christmas tunes

14. Hang biscuits

Decorate your Christmas tree with some traditional kerstkransjes (circular cookies) — or just eat them straight out of the pack. Or alternatively, who needs family when you have pepernoten, right? 

15. Give

Time, money, coats, blankets — if you have some to spare, give it to those in need.

woman-donating-clothes-netherlands
Your local ‘kringloopwinkel’ will be happy. Image: Depositphotos

16. Look ridiculous

Challenge your colleagues or friends to an ugly sweater competition.

17. Design a family photo

Use Photoshop and some recent individual portraits to make your most awkward family photo yet. 

18. Make Glühwein

Mull your own wine. It’s easy! But don’t stop there — the Dutch sometimes boil down the glühwein into a syrup for poached pears. Yes, please!

A-tray-with-mulled-wine-and-orange-peels
Mulled wine is the perfect way to keep cosy — especially during the holiday season. Image: Unsplash

19. Hold a pub quiz

Get competitive by taking part in an online pub quiz with friends and family from afar!

20. Festive cocktails with friends

Introduce your favourite holiday drink to some friends, either in person or online, and get those bartender skills rolling!

21. Watch Christmas movies

Watch a Christmas movie from your childhood. Or, try out a classic Dutch movie this year. They might not be very festive, but they’re a great way to get to know Dutch culture.

22. Do it twice

Don’t forget about second Christmas! December 26th, you can do it all over again, just like the Dutch do!

23. Send a care package

Put together a package with your favourite Dutch treats and send it back home to your dear ones.


There’s no way around it — the holidays are tough when you can’t go home and celebrate with your loved ones. But remember, you’re not alone; we’re all here to beat loneliness this holiday. Proost!

We want to hear from you! How do you plan to spend the holidays this year? Have any hot tips to add to the list?

This article was originally published in November 2020, and was fully updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Pixabay
Brin Andrews
Brin Andrewshttp://brinandrews.com
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.

Liked it? Try these on for size:

What do you think?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related posts

Latest posts

Flights cancelled and bus services down across the Netherlands due to computer outage

A global computer outage has led to chaos across the world, and anyone trying to travel to, from or within the Netherlands is facing...

7 ways raising a child in the Netherlands is different

Having a child is an exciting life change, and it can be an even bigger adventure if you’re raising them away from your home...

Dutchman shouts “homos!” before allegedly shooting at hot air balloon with six passengers

What should have been a scenic hot air balloon ride over the Dutch countryside of Beuningen took a nail-biting turn when its passengers had...

It's happening

Upcoming events

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.