Travel schedules, business meetings, home-finding visits – all revolve around the local calendar in your host country. Assignees learn pretty quickly about unfamiliar holidays if they try to schedule something at the wrong time, or take a business trip only to find vacations have emptied the office.
National and religious holidays
Acquaint yourself with your destination country’s national holidays and any religious ones, including those that may span a number of days. This knowledge not only optimizes your schedule, it also helps you understand and invest in the local culture. You’ll be a part of it rather than being surprised by it.
Keep the standard dates in your calendar, noting holidays that are moveable, or which may fall on a weekend and so are observed on Monday or some other weekday.
Note any practices that affect daily life, such as fasting during Ramadan or store closures during certain observances. Being forewarned allows you to navigate your own needs while respecting your new community’s way of life.
Increased attention to employee wellbeing has led some merchants to voluntarily close during certain times. For example, the U.S. tradition of “Black Friday” shopping on the day after Thanksgiving reached a frenzy of midnight store openings and all-night sales, until some retailers cut back those hours to protect their workers’ option to celebrate and rest.
While not a holiday, in observance of the Sabbath every week, stores in Israel are closed from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday or Sunday morning. In general, a holiday in Israel begins at sundown the day before.
In addition to national holidays that close businesses, one of the most important calendars in family life is that of your child’s school. Perhaps the school year itself is different from your home country experience.
Holidays throughout the school year are important to note – especially for elementary school children who will need someone home with them on those days – but the longer vacations have even more impact on a family’s schedule. They will determine childcare needs, family trips, and friends or family who are planning to visit you.
Celebrations old and new
Plan ways to keep your own family traditions even if they are not observed in your new location. Maybe you had standing date at home with another family for a Passover Seder, or an annual gathering with the whole family for Easter dinner. Marking these occasions without your usual tribe of loved ones can be dispiriting. Plan ahead and bring whatever decorations or special recipes from home that will bring the holiday to life in familiar ways.
Finding new ways to celebrate can make a holiday even more meaningful. Does your host country observe the holiday differently? Can you invite new friends to share your beloved family traditions? However you mark the day in this new location will become part of your family’s communal memory and a valuable experience for all.
Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center provides worldwide holiday information, as well as country-specific national holidays and festival events in every destination report.
Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group