Christmas traditions from around the world

Hi everyone!

It’s only a few hours until Christmas now, and I thought I would do something extra fun for my last festive blog post of the year. Most of you guys who read my blog posts are from completely different parts of the world! On the same day, I’ll have readers from: England, UAE, Vietnam, Singapore, Greece, Germany, the U.S., France, The Netherlands, and Canada (to mention a few!). And I love this! I wanted to appreciate this global community in the festive season… So I’ve gathered festive traditions from bloggers all across the world and asked them all to write a paragraph sharing a special Christmas tradition that they each have. I hope you enjoy reading about what people all across the world do to celebrate this season. They may seem like small things, but these little traditions are what makes the holidays so special for everyone. Feel free to comment one of your holiday traditions in the comment section at the end of this post!

New Jersey, USA

Natalie Park – Capturing Life on Camera Blog

“Every year, my family and I play “Dirty Santa” where everyone brings a gift that is around $25. Everyone gets a number and goes around and chooses a gift in the order of their numbers. The fun in the game is that you can steal presents so the later numbers have the best shot. Every year my Grandma brings the worst gifts. At this point, I own a crystal vase, some vitamins, and too many regifted candles. It has become a running joke in my family that my grandma is the worst gift giver!”

Kent, England

Jasmine – Just Jasmineella Blog

“Hi I’m Jasmine and I’m from England, Kent. One tradition that my family and I have is having new Christmas pjs on Christmas Eve. I still get really excited about this! Every year my mum wraps up a fresh, new, festive pair of matching pyjamas for me and my sister to slip into right after a lovely hot bath. She has done this ever since we were tiny, when we were babies it was little Christmas sleep-suits! She always picks a beautiful set that starts the excitement and build up for the next day. They tend to be a traditional button up style with a Christmassy print of some kind. I love doing this because it’s so lovely when me and my sister are opening our presents in matching pyjamas in front of the Christmas tree. We usually have a photograph of us both in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve leaving a snack ready for Father Christmas and a carrot for the reindeer. These are special Christmas memories that I will always treasure and wish to carry on with my own children when I’m older.”

Florida, USA

Liddy Dow – @itsliddystyle

“First off, I want thank Little Miss Expat for having me on her blog. She is such an inspiration and has an amazing story that I connected to from the beginning. She has achieved so much this year and it’s a privilege of mine to called her a friend on Instagram!  My name is Liddy and I run the Instagram Fashion account, @itsliddystyle. Little Miss Expat asked me what my Christmas tradition is and I would love to share it with you all. Before I moved to where I live now, every Christmas Eve we would go over to my families house and have a huge party. My favorite part about that upcoming day was picking out my fancy dress to wear that night. I looked forward to it ever year. It was an exciting night that was filled with laughter and love. Continuing with another tradition I have, is every Christmas or so my family rents a beach house and we stay for about a week. It’s always so nice to see all of my cousins and family together at once. My favorite memory was a couple of years ago when we decided to dig a HUGE hole in the sand. It look us all day and in the end it could fit all 6 of us cousins in it. (We even made sand stairs and a bench inside). It was such a fun experience to work with my cousins and I will never forget it.  But those are my Christmas traditions I have. Thank you again, LME for letting me share my experiences with you on your blog. I hope everyone has a great week and have a happy holiday and Merry Christmas!”

Cairns, Australia

Elina Passant – Just So Elina Blog

“My favourite Christmas tradition would have to be our little Christmas Day vlogs we make every year. My mum started filming Christmas morning when I was 2 on her old camcorder, you know the ones that record onto tapes instead of sd cards. As I got older I started adding onto her little videos, so once she filmed us opening presents I would film who we were spending Christmas with, our animals and whatever Christmassy activity we were doing that morning like making a gingerbread house. We continue to make the vlogs to this day and I love it because I get to look back on past years and my favourite Christmas memories. It’s also what started my love for filming videos, so it’s really been a win win tradition.”

Erfurt, Germany

Sixtina Alwardt – Six Miles Away Blog

“ADVENTSKALENDER

One typical German tradition is the Adventskalender. It basically serves as a countdown until Christmas. Starting from the 1st of December until 24th, you can open one “door” per day. Each of these doors is filled with chocolates (usually).

However, over the years these calendars changed in shape, size and filling. Lots of companies sell these calendars with their products. This can be herbs, toys, cosmetics and so on. You can even buy couple calendars nowadays. Super cool idea.

DIY Adventskalenders also become more and more popular. This basically means someone in your family is making and filling it for you. This way they are more personalised.

Adventskalenders really don’t have an age. Young and older people enjoy them equally every year.”

Buckinghamshire, England

Lexie – What Lexie Loves Blog

“For the last couple of years, my family has welcomed a new tradition… our Christmas Morning Muffins. Every Christmas Eve my mum makes up a batch of these orange and cranberry muffins, and in the morning we bake them and have the fresh and warm. The cinnamon-ny, fruity taste is delicious and just reminds me of Christmas. It’s a small, simple tradition but it really does make my Christmas morning… we love huddling around the breakfast table eating them!

Rohini Kudva – RoRo K Designs Blog

“My family loves watching movies and every year we always take one day before Christmas to have a long marathon. The marathon usually includes Elf, The Holiday, All of the Holiday episodes from Friends, a Charlie Brown Christmas, and many more. I’m the only one that enjoys Hallmark Movies, so we only watch a couple. My aunt makes really yummy gingerbread cookies and ginger tea, which we eat while we watch the movies. It’s something I always look forward to every year.”

Dubai, UAE

ME!

I’ve grown up spending Christmas in different places around the world, but one of the traditions that is pretty steady in my family is our Christmas walks. In my family after we eat Christmas lunch, we all go for a walk (to work off all the food we ate!) and to enjoy the winter nature of England before we go back to Dubai. Only after the walk are we allowed to open our presents!

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Thank you to all the bloggers around the world who collaborated with me on this post!

I hope you enjoyed reading about these Christmas traditions from around the world! Comment down below a Christmas tradition you have and where you’re from! Merry Christmas everyone!

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The photography tip that will ‘Christmasify’ any photo!

As we get closer to Christmas, each day is becoming more and more festive. I’ve grown up spending most of my Christmases in London, and for anyone who has visited London during December you will know that the festive atmosphere is contagious. The glowing Christmas lights on every street have this effect which makes everything warm and bright, and I love to capture this in photos. In this post I’m going to share my top tip for ‘Christmasifying’ any photo you take during this season, and using the lights to your advantage.

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You’ve probably seen loads of photos like this on your Instagram feed or all over the internet this time of year, but for me, it took me a while to actually perfect this style of photo. There’s something about using this style which always reminds me of a festive time of year. The whole gist of the ‘Christmasified’ photo is focusing on a subject in the foreground which has a background of lights behind it, but by blurring the background and only focusing on the foreground, the background turns into balls of glowing light which radiate festivity.

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Here’s an example of what the blurred light effect looks like

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And here’s an example of focusing on the foreground and blurring out the background

Once you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty simple to achieve this style. However, it’s hard to only focus on one point using your phone camera, so I would suggest using an actual camera where you can adjust your settings to achieve this effect. I usually shoot manual on my camera, but if this is something you’re not used to, then feel free to just adjust some of the settings I mention in this post. If you’re shooting on manual like me, be sure to shift your focus to one singular point, or when you push down the button to take the photo, make sure in your viewfinder you see that you’re focusing on one singular point in the foreground (otherwise, you will be taking in the whole landscape and not focusing on anything specific).

Step one for achieving this effect is NOT using flash. Personally, I don’t think using flash with these kinds of photos is a good idea, as the light from a cameras flash is too harsh and I hardly ever use it when taking photos. Instead, opt for a more natural light source, while it’s winter and there are lots of festive lights, it’s probably still going to be a little dark around you. But as long as you have enough light to be able to see what you’re doing, your camera should be able to pick up on your subject.

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The most important part of achieving this effect is adjusting your aperture. Your camera’s aperture is basically, how much light is let into your camera when you take a photo. By adjusting your camera to a higher ‘F’ number you’re letting in less light. So not only is your photo darker but also your photo now has a depth of field, because your camera only has enough light to focus on a subject in the foreground.

If you’re adjusting your aperture to let in less light, in order to achieve that depth of field effect which blurs out the lights in the background, you have to make up for this somewhere else in your settings, so that your camera still has enough light to actually take a photo. You can do this by adjusting your shutter speed. Your shutter speed is how long your camera shutter is open for when you take a photo. So by having a lower shutter speed, your photos will be brighter as more light is let in. So to achieve this effect you would need to choose a high aperture number, and a low shutter speed number.

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You may also want to change your cameras ISO, which is how sensitive your camera is to light. So if your camera is really insensitive to light, you probably won’t be able to pick up on all of the subject. By changing your cameras ISO number, to something higher your camera will be more sensitive to light. My last tip for capturing your subject in the best way is to ‘meter’ off your subject. So when you press down on your camera button to take the photo be sure that you’re focusing on a specific point on your subject, so that your camera picks up on it.

Remember:

Aperture – High ‘F’ number (your aperture is always 1/the ‘F’ number, so a higher number means a smaller fraction)

Shutterspeed – Low number

ISO – High number

I hope that you enjoyed this post! I usually don’t write posts this in-depth about one specific type of photo, but I thought that it might be useful to explain how to take this specific type of photo as it’s so festive. Let me know what you thought of this post by liking it or commenting, and if you try using these tips let me know, I would love to see what you come up with!

See you next week,

Little Miss Expat

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Running My First Half Marathon

This time last year I set myself a goal: I was going to run a half marathon before 2018 was over. No doubt it was an ambitious goal, but I achieved that goal on December 7th 2018, when I ran the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon!

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early (well actually not so bright, because the sun hadn’t even risen yet) at 3:50am ready to go run. I run competitively for high school cross country, but I never race any distance greater than 5K, so this was something I was not used to.

The whole week I had been holding in my nerves and telling myself that it would be okay. I was more excited than nervous to be doing something that was so out of my comfort zone, and I would be doing it alongside some of my teammates, but I still had some pre-race jitters. When I arrived at the athlete’s village at 5am, I’m not going to lie, I kind of felt like I was about to throw up, but I was also super hyped to run! There were so many runners, and I’ve never been at a race that big in my whole life. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time.

When I crossed the starting line I hadn’t even really computed what I was about to do. I was about to run 21km. What. There were so many people around me and hardly any space to run in, I was kind of panicking, what was I getting myself into?

However I didn’t let this deter me, I just thought to myself that 3 years ago I wouldn’t have even thought myself capable of running a 1km race, let alone a 21km race. I was proud of how far I’ve come, and I knew I had the strength to finish this race, however hard it would be.

And I’m glad I adopted that mindset because it was one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever run. I’ll never forget the view as I ran into my second kilometer: I turned a corner to see a hill, and above the hill was a huge bridge with thousands of runners moving gracefully above me, I had never seen so many people so dedicated to achieving the same goal, and it was really inspirational.

If someone were to ask me what I thought about while I ran, or how I kept myself occupied for such a long time, I wouldn’t know. I think I was just enjoying the run so much myself, that I didn’t think of it in a negative way. We ran across the Dubai Creek which I’ve never been to before, we ran across bridges and saw the sunrise, and we ran through the souks of old Dubai.  I was truly inside my own head, having a good time.

When I crossed that finish line with my family, friends, and teammates cheering me on, I felt like I was about to cry for a second and started tearing up. I know, weird right? It’s something a lot of runners experience when you cross your finish line, you’re so emotional in many ways that you just feel like crying. I was so proud of myself for achieving something like this at age 16, I was so happy with my time, and I was also surprised and relieved that I had finished the race.

It was honestly the most draining, tiring, exciting, fun, and memorable day ever, and I am so glad that I got the opportunity to participate in this. It reminded me of who I am, and what I can achieve. I ran this race for myself. When I ran this race it showed me what I am capable of. Thank you to my family, my coaches, and the race organizers, for allowing me to achieve my goal and enjoy (almost) every moment of it.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my race experience. I know it’s a little different from what I usually post, but this was an experience that I  really wanted to share on here, and I hope it inspired some of you guys!

Tune in next week for some Christmas content,

Little Miss Expat


The ‘I can’ mindset – #ExpatWisdom – Sixtina

Hi everyone,

This weeks blog post is another from the Expat Wisdom series! I’ve been working with Sixtina from Six Miles Away blog to share her expat story. Her blog is a heaven for any traveler or expat, as it’s packed with travel tips and stories, I could honestly spend hours reading it all! She was even kind enough to interview me, and write about my expat story on her blog, incase you wanted to take a look at that!

Her story, like many of the others that I’ve shared in this series, is one that I can relate to. However, the advice she gives is something that I really wish I had thought of during my move, and perhaps it will help you as well!


It’s all about the “I can” mindset, right focus, and positive attitude!

The travel bug had already been awakened in me in early years. Growing up in East Germany (former DDR), my parents didn’t have much freedom when it comes to traveling like us nowadays. As soon as the wall came down my parents, especially my mother started traveling like crazy, of course, taking me everywhere with them. I’ve basically visited 2 new countries every year since I was 1 years old, but I don’t even remember them all!
six miles away in iceland
The first time I moved abroad, I was only a teenager myself. Wanting to learn English, my grandpa helped to finance a year in an American High School, so I ended up in Kentucky, USA. Around Christmas time I got very homesick, which I guess was normal for a teenager being far away from home for the first time and for a long time in a foreign country, where things were different. However, instead of locking myself up in my bedroom, crying and complaining about things, I focused on the positive points, such as my lovely host family, lots of new food to try, fun entertaining games, and I also called my family back home. I had a great time, and my mum booked a flight to come over for my birthday.
six miles away in a wood house
After studying for 4 years in The Netherlands, where I also got to spend one semester abroad in Mexico and one in Spain, I moved to Ireland shortly after I graduated. I have been living here for 4 years. Being an expat is not always flowers and roses or as easy as it may look online. There are downsides for sure, including organizational, situational and also emotional things.

The first 2 years in Ireland were super hard for me and I was very upset; I didn’t go out, I gained weight and I was simply miserable. Yet it was my own choice to be there, right?

Why was I upset?
I was in an unhappy relationship, I lived in a dirty apartment where I didn’t even want to return to, I had a call center job I hated, I found no hobbies I liked to practice, I had no friends/people I liked enough to hang out with, neither did I have a great social life. On top of that public transportation and weather were bad as well.

After being miserable for around 3-6 months and constantly complaining, at some point I woke up and realized that nothing is ever going to change if I continue complaining. No new job will appear by itself, no agency will come to me offering a new apartment, no social club is going to ask me if I want to join and so on…

I don’t remember what my exact wake-up call was, but in the end, it all comes down to the “I can” mindset, right focus, and positive attitude. First of all, I focused on the things I could change quickly. That included getting rid of that boyfriend, joining social clubs and start hanging out with people that are my cup of tea. A new apartment and job came later on by itself, as I was full of energy and most importantly with a positive attitude.  
girl enjoying sweets
What am I trying to say?
It really is up to us, how we handle situations and what we make out of them. My advice is to get up, focus and change things that are within our reach and stop complaining. Be positive and try to perceive new things with an open mind, rather than find the “wrong” bits and pieces of it. After all, there is always something to learn from every negative and positive situation. You might not see it right at the start, but it will become more clear eventually. All you have to do is stay positive, focus on the things that you CAN do/change, and have an “I can do anything” mindset. The rest will happen by itself, you’ll see!

I hope you enjoyed reading Sixtinas story, and that you can take something away from it! As always, be sure to take a look at the other posts in my Expat Wisdom series, or if you’re interested in being featured feel free to reach out to me at LittleMissExpatBlog@gmail.com!
See you next week,
Little Miss Expat