5 things expats experience when going ‘home’ for the holidays

Coming home comes with certain feelings...

You’ve been counting down for weeks — the holidays are getting closer, and so is your visit home! It’s going to be great, but you’re also going to have some interesting experiences.

Inside, a well of feelings is coming up: stress from having to organise everything, mixed with excitement to see people you’ve only talked to on the phone for months.

But one thing you may not realise is that, when you get home, it isn’t really ‘home’ anymore. After all, what’s home for you?

Yeah, we get it. So as you get comfortable in that chair that you only get to see once or twice a year, here are five things you may find out.

1. You missed some people so much…

Group-of-people-at-a-dinner-party-sitting-around-a-table-and-talking-after-coming-home-from-the-Netherlands-for-the-holidays
It’s nice to be able to catch up with the people we so dearly miss. Image: Pexels

It’s so easy to get caught up in your daily life abroad that you don’t realise the chemistry you have with some people and the connection you miss by not being there.

Luckily, it’s as if no time has passed with said people. Sure, there’s a lot of catching up to do, but that connection is still there.

2. …and other people are just filler

Everybody has some acquaintances they hang out with because they’re friends of friends, or because you’re in the same group of people, or because you’re somehow obliged.

READ MORE | We asked readers about their experiences with the infamous Dutch directness

When you come back to visit, though, your time is limited, and you’ve got to see so many relatives and friends that you have to prioritise! Essentially, you’ll cut out the niceties and see the people you care about!

3. Downtime is precious

Person-reading-from-an-e-reader-in-the-morning-after-coming-home-from-the-Netherlands-for-the-holidays
It’s important to give yourself some time to rest. Image: Pexels

This is not a holiday. Sure, you’re not working, but you’re not visiting an exciting new place either.

You’re possibly experiencing A LOT of pressure from all the commitments you have. So make sure you have some quiet time too — especially if you’ve gotten used to living alone and suddenly are surrounded by people 24/7.

4. Life at ‘home’ goes on, with or without you

Photo of a person using their smartphone in the street, in night light environment.
Make sure to message or call people ahead of time to let them know you’re coming home. Photo: Depositphotos

Everyone’s happy at the idea of you being back, but that doesn’t mean they have to put life on hold for you. This can come as a hard realisation if you try to meet up with people who already have plans of their own, work, or family obligations.

“But I’ve travelled all this way and taken days off! Can’t they meet me halfway?”

Yes, and you can make them understand that; but however tough a pill it is to swallow, you’re the one who left.

So, you can’t expect everyone else to put their life on hold for the time you’re back in the same way that you’ve put your life abroad on hold. That was your choice and not theirs.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #6: Live by their agendas when making plans

Our advice is simpe: make your availability known in advance, try to plan a few big get-togethers, and confirm them well before your arrival.

Don’t take it personally if some of these fall through, especially if you’re from a culture where planning isn’t as high a priority as in the Netherlands!

5. The Netherlands is now your home too

After a few days, you’ll start missing the Netherlands too. Who would’ve thought, huh? Of course, you have a whole other life there, and the fact that you probably had to build it all by yourself makes it all the more ‘lived’ and yours, in a way.

@flossys_wonderland To anyone who has moved to a new country, or a new city, you are brave and strong and you are not alone❤️ Inspo: @dubrovcik 🫶🏼 #movingabroad #expat #expatlife #expatliving #livingabroad #livingabroadlife #amsterdam ♬ original sound – lizzyparkin

You’re kind of caught between two worlds, the familiarity of your old home and the independence of your new one!

READ MORE | 23 tips to beat expat loneliness this holiday season

It isn’t always great, I’ll give you that, but you can also see it as getting the best of both. And luckily, at least for some of us, these two worlds aren’t too far apart!

What do you experience when returning home as an expat? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2018 and was updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Aurora Signorazzi
Aurora Signorazzi
Aurora comes from the majestic Italian capital, and is working on her PhD in virology at the University of Groningen. She has been living in the Netherlands for four years and is by now familiar with many Dutch habits... But still finds plenty of reasons to be pleasantly amazed (most of the time) by this industrious country and its brutally honest inhabitants!

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