The importance of family rituals when living abroad

While being an expat family offers many benefits, recreating important and familiar routines and rituals can sometimes prove challenging.

Sourcing food, in particular, can sometimes be tricky. Although I expected noticeable changes in our diet when moving to a new country, there were some things I’d not considered. Such as how difficult it would be to find hot cross buns and Easter eggs! And if you do find them, they can be hellishly expensive. If you’re buying eggs online, I recommend purchasing a few months early to arrive on time, avoiding last-minute stress!

And don’t get me started on Xmas pudding (Mum, please know I’m deadly serious when I ask you to pack some of your amazing homemade coin-stuffed pudding in your bag this Xmas!). 

Thankfully, we have plenty of other routines we can quickly adapt to fit around living in another country, despite a lack of access to the food we usually enjoy! Here are a few things we love in our expat fam:

Xmas

One thing we take with us everywhere is our Santa sacks. Laying these out every Xmas Eve and ensuring we have a tree wherever we are is a surefire way to get the kids into the Xmas spirit! Throw in some milk and cookies for Santa, and we make sure the kids carry on some of their Xmas traditions regardless of where we are. No matter what we have planned for Xmas Day, every Xmas morning starts the same and offers plenty of excitement!

Easter

Every Easter Sunday is an egg hunt around our house, no matter where we are. While we’ve cut it fine to secure the goods a few times, thankfully, we’ve always made sure the Easter Bunny finds us on time to lay out a familiar trail of yummy treats! Every morning starts the same, though each year brings a distinct sense of adventure when there are new hiding spots to explore!

Birthdays

Each birthday means indulging in a local sweet treat. There is ALWAYS birthday cake in our house! Our family favourite has been torta de tres leches in Peru, although the cakes in South Korea are incredible too! The morning ritual is also pretty similar regardless of whose special day. First up is ‘stacks on’ Mum and Dad, where all three kids enjoy watching (and helping) with opening presents. The day’s activities change depending on where we are. For example, this year, George attended Korean daycare dressed in traditional hanbok, where all the other kids bought gifts and celebrated with him. But regardless of what we do to celebrate on the day, everyone’s birthday starts and ends with presents and cake. This year we are seriously pulling out the stops for one very lucky eight-year-old. Disney World, here we come!!

The fun of random routines

In addition to the special events, it’s also lots of fun to incorporate your own random routines that the kids love. Our top favs include:

1. Movie nights

This proves particularly popular in winter, when every Saturday night from around 4 pm, we pull out a mattress into the loungeroom and find a family friendly film. We grab pillows, blankets, snacks and camp in front of the telly for family movie night. 

2. Dance parties 

We always loved a random dance party at home in Australia, but this family favourite got VERY popular when we were stuck in lockdown in Lima. We’d regularly escape to our rooftop terrace when the sun was out with the music blaring. Mum and Dad may have been enjoying the pisco sour a little more than usual to help us manage the fact we spent about 16 months online learning, but our dance parties have also continued here on Jeju (minus the pisco). We’ve even scored two very cool disco balls passed on from other families leaving the island to help set the mood! We get the lights flashing, grab the glow sticks, draw the curtains and we could be anywhere in the world!

3. Pancake Sundays

Every Sunday is pancake day. So far, no matter where we’ve been, we’ve got our hands on flour, eggs and milk to whip up a simple batch of pancakes to continue this tradition pretty easily. It’s also Dad’s tradition, which means Mum gets to lie in! So I enjoy this one a lot.

No matter the occasion, having family traditions and routines can help ensure we all feel relaxed, comfortable and connected wherever we are in the world. It also helps to raise resilient, flexible and open-minded kids who are ready to take on plenty of fresh adventures while feeling safe and secure. I wouldn’t have it any other way!