(Haz click aquí para la versión en español)
Today is my birthday. I turn 32 years old. I live abroad.
In 32 years, I have celebrated my birthday 26 times, usually with a big party or a great night out. I love to celebrate my birthday or at least I used to, I haven’t decided yet which one. These last years have been a bit hard for me to celebrate one more year on this planet earth. No, it is not a 30s’ syndrome, it is definitely not the thought that I am getting older and my sweet young days are over, but I do feel I have lost the excitement to throw a party or make a big deal out of it. However, something very deep inside of me still feels like celebrating this day, I just can’t figure out how.
When living abroad, many of your old traditions/habits will go through a transformation. In my case, if I want to have a big party for my birthday, it is not going to be the same as the parties in Peru. The ‘key’ people who usually went to my parties don’t live here; I have new friends, but they come from other countries and their views on celebrating a birthday can be very different from mine. In addition, my host country has another philosophy about birthdays. Dutch people don’t really care much about their birthdays, and if they do, they are very practical about it. At work, they would bring some cake or sweets to share with their colleagues at lunch break, which is something that surprised me a lot the first time I saw that, because it is your birthday and I think your colleagues should be the ones spoiling you, right?. They also like to keep it simple at home, they would hang some decorations, offer a piece of cake and tons of coffee, invite a couple of their close friends and say goodbye once the cake is over. This makes me wonder: Is that good enough, is that great or is that boring? – I will leave that up to you.
After many attempts to recreate my Peruvian birthday parties, I gave up. I decided to let go and accepted that living abroad had changed some of my traditions. As a result, last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to spend all of my energy and money on a party, instead I had an amazing trip to a land that is far, far away. I was in a ‘hippie’ mood and I assumed that being away would bring me some new energy and positive vibes. Did it? – For now, I would say that it brought some changes in my life, like the start of this blog.
This year, things are very different. At the moment, I cannot really afford a faraway trip nor a party, which takes me to stay at home and enjoy the company of my love one and a delicious cheesecake he made for me. I cannot complain. I am glad that this birthday will be remembered as the one that made me reflect on my past birthdays and the long way I have come. And that is not too shabby for a birthday.
I know celebrating your birthday shouldn’t be such a big deal, it is just a day and just another year. What really matters is how you feel inside and that the important people in your life remember it. No need to have thousands of Facebook messages to feel special, only a few are the ones that really count.
Things abroad are not the same as they used to be at home, and that is O.K., but the question remains: How do you celebrate your birthday while living abroad?.
(Do you adopt the host country’s traditions? Do you pretend it is just another day? Do you throw a party? Do you wish to be back home? or Do you not really give a crap and you wish you would have clicked on another post instead?).