Christmas in Australia has always held a certain idealistic quality for Brits I think. I mean Christmas in the sunshine instead of the sleet and rain we have here is surely preferable. And throw in the UK’s train and tube suspensions, the overly-packed shopping centres and overly-priced taxis and who wouldn’t see the appeal of Christmas down under?
Well I experienced my very own Christmas in Australia a few years back and thought I would share it with you guys in case you’re considering it this year. As there are definitely some pros and cons to assess before you book your flights to Oz!
I’ll start by saying that the lead up to Christmas was a real novelty. Hearing the classic Christmas songs you’ve grown up listening too whilst it’s gloriously sunny, and seeing Christmas trees in shopping centres even though you’re wearing a skirt and a vest. And there are always pictures of Santa in sunglasses with a surfboard all over the place. It’s funny and weird and generally quite a surreal experience.
I was living in Brisbane at the time with my bestie and we weirdly realised that a night out on Christmas Eve must be a British thing. Because we went to the busiest club in Brisbane and it was dead. But like seriously dead with approximately 7 other people there… Christmas Eve is not a thing here.
We went home to watch a Christmas film instead and eat the world’s biggest cheese board. Which is pretty awesome. But I was a little sad I didn’t get the festive night out of merriment, counting down to midnight and drunkenly wishing everyone you see a Merry Christmas. Yeah as I’m writing I’m realising it is definitely a British thing.
Anyway, my pal and I were both working at the same cafe and managed to both wangle a few days off over Christmas to fully experience what this festive holiday is all about down under. And where do you go as a Brit in Australia on Christmas Day? THE BEACH OF COURSE. So we took a road trip to Byron Bay.
We obviously drove there in Santa hats, because Christmas, but doing so in brilliant sunshine was pretty surreal.
When we arrived in glorious Byron Bay, we set up camp on the gorgeous sands. And obvs proceeded to play Xmas songs from our portable speakers and drink beers from stubby holders with Santa on…
The vibe was definitely happy on the beach with families playing games and cooking up a storm on the barbecues. Although we really sucked at working the BBQs ourselves and ate a not-entirely-cooked mini dinner. I think it’s a gift Australians alone are given.
As the sun set we sat with a group of people on a cliff and watched the surfers below. I mean that’s a pretty awesome moment, right? It’s what travelling is all about and what you dream of when you’re planning to spend Xmas abroad.
Unfortunately at this point it was Christmas morning in London and I called home to speak to the fam and wish them a Merry Christmas. I hadn’t been homesick in the entire year I had been travelling up until this point, but speaking to my parents on Christmas morning did it. I was homesick. Sure, the day on the beach had been a pretty awesome day so far, but it wasn’t Christmas Day with my family, eating a roast dinner, playing board games and watching films. I wanted to be there.
After the sun went down, the families went home and it was mainly Australian teenagers littering the beach. Not really my crowd.
Most of the people I had presumed were fellow backpackers had disappeared, I reckon they went back to their hostels to party. But alas, we didn’t have a hostel. We didn’t even have beds. We had driven to another state, had drunk too much to drive back and were subsequently spending Christmas night sleeping in the car.
We left early in the morning and drove to Surfers Paradise to spend Boxing Day recovering on another beach. But a blazing hot sun is really not the one when you have a hangover. A fact I discovered on more than one occasion during my year in Australia.
So there you have it, a pretty weird and quite solemn day in the end.
But I don’t want to suddenly scare everyone who’s going to be away for Xmas this year! It’s still a great experience I think everyone should experience once in their lives. Seeing how another side of the world experiences this holiday, having the novelty of it being hot in December and doing what you want to be doing instead of family obligations. But I think nostalgia for a home Christmas is likely to affect you at some point.
To be fair, I think the experience would have been better if we were in a hostel full of backpackers who were all in the same boat, keeping everyone’s spirits up together. But the thing about hostels in Australia over the festive period is that you normally have to book a minimum of a week over the festive period. And if you’re living and working in Oz this isn’t really feasible…
But I do think this whole thing has really made me appreciate Christmas at home. I love going drinking with my friends on Christmas Eve and having a hungover breakfast with my family as I try to sip my Buck’s Fizz without being sick! (I’m a real treat on Christmas Day.) I also love the quality family time over dinner and seeing people open your presents in person (instead of sending them at the beginning of December and hoping they arrive in time!)
But I am a Christmas junkie. If I was a bit less attached to the holiday I might’ve been less homesick. I just think it’s something you’ve got to be aware of.
I was fine when we got back to Brisbane and proceeded to plan our New Year’s escapades to Sydney to see the fireworks and then to Dreamworld theme park to spend my birthday in the sunshine for the very first time. But more on those adventures another time…
Have you spent Christmas abroad? How did you find it? Really keen to hear your experiences so leave a comment below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!