El Inmigrante

Living abroad / Vivir en el extranjero

Birthday away


(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.

Happy birthday to me - CC Image courtesy of jo marshall on Flickr

Happy birthday to me! – CC Image courtesy of jo marshall on Flickr

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.

A faraway place

A faraway place

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.

My birthday cheesecake

My birthday cheesecake

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?).


Author: El Inmigrante

Born in Peru. Dreamt of the old continent. Currently living in Amsterdam. Do dreams come true? Nací en Perú. Soñé con el viejo continente. Ahora vivo en Ámsterdam. ¿Se vuelven realidad los sueños?

10 thoughts on “Birthday away

  1. Pingback: Cumpleaños lejos de casa | El Inmigrante

  2. It’s strange how different countries have such different traditions. It’s very low-key here in the UK as well, though I’ve decided to have a birthday week – a week of seeing all my lovely friends. Not necessarily birthday themed, just an excuse to get out & about with them!
    I hope you had a lovely, spoilt birthday in any case – that cheesecake looks delish!

    • Thank you for your comment. I like your birthday-week idea! I think next year I’ll make it a month thing ;). Nothing wrong with being spoilt, right?. I had a great time with my love one and I ate almost all the cheesecake 😛

  3. Happy Birthday!!!! And I have no idea, I am kinda of fearing it because mine is Oct. 15 and it will be my first birthday away from home.

    • Thank you! I think the first birthday away from home is always a tricky one, specially if you just arrived. It happened to me when I arrived to Holland. I was only here for a month and I didn’t know how to feel, happy to be in a new country or sad because I didn’t know anybody yet. If I look back now, I would tell myself to spoil ‘me’ all day. Either shopping, making a cake, having my favorite drink, etc. Don’t think too much about the meaning of your birthday, just enjoy it!. Next year, things will be completely different, I assure you 🙂

      • Thank you! I have been thinking about your advice all day! I am going to have a spoil me day. It shouldn’t be a day i’m fearing (only because my family and friends and everything I know are missing), but a day to be embraced. Heck, I might even turn it into a birthday week. Thanks for the advice!

  4. And yes, I agree with Emma, I want that cheesecake.

  5. Being from the U.S., birthdays taken on a form of their own. It really depends on how a person was raised – big bashes, slice of pie and pictures, or nothing at all. It truly is all over the spectrum. I understand why people feel birthdays are important, yet at the same time, I’m surprised how many people don’t realize how many people don’t care about birthdays. I think your approach was a very kind and ambitious one – it caters to your sensibility.

    I say cherish the birthday memories as-is… it’s what made you enjoy them unconditionally.

    • Thank you very much for your comment!. I have to admit that before I used to be surprised when people told me they didn’t care about their birthdays, but since last year, I have been learning a lot about acceptance and respect. Yes, you are right, cherishing these memories as they are is the best way to go. I no longer look at them as what I have lost but as what I have had, and this makes me happy. I have been very lucky 🙂

  6. No sé, nunca celebré mi cumpleaños de manera especial. Normalmente es un día en el que me agasajo a mi misma: ir a la pelu, un vestido nuevo o un museo al que tengo ganas de ir hace tiempo, quizás una película, un masaje……

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