How to survive and enjoy Christmas in Singapore as an expat

Christmas as an expat in Singapore
Whether you're celebrating your first or your 20th Christmas in Singapore as an expat, we've come up with the festive feels to help you avoid feeling lonely and blue...

Are you an expat suffering from ‘first Christmas in Singapore’ syndrome? For anyone far from home and the support network of family and friends, Christmas can be a tricky time tinged with homesickness. Around the world dodgy Christmas jumpers are being pulled out of the cupboards, Santa is heading towards all the shopping malls and the supermarkets are filling with merry tunes and novelty cookie tins. 

But what about those of us who have upped and left our ‘home’ for a new life overseas? There’s certainly no need for festive jumpers here, a box of those cookies will set you back a month’s salary, and the weather outside is far from frightful: not a whiff of a snowflake, whisper of frost or the tiniest of skiing ops to be seen. Yep, it’s that time of year again when many expats get a big dose of nostalgia and are in danger of feeling somewhat lonely and blue. Thankfully we know exactly how to put the sparkle back into your Yule with our guide to getting the festive feels right here in your adopted new home.

Dazzling Christmas lights

While it may not get dark as early as it does in your home country at this time of year (and who wants it to be pitch black at 4pm anyway?), come 7.30pm Singapore is ablaze with beautiful light displays that will have you ooooo-ing and ahhhhh-ing as just as heartily as you would anywhere in the world. Santa meet-and-greets, Christmas carollers, festive markets aplenty and even the odd merry pantomime all add to the Christmassy feeling.

Rock around the Xmas tree with a very merry playlist

You can console yourself in the knowledge that back home the Christmas music being piped out of every shop, mall and restaurant will have been driving people mad for months. But if you are craving some classic Christmas tunes then put yourself together a playlist of all your favourite Yuletide cheesy songs, grab the kids (no matter how horrified they may initially be) and rock around the Xmas treeWhack on the air con, throw on some reindeer antlers, and shake your bottoms to some classic tunes of epic Christmas proportions.

Have yourself a Christmas movie marathon

Christmas as an expat in Singapore

Home Alone is the perfect antidote to Xmas blues

Whether your kids are in local school or international school (or both!), either way they get a substantial amount of time kicking their heels at home during December, which generally means having to think up a ton of affordable activities that won’t bust a hole in your wallet. Pencil in a day or two with a bucket of popcorn and some of that mulled wine (or warm Ribena for the kids!), and download (via the legal routes!) your favourite Christmas classic films? Christmas isn’t Christmas at all without a bit of Home Alone, Santa Claus the Movie, Arthur ChristmasA Christmas Carol or Love Actually to lose yourself in for a few hours. There are also some pretty cool Xmas blockbuster movies hitting the silver screen between now and the end of the year.

Make your own Christmas treats

While you can find the likes of mince pies, Christmas puddings and international goodies on the shelves of Singapore’s supermarkets, it’s always fun to whizz up a batch of Christmas treats with the small people at home. Nothing says Christmas quite like the smell of freshly baked gingerbread men and a boozy Christmas cake! Bung on an Xmas themed apron and have a messy, merry time with some flour, marzipan, edible silver balls and your own small elves.

Embrace new traditions

Hankering for your traditional Christmas with family back home will only add to the homesickness, so why not make this Xmas a time to embrace what your adopted country has on offer during the holidays? While Singapore may be more familiar with chowing down on crackers than adorning the Xmas day table with decorative ones, keeping an open mind will allow you to join in on new, equally fun traditions. You may well miss your mum’s belly busting turkey dinner, but you can still have a super merry ol’ time of it by heading to a Xmas Day brunch, Singapore style. Now is the time to indulge in fresh seafood and local delights, washed down with some free-flow fizz! Most of the big hotels have not only delish banquet spreads happening on Xmas Day, but also lay on some seriously cool festive activities for kids to keep them out of your hair busy. 

Share your traditions

Christmas as an expat in Singapore

Spread the love with a trad spread of your own. Photography: Darissa Lee

Everyone loves a party, so arrange a very merry bash at your home (or in a condo function room) and invite not only your other expat chums (who may also be feeling a little blue), but also your local neighbours, work colleagues and friends. Get the kids decorating the homemade gingerbread men, feed your guests with turkey and mince pies (probably not on the same plate), pull crackers (not the edible type) and organise a secret santa gift exchange. Crank up that Christmas playlist you compiled, and create your own merry heap of festive fun.

The world is not so big…

In this age of modern technology, distance doesn’t have to be the barrier it used to be, thanks to the likes of all the social media apps and messenger services available (if in doubt, ask your teenager or your cooler, younger work colleague for advice). Make sure you schedule in some screen time with family back home so that the grandparents can watch the kids open their gifts, and you can ching ching with a glass of cyber Bucks Fizz (regardless of time zones, it is never too early, or too late have a little tipple with loved ones!). Bridge the gap with some technology and connect with those you’re missing this Christmas.

A long sleigh-ride from home but a quick hop to new experiences

Singapore is a multicultural melting pot of people, religions, nationalities and languages. We each of us have our own idea of Christmas and those ideas are as diverse as we are as a nation. Embrace this! Find out more about how your colleagues, neighbours and new friends celebrate the festive season, and bring your own twist to things. And remember, Singapore is festively fab at celebrating not just Xmas, but all festivals and important religious dates throughout the year – get on board the year-round party bus (next stop: Thanksgiving!).

Most of all, enjoy the change of scenery and live it up. May your Christmas be merry and bright.

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