How to survive a Christmas on your own in Spain

Facing a lonely Christmas on your own in your adopted country? Sally Smith shares her tips for survival.

How to survive a Christmas on your own in Spain
Photo: AFP

So all your expat friends have buggered off home to see their relatives. All your Spanish mates trek to their local 'pueblo' to do an obligatory week with their 50 cousins. You stick around locally from lack of money/ poor planning/ a deep hatred of your family.You have no significant other to keep you warm in your central heating-less apartment (who needs it? It's Spain, right?) or give you a snog under the mistletoe. It is bad enough when you are in your native land and can at least hang out with your frienemies from school or university, but that isn't going to happen this year. What should we do? Here's what…

Find the stragglers

There are always a handful of kindred spirits lacking in organisational skills (or social skills for that matter) who will stay behind at xmas to endure the festive season. If pushed, they will invite you to plod along to their measly excuse for a christmas day. Let's be honest here. You won't be getting turkey and all the trimmings, but €3 bottles of wine and a youtube 'best of christmas' album on repeat might be more apt. You can huddle around their one bedroom apartment with inevitable lack of seating (cushion anyone?) and ironic posters blue-tacked to walls to cover up stains and holes. But beggars can't be choosers. I recommend starting to befriend these losers as soon as possible to avoid them thinking they are your only choice for the 25th (which, they are).

READ MORE: 12 weird and wonderful Christmas traditions celebrated across Spain  

Go to a retreat

Instead of admitting to yourself and others that you are in fact lonely, you can elect to participate in some type of yoga/ silent/ hippy/ meditation retreat which in a way will act as if loneliness was always your initial plan. It will be similar to when you trip over on the street and break into a jog or when you wave at someone who ignores you and then run your hand though your hair. It is what you meant to do all along. The downside to this plan is clear. The therapeutic effects of the sanctuary might in fact promote personal growth of some kind. For a repressed Brit like myself, nothing could be worse than this. Under no circumstances do I want to understand my inner child.

 Be thankful

Appreciate all the benefits of dodging the circus which surrounds Navidad. Unlike your homeland, Spain is rather undramatic when it comes to Christmas cheer. Nobody is going to expect you to post them useless presents, you won't put on 8 lbs in 2 weeks from overeating, you can miss the annual drama between your mother and aunt which arose two decades ago over whose turkey basting was superior, no newly birthed babies will shit in your lap, you can sleep in every day without a sole to tell you to get up, you can even wear pyjamas to your local Carrefour without running the risk of bumping into somebody you know (I said Carrefour to sound classy, I mean Día). Enough said.

 Avoid social media at all costs

We all know that the image which people portray on social media couldn't be further from the truth, but in all honesty the lines between reality and fiction become very skewed after scrolling through Instagram for the fifth hour in a row with the fifth glass of Rioja in hand. The heavily edited contoured faces standing next to their loving family (giggling baby included) with a twinkling glow of christmas lights can fool even an old cynic like myself. What is not seen is the 5 seconds before and after the shot when said baby is wailing and uncle Ian farted from too much sage and onion stuffing.

 Get out of the house

The temptation might be to double bolt the door and hibernate for the entire period. I reckon this plan has a shelf life of about two days before you start creating imaginary friends to keep you company or text long lost ex boyfriends who you wouldn't give a toss about in your normal state. Time to get outdoors even if it means to the bar downstairs. Misery loves company. You should befriend the local divorcees who get the kids every other holiday.

Buy yourself an outrageous present


With nobody around to judge you and a bit of spare change in your pocket saved from not flying home, get yourself something so disgustingly unnecessary that it would make any hedonist proud. I'm thinking Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop gift guide, stupid.

Make new years resolutions you will never keep come January 1st



With all this time on your hands what could be more satisfying than creating a list of lofty aspirations you have for 2018. Write a book? Gym three times a week? Cut down on drinking? Keep more up to date with the latest shit-show that is the news? As an avid believer in the fruitlessness of such lists, it doesn't stop me creating them. The drawback to this plan is ithe short term high which will inevitably come crashing down as the clock chimes you in to the new year and you resign yourself to another twelve months of reality TV, Facebook and pizza.

 Be yourself

Take this opportunity to be your wonderful, unapologetic, glorious self. Tell everyone else to sod off and totally immerse yourself in the hedonistic week of your life!

Sally Smith is a British woman in her early 30s who has been living in Madrid since 2010. After finishing her degree in Psychology she moved to Spain to teach and sing in a band.

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