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My UK Christmas, by Raquel from Portugal

Raquel Duarte Ferreira
From: Portugal
Studying: MSc Forensic Accounting
At: De Montfort University, Leicester

What defines the festive season for you?

This season is very important to me, and I don’t want to miss a thing! It is very important in Portugal because it is family time; we spend those days (24 and 25 December) together as a family.

I associate the smell of Christmas with pine trees, roasted chestnuts in the oven and cookies – a lot of freshly baked cookies.

A song I associate with Christmas is the famous Jingle Bells, which can be heard in every street or shop here in Leicester.

A taste I associate with Christmas is roasted chestnuts (my favourite in this particular season of the year), cinnamon and other spices, and marshmallows.

December in the UK

My December experience in the UK has been great so far – lots of fun with my friends and always discovering new things, places and festivals going on in Leicester. Leicester has a great calendar, full of events designed for residents and tourists. It has been amazing to be part of all those things.

One of the best experiences was the Christmas lights switch-on (when the festive lights decorating Leicester’s streets are switched on) – it’s amazing and everyone should watch it while they’re here. The city centre gathered so many people and it really felt like I belonged there.

Above and top: Raquel and a friend from Portugal admire Leicester's Christmas lights (©Raquel Ferreira)

There is always something to do, especially when the Christmas season begins. That is one of the reasons why I love this experience, and I enjoy each event that Leicester prepares for this month! It is different in Portugal, where there aren’t so many different events every weekend.

My top tips

My family and I keep things simple when it comes Christmas presents. Something I noticed that British people still use (a lot), that can barely be seen in Portugal, is cards. I found them so beautiful and with such a beautiful meaning that I think it could be a really nice Christmas present, just to remind people that sometimes, the simplest things are the most beautiful. Last time I was in the UK (for 3 months) I sent postcards to my family and they just loved it.

My top tip for everyone enjoying the festive season in the UK is just to grab a friend and walk through the streets – and look up! Sometimes the prettiest things are on top of buildings; that’s what one of my English teachers told me, and it’s true. Every day we walk with our face down and our mind busy, but just forget the stress and walk with your head up. You will notice something wonderful that you hadn’t noticed before, and now with Christmas decorations everywhere, you will love it!

Raquel, right, and her housemate at Leicester's Diwali celebrations earlier in the year (©Raquel Ferreira)

If you’re staying in the UK for the holidays, don’t lock yourself at home. Go out with a friend and see the beautiful events that your town has to offer this season. Of course it’s not the same as it would be in your home country, but it will be interesting and you will learn that happiness is also part of you and your experiences, even if you’re not with your family.

Leicester, for example, has such a variety of events going on this Christmas season, which makes it different from Portugal – and those different experiences make the whole ‘studying in the UK’ experience even better!

Read more:

   •  The UK's best winter and Christmas markets
   •  Celebrating Diwali in the UK

   •  10 of the best places to spend a snowy day

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