17 Dec 2020
A COVID Christmas
This article is written by Andy Marshall, President of Asian Tigers Thailand.
Last Christmas, having only just arrived in Asia to take up my new assignment, we decided forgo travel to the UK to spend the holidays with family and friends back home. Having been an expat for 26 Christmases already, choosing to spend the occasional one somewhere other than ‘home’ has never been a real problem. ‘Next year’, we said.
So, we spent the holidays in Bangkok, and I vividly recall welcoming the New Year from the balcony of our new home that we had only just moved into, watching the fireworks across the city skyline, full of excitement and anticipation. Little did we realise that this was preparing us for the festive season of 2020; COVID-19 has taken from us this choice to travel home.
If we were to spend Christmas with our family this year, it would bring with it risk and worry. Taking a 13-hour long flight each way with young children too, just does not hold the excitement that would normally be a part of a vacation. And then there would be the further two weeks extended time away from the office, and the kids off school too upon returning to Thailand, spent in mandatory quarantine.
2020 will be Christmas in Asia rather than going back home. But do not feel sorry for us! The Thais never miss an opportunity to celebrate a festival, and the city is ablaze with multi-coloured lights, decorations are everywhere, and over-sized Christmas trees grace every hotel (those that are open, anyway). Seasonal melodies are to be heard everywhere; the discordant sound of Jingle Bells in this Buddhist land has always struck me as odd, but always puts a smile on my face.
The traditional Christmas menu is widely available – with chilli too if you like! – and on the back of some robust controls put into place earlier in the year, most venues are open as normal and are eager welcome guests with the traditional Thai ‘wai’.
This Christmas will be a socially distanced affair, and it will also be one where we will be wishing our friends and family on video calls rather than around the dining table. This is – of course – the reality of 2020 for so many families who live and work outside their home countries, on international assignments.
Santa Claus is a resourceful man, but I do not think even he is going to deliver the gift that we all so crave this year! Thankfully though, he has secured special dispensation exempting him from quarantine!
So, here we are again, saying ‘next year’!
*All photos are from online resources.