White Christmas – Blue January

We had the best Christmas in our little French corner of the world, somewhere by the usually calm and gentle but this time somewhat capricious Med! There was even something fairytalish about the dark sea on the first night of a brand new year. So much so that I actually believe there must have been a fairy present, working her magic, casting her spell, turning me into – Eeyore. You know, Pooh’s gloomy companion.

Photo: Unni Holtedahl

Photo: Unni Holtedahl

So, I spent the last days in our corner as a stooping donkey. Why? Easy – because I didn’t want to leave. What does that tell me? That I’m happy there, so much so that I always turn into Eeyore every time I have to leave. And also that I’m not quite that happy in the place I’m going back to, which is a place I still consider my temporary home. And maybe I’m less happy in January.

The January Blues hits many of us, regardless of where we are and whether that place is home. I mean home as in the feeling, not the house or the town or the country. It’s cold, it’s dark, you’ve spent too much money and the fun is over. And it’s the longest month, certainly longer than its 31 days. At least that’s the preconception of January – the worst month of the year.

If there were such a thing as an expat dictionary, I’m sure it would feature the term expat blues. The explanation might say “occurs throughout the year, but especially current in January”. Thus, the January Blues might hit expats harder. After Christmas celebrations with family and old friends and traditions we know and cherish, picture postcard perfect or not, your empty house in your new country might just scream at you – hey! I’m not really your home you know! And you miss home more, the people, the places and the whole experience. And you know that there are people who miss you too. So your chest feels kind of heavy returning to your expat life.

The upside is meeting your new friends again, the ones you’ve made as an expat, and talk about your Christmas experiences. Each conversation will start with something like this:

“Oh, we had a great time, it was lovely to see everybody again, but it’s hard coming back, eh? Especially this time of year.”

It doesn’t exactly make things better that the hibernation period starts in January. Whereas the streets were full of people in December – never mind the cold, let’s have a vin chaud – the same people vanish in January – it’s too cold, let’s stay inside. Ghost city. Those who dare to go out, shuffle hurriedly along, looking down, shielding themselves from the icy winds.

The January Solution might be to get frantically social – lunch dates, movie dates, cocktail parties. Or read – to read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June, according to Sartre. Or to simply hang in there, all Eeyore, until the gloom passes and your chest feels lighter. That usually happens within a few days, although it may take a little longer in January. And sometimes the magnolias blossom in February.

“Good morning, Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning, which I doubt,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

  • Winnie the Pooh

By Unni Holtedahl, January 2013

Read more about those expat blues, or those January blues

The Desperate Expat Wife is having a blue january, the decorista is having a white one!

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