I’m rather delayed in posting this, but here goes.
So I know that the Christmas period at home is well and truly over, and that exam season has started for everyone. For me, I’m still in my Christmas holiday and there are still Christmas decorations around in Australia, so it doesn’t feel quite as over as it would if I were in the UK, but then Christmas didn’t feel anything like it would in the UK anyway.
This wasn’t my first Christmas spent outside the UK, but the previous time I was abroad at this time of year I was in India, where Christmas isn’t really celebrated. So this was my first opportunity to see how Christmas was marked in a different country (and one of the real perks of a year abroad is seeing the ins and outs of how a different culture operates throughout the year), and it was quite different.
- Everyone spends it at the beach. My family were over for three weeks, including Christmas and new year, and we were staying by the beach. It was a hot sunny day that day, and the beach was PACKED. Families were out there from about 9am, sunbathing, surfing, paddle boarding, swimming – you name it. Whereas in the UK the day is all about being lazy (save a possible walk), eating too much, and watching a lot of TV, in Australia it’s all about being active and outdoors.
- The food. In Australia they have loads of public outdoor barbecues which anyone can use at any time, and they were in high demand on Christmas Day. People were having burgers, sausages, steaks – anything they could be cooked on a barbecue. And then they were eating them outside (unheard of in the UK, unless you’re slightly crazy).
- Christmas seems like a bit less of a big deal here. Now I could be completely wrong on this one, so this is purely from my perspective. But in the UK (and most of Europe) we get excited weeks in advance – shops do elaborate window displays, Christmas trees are left, right and centre, every house has some kind of Christmas feature visible from the street, Christmas songs are played on the radio, the list is endless. And here it’s not at all like that, so I kind of forgot it was Christmas (plus it was 30 degrees outside which is a right festive-mood killer if you associate the holiday with winter) and every so often I’d turn a corner, see a Christmas tree (or one of the African animals made out of fake grass and then festooned with Christmas lights and red berries that were wheeled out in my local shopping centre) and I’d be like ‘oh yeah, it’s Christmas soon’.
- The heat. Nothing more to say really – it was 30 degrees where I was on Christmas Day, and in some places it was 40. Not what I’m used to in December (or any other month of the year, what with English weather being English weather).
So Christmas was all a bit different really, and I’m not quite sure it worked for me. If I’d been brought up in Australia I’m sure I’d have loved it, but after 21 years of the same kind of Christmas, this was just too different. I’m really pleased I got to spend the holiday here but I did miss doing it the British way.
The one thing I really did like about this Christmas period compared to at home, was the lack of exams. The academic year finished at the end of November and picks up again at the end of February. So there was no revision, no essays, no reports anywhere insight. Since I had my first GCSE exams in the January of year 10, I’ve had exams to revise for every single Christmas (bar my gap year). And it was so nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the day without worrying about the revision I wasn’t doing at that point, or stressing that my essay was due in in only a few weeks. So whilst, from my very biased perspective, the UK celebrates Christmas better than Australia, I will concede that they win because they don’t have exams hanging over them like a black cloud. Good luck to everyone taking exams, whether they be your first uni exams, or some of your last, no doubt the hard work will be worth it.