Winter at the Expatriate Archive Centre

17 December 2012

Winter is a time for celebration and reflection. We recently had our end-of-year lunch for staff, volunteers and board members, and it was wonderful to see so many people dedicated to supporting the Archive. It’s great to see it grow year after year.

For expats and their families, this time of year can mean spending time in a home-from-home, going back “home”, feeling homesick and experiencing mixed emotions.

Our collection reflects that, with poems about spending Sinterklaas in a foreign land, Christmas tales in faraway places, touching reflections on the importance of friendships, and how holidays can sometimes be anything but relaxing.


One piece of writing in our archive, by a Dutch family living in Norway, illustrates how different customs and expectations can be in another country.

“It was Christmas Eve and the youngest neighbor above us (sixty years old) invited us for a cup of coffee… we hurried through our evening meal. We were a little surprised to see a completely laid table. Modest as we were we tried not to look at it… After the drink we were asked to join them at the table.”

“First we got a small course, after that soup, and then a complete dinner was put on the table with many kinds of meat and greens… There was no way out. Then we had the choice out of several desserts.”

“Would we like a cup of coffee now? …  So we got the coffee. Norwegian way with seven different sorts of cake and cookies… I still wonder why I wasn’t exploded that night… Norwegians are friendly and very hospitable and I still have the best of memories of the years I spent there.”

What is it like to celebrate a familiar holiday in an unfamiliar place? Are you away from family or friends? Have you embraced new traditions? Kept your own traditions? If you have an expat tale to tell, please consider donating your story to us. We preserve the life stories of expatriates and their families for now and for the future.