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Christmas for Expats in Asia


Christmas in Asian countries can be a bit different from the sterotypical Christmas celebrations that most of us are familiar with. First of all, not all Asian countries celebrate the season especially the Muslim countries in the middle east and South East Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Expats in these countries may struggle this time of the year as old Christmas traditions may not be observed. However, despite the cultural differences, many non-Christian cities in Asia still have their own pockets of festivities as the small Christian population come together to celebrate the season in their own very special and significant way. So here's a few of what you can expect for Christmas as an expat in Asia.


Christmas in August

Christmas for Expats in Asia - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Kahunapule Michael Johns

The Philippines is the only country that starts its Christmas season in mid-August. This is about the time that one can start hearing Christmas songs on the radio and seeing holiday décors put on display or for sale in department stores. Shopping is encouraged by the widespread sale around the country especially in malls and department stores as they try to get rid of old inventories.

A Filipino Christmas is about family and one’s community. There are fiestas and street parties, night markets and bazaars, office parties and the heavy expectations of a year-end or very little work days with big work bonuses.

Foreigners visiting the Philippines during this time of the year are almost always pleasantly surprised by the openness of the locals where many parties are practically open-house events for friends of friends or relatives of friends. For some unexplained reasons, there are always enough food and drinks for everyone! One can expect to see the traditional roasted pig, Christmas ham, turkey, chicken, pasta, and an assorted display of sweets and desserts.



A KFC Christmas

Christmas for Expats in Asia - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: David Kawabata

In Japan, Christmas is celebrated like in no other country in the world. They have fabulous light displays. These are set up to honor the birthday of Emperor Akihito which falls on December 23. On Christmas Day, celebrations are limited to the Christmas Cake (a delicious cream cake with strawberry toppings) and for many, the KFC Chicken’s Special Christmas Dinner. Yes, that’s the US fast food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has managed to become the Japanese version of the Christmas ham.

If December 25 falls on a weekday, it is a regular working day in Japan, although many Japanese have practice gift-giving known as “Oseibo” and going out on dates as if it were Valentine’s Day. Thus, many hotels and restaurants offer incredible romantic deals for two, making it almost impossible to book a reservation at the last minute.



A Chinese Christmas

Christmas for Expats in Asia - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: bohnen

With only 1% of China’s population being Christian, this holiday is celebrated in a very commercial way.  The shops are all visibly decorated with lights and Christmas trees all done to encourage locals and tourists to start shopping for gifts, food, and drinks.

Like Japan, if Christmas Day falls on a weekday, it is a regular working day but usually peppered with midday parties, late night drinking, and gift-giving. Some Chinese cities like Guilin, host an annual Christmas Eve show on public streets for all to enjoy. The Christmas dinner includes the best Chinese delicacies and fruits that are round in shape because the Chinese believe round-shaped fruits will bring good fortune to a family. The foods served in households are very atypical of a traditional Western-style holiday menu of ham, rib roast, and fruit cake.  But if one wants these, he or she can always drop by a hotel where these kinds of foods are served in an extravagant and delightful Christmas buffet.

Hong Kong is probably the most commercially festive of all Chinese cities and where Christmas Day is a holiday. CNN has said that Hong Kong is one of the top 10 places to be visited during Christmas because of the preparation done by the locals to promote the island as the perfect holiday getaway. From Ocean Park to Hong Kong Disneyland, there are a variety of treats waiting for everyone including freebies and fantastic shows.



A Vietnamese Christmas

Christmas for Expats in Asia - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Bruce & Robyn Dunning

Vietnam is mainly a Buddhist country but Christmas is one of their four religious holidays. Christmas Eve is more significant to them than Christmas Day because Vietnamese children are encouraged to believe in Santa Claus.  Thus, it is just as exciting for them as that of the children from Europe to America. The Christmas Eve dinner is also well-planned and folks for sure have much preparation and spending a lot is common for most households.  Right before midnight, the children are asked to go to their rooms after leaving their shoes out for Santa. Many families like to play a song to “give Santa time to come and drop the gifts in their shoes.” Once the song ends, the children go out and get their special gifts. Other families like to keep the children in bed until Christmas morning just like those from the West.

Before and after the visit of Santa, many Vietnamese are seen outdoors enjoying the Christmas lights and camaraderie. It’s a big outdoor party in many neighborhoods. The traditional Christmas food served in Vietnam is turkey or duck, chicken soup, fried rice, pudding, and the French Christmas chocolate log cake.

Lately though, due to heavy marketing, many Vietnamese prefer to eat in fancy hotels and restaurants during the holidays.  This they do during very busy seasons so most of them can go party or hotel-hopping and enjoy  as much as many of the different festivities as possible.




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Christmas Overseas, Christmas in Asia, Expat Holiday, The Holidays, Expat Lifestyle, Living Abroad

5 Countries That Don’t Celebrate Christmas


Christmas is a global celebration; it’s that time of year where everyone feels the spirit of giving, love and hope for mankind… but it’s not really as global as you think. Yes, there are some places in the world where December 25 is just another day and no matter how holly and jolly the rest of the world may feel they’d just go on with their daily routine; these places don’t even declare it as a public holiday. If you are an expat living in these 5 countries, we’ve got some tips to help you have Christmas festivities despite the lack of celebration in your host country. However, if you’re someone who’s sick of all the Christmas festivities and need a little break from Christmas, then these countries just might be the perfect place for you this month. Here are 5 countries that don’t celebrate Christmas.




5 Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Peter Dowley

As a non-Christian country, Qatar does not really celebrate Christmas, in fact Christmas day is not even declared as a public holiday in this country, but employers do allow their employees to observe Christmas if they want. Christmas festivities in the country are usually organized by the foreign community in Qatar. If you are a new expat who wants to celebrate Christmas in Qatar, it’s advisable to join expat groups and organize a celebration with fellow expats, or if you’re not so into joining a community, you can stop by many hotels like the Ritz Carlton which serves an annual Christmas Eve buffet and have a great feast without going through the trouble of preparing it yourself.




5 Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto:Groundhopping Merseburg

Morocco also does not acknowledge Christmas day as a public holiday, so if you’re an expat working in Morocco, you’d really have to ask for a day off. They do allow people to observe Christmas, but it’s definitely not a very publicly celebrated event. There are a lot of tourists coming in around Christmas time in Morocco, mostly people who are trying to get away from the normal Christmas festivities so hotels will be booked and crowded for this season. The best way to spend Christmas in Morocco is to plan your own celebration and adapt to what is available in the country. You can plan a trip to Tangier, where people are more inclined to celebrate Christmas and have your own little feast with just a few of your closest friends.



The Maldives

5 Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Paul Boag

This is probably the best place to spend a “Non-Christmas” holiday. You have the sun, the beach and friendly locals, you can completely forget about Christmas. Yes, The Maldivians do not typically observe Christmas as the country’s locals are mostly Buddhist or Islamic. But quite frankly, if you’re an expat living in the Maldives, it’s not such a bad deal to not have Christmas. In fact, there are quite a lot of tourists that go here for Christmas despite the lack of festivities. There are still some stores that sell decorations and Christmas food for tourists so you can just ask for the days off work, buy some food, sit on the beach and relax.




5 Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Charles Roffey

Turkey also does not recognize Christmas day as a public holiday, but they do allow the observance of Christmas, so if you’re an expat living in Turkey, it won’t be a lot of trouble to ask for a few days off to celebrate. Cities like Istanbul will have a few decorations for Christmas but don’t expect the locals to be as excited as you are about the event. If you want to experience a Christmas celebration in the country, you can take a trip to South-eastern part of Turkey where Turkish Assyrians still celebrate Christmas and call it “Eeda Zura” which means small feast.




5 Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto:Jeanne Menj

Christmas in Mongolia is a completely foreign affair since most of its locals are Buddhists. You will still see a few decorations especially in main cities like Ulaanbaatar, but it is not really observed by people and they also don’t recognize it as a public holiday. While Mongolia’s people might not celebrate with you, it is not very hard to get the Christmas spirit in the country. In fact, it can be pretty darn close to the stereotypical Christmas idea. The weather is the perfect “winter wonderland white Christmas” cliché and they even have reindeers! So, the best way for expats to celebrate Christmas in the country is to get some time out of work, gather your expat community, rent a reindeer and set up a perfect Christmas feast.


It is not such a bad thing to live in a country that doesn’t observe Christmas traditions; in fact, it just makes the celebration more special and unique. You might not be able to be home for Christmas, but you can always find that Christmas is honestly just in our hearts.



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Holidays, Christmas Abroad, Holidays Abroad, Expat Lifestyle, Living Abroad, Christmas Overseas

8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers


8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder Blog

Photo: Adam Fagen


The sharing economy has made world travel a lot easier and cheaper. Sharing economy or “collaborative consumption” has been such a trend recently with the popularity of apps such as AirBnb and Uber that people all starting to see it as the future of travel economy. Shared transactions are particularly ideal for expats and world travellers. Why rent a serviced apartment or book a hotel when you can share one with a local for a much cheaper price? Why wait for a cab when you can Uber it before you even walk out the door?

Aside from offering services and goods at a cheaper cost, another thing that makes sharing economy more charming for people is the personalized experience that it offers. As travellers or expats abroad, experiencing the local way of eating, living and getting around the city is a special way to enjoy your host city or country. So without further ado, here are the best sharing economy apps out there for the main services you’ll need while living abroad.






Photo: airbnb


Airbnb is an app and a website that offers local accommodations for rent in over 190 countries all over the world. Airbnb allows people to rent out their free space for tourists or basically anyone who need a place to stay for a short or long period of time. It can be as big as an entire house or as small as an empty couch for backpackers to crash into while waiting for a flight or a train. All you need to do is sign up, pick a city and pick a property. Airbnb mediates the transactions between the property owners and the renters, making the service very personal. Sharing a local’s home lets you experience the city in a very personal and cultural way that no serviced apartment or hotel can provide, and that’s exactly what fuels airbnb’s 10 billion dollar sharing economy.




8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder Blog

Photo: CasaVersa


CasaVersa offers a different kind of home sharing. This app and website is a home exchange service, so it allows you to swap houses, cars and property with anyone you approve of. You just need to register, put your own house and property up for exchange and choose the candidates for swapping. This app allows you to be completely spontaneous when travelling. You’re presented with different kinds of offers to basically trade lives with someone else in a different part of the world. If you feel like living someone else’s life when you travel, then this is the best experience for you.






8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Buildmeasite


Uber is a sharing carpool service that arranges ridesharing between a driver and a passenger and it’s available in more than 50 countries around the world. What makes this different from just hailing a cab? First of all, you get to ride something other than a standard public transport vehicle, second, you can share the ride with other people heading the same direction making the cost lower, and third, the app allows you to book a ride and just wait inside until your car arrives. If you’re looking for ways to have a more exciting way to get around a city, Uber is your go-to app.




8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: erlangcentral


If Uber is letting you share a ride, Getaround allows you to rent personal vehicles close to your location. The app allows you to check if there’s a car available for rent nearby for booking. The app also provides the renter with a kit to locate the car faster and lock and unlock the car from smartphones. The fees are paid on an hourly rate and the car owners are provided with insurance. Getaround provides a faster, more efficient and cool option for car renting and getting around a city.






8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder Blog

Photo: Eatwithme

Eatwithme is an app and a website that allows people to host or attend dinner parties. This service offers a more personal way to dine in a city than just going to a restaurant. Eatwithme allows you to share a meal with fellow tourists, expats or locals, so it’s also a very good way to meet new people. If you’re looking for a better way to experience local cuisine in your new host city, then eatwithme provides the best options for you.




8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: theimpactengine


As the name suggests, mealsharing allows you to share meals with locals in over 425 cities around the world. It can be as simple as a closed group dinner date or as big as a full blown cook out and dinner party. Mealsharing offers the delights of home cooked local meals to expats, travellers or even locals who are just looking for a new place to try out. It’s also a good way for aspiring chefs to test their culinary and hosting skills. This is a fun way to meet new people and have a completely different and exciting dining experience in you new host city.







8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: dribble


Yes, even tour guides can be shared. Vayable allows locals and tourists to interact and schedule a special tour in a particular city, museum, historical centre or local hotspots for a unique experience. Vayable tour guides are not the cookie cutter cliché tour guides that you often encounter when you’re booking a tour at a tourist destination. These tour guides offer expertise experience that is completely original and localized that you can’t really get from a normal tour service. They offer different kinds of ways to experience the city or place that they’re in. It could be a bike tour, a food trip, a photography tour or an art tour, vayable lets you experience cities, places and countries in a very non-tourist way.




8 Sharing Economy Apps for World Travellers - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Knok


Knok is a full family travel sharing network. It allows you to book home exchange or apartment rental services that are specifically family and child friendly. It also lets you book a personalized family friendly travel guide on the city you’re moving or travelling to. If you’re a bit anxious to travel or move to a new city with your family and you’re looking for ways to have a more exciting trip but still be on a budget, Knok is the perfect fit for you.




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Travel Apps, Living Abroad, Sharing Economy, Expat Lifestyle, Sharing Services

4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad


4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad - ExpatFinder Blog

Photo: Tim Sackton

Thanksgiving is one of the most interesting holidays in the world, and although it is just mainly observed in the U.S., lots of people are still curious about this holiday because of the festivities (mainly the food) that comes with the holiday. Unfortunately for U.S. expats and other expats who are interested in celebrating this holiday abroad, thanksgiving is not really the most “movable feast”, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from having a celebration no matter where they are in the world. We are a week away from thanksgiving, so it’s not too late to start planning! Here are 4 fun filled ways for expats to celebrate thanksgiving abroad.



Multi-cultural Celebration

4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: US Embassy


Even if you are the only expat who wants to celebrate thanksgiving in your host city, you can still share the spirit of thanksgiving to all your friends and colleagues. In fact, this is a good way to share cultural traditions to your new community. You can host a thanksgiving party and ask your friends to showcase their own cultural way of giving thanks for their blessings. This type of celebration allows you to share your traditional thanksgiving festivities while also learning more about other culture’s way to celebrate their blessings.



Alternative Thanksgiving

4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Karen Lee


Thanksgiving celebrations require a lot of traditional food like turkey, cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkin pie etc. and as an expat abroad you know that it’s not easy to get everything you need for a traditional thanksgiving feast in your new host country. An alternative thanksgiving party allows you to have fun with substitutes for your celebration. For example, you can substitute turkey with chicken and you can have a different kind of sauce to go with your chicken instead of the traditional cranberry sauce. Find ingredients that are abundant in your host country and research good recipes that you can follow with these ingredients. Although you might think that it’s never gonna be as good as the thanksgiving you have back home, remember that the real essence of the thanksgiving celebration is to give thanks and make do with what you have.



4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Alex


If you are the sentimental type and you’re really itching to have a typical thanksgiving with your loved ones but you can’t really travel back home for the holiday, you can opt to celebrate a sentimental thanksgiving abroad. Take the day off work and make an effort to cook all of the traditional food that you would enjoy if you were back home. Ask for your mother’s traditional recipes and do your best to make it yourself and set it up at your place. Finally, set up your thanksgiving dinner with your family and fire up your Skype or Facetime to spend quality time with them the closest way possible.


Go All Out

4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: George Reyes


An all out overseas thanksgiving is not easy to accomplish. You would have to put a lot of effort into getting all the necessities for preparation and even ship items to simulate the perfect thanksgiving dinner at your new host country. You can use online expat groceries that sell U.S. and British products and have goods shipped to your host country in time for the celebration. Invite as many people as you can and make an event out of it. You can even post your party as an event in expat social media groups and pages. This is a great way for you to find new expat friends and networks in your host country while honouring the joyous thanksgiving holiday.




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Thanksgiving Abroad, Thanksgiving Celebration, Living Abroad, Expat Lifestyle

Top 10 Most Awesome Airline Videos


Top 10 Most Awesome Airline Videos - ExpatFinder BlogPhoto: Samira


Remember when you were just a young first time expat excited to move overseas getting ready to board your first flight and see all the amazing things the world has to offer? Well, if you don’t, then maybe you need a few reminders on how much fun travelling can be. Air travel is one of the most unavoidable experiences in an expat’s life and because we travel more frequently than most people, most expats tend to look at it as a dreary and tedious process. But air travel doesn’t necessarily have to be just an experience that gives you jet lag; some airline companies go through great lengths to catch your attention and make sure that you have a fun and entertaining airline experience. Here are the 10 most awesome airline videos that can help you look at air travel in a fun way again.



1. Air New Zealand’s The Lord of the Rings Safety Video


Also known as “the most epic safety video ever made” this airline safety video has gone viral since its release last month. It features Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood and Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director, Peter Jackson as they assist flight attendants in giving in-flight safety information “middle-earth style” capitalizing on New Zealand’s main tourist attraction: The Lord of the Rings film location.



2. Virgin America’s Video Musical


This entertaining musical safety video was released last year for Virgin America. This colourful and lively number features many talented kids providing important in-flight safety reminders through a very well choreographed song and dance routine like stepping into an episode of Glee.



3. Thomson Airways’ Cute Kid’s Presentation


This is another awesome safety video presented by the cutest kids in the world. While it may not be realistically ideal to have a full airline crew of children on the flight you’re in, it sure is entertaining to watch them dress up as an airline crew and grown up passengers giving guidelines for a safe air travel.



4. Delta’s 80’s Themed Video


Delta released this 80s themed safety video earlier this year and by ‘80s themed they mean the whole thing; music, hairstyle, fashion, dance moves, toys, and even iconic 80s characters like Steve Urkel and Alf. This safety video delivers the right amount of entertainment while still formally delivering the safety guidelines of the airline.



5. Turkish Airline’s Sport Superstars Commercial 


What could be better for a kid than to see 2 of the most awesome sports superstars in the world like Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant in an aircraft? Well 2 words: ice cream. Turkish Airlines features Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant in this awesome commercial as they fight for a kid’s attention on board a Turkish Airlines flight before ultimately losing to a bowl of ice cream.



6. Southwest Airlines Rapping Flight Attendant


Although this is not an official Southwest Airlines ad or safety video, it went viral back in 2009 when some passengers took a video of a flight attendant rapping the safety announcements in their flight. The employee was quickly labelled as the best flight attendant ever as he attempts to get the passengers hyped for their flight with his awesome rhythm and mad skills.



7. Air New Zealand’s Funny Safety Video for the Elderly


Air New Zealand likes to keep their safety videos creative, and before they used The Hobbit as a theme for their safety video, they featured the Golden Girl and everyone’s favourite Grandma, Betty White in their funny rendition of safety “Old School style” in light of New Zealand’s goal of showcasing their country as a good place for retirement.



8. Eastern Airline’s Old School Disney Commercial


This may be the oldest video in this list, originally released in 1970, but it’s still one of the most awesome airline videos out there. It features almost every old school Disney character you can think of including Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Donald Duck, Alice in Wonderland, Goofy and even Dumbo. Eastern Airlines ceased operations in 1991, but this video remains as one of the most unforgettable airline commercials of all time.



9. Aerolineas Argentinas’ Hopeful “Dream and Believe” Commercial


This awesome video features no superstars or iconic characters, but it does showcase a very sympathetic message: “To dream and believe”. This almost cinematic commercial follows the story of 2 kids who believed they’ve trapped a plane inside a tin can and hope to use it to travel to the most beautiful parts of the world.



10. Fly Dubai’s 3D Animated Safety Video


Fly Dubai believes in keeping their flights fun, interesting and entertaining. This safety video released in 2011 features a creative and artistic animation video to present their in-flight safety guidelines complete with cool characters and funny moments to make sure that you really pay attention to the important details of flight safety.




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Awesome Videos, Living Abroad, Travelling Abroad, Expat Lifestyle, Fun Airlines