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Posted December 11th, 2014 by Charles Purdy

The cost of celebrating the festive season for expats

A recent survey by the looked at the cost of spending the festive season in different countries popular with expats. The information was gathered by their expat writers based in these countries full-time.

Angelos Koutsoudes, Head of, said: “We often advise overseas buyers to spend some time in their chosen location during the winter months – this is a good time to view the warmer climates as it gives you an idea of how cold and dark it gets. It’s a slower time for estate agents as well, so they should give you more attention – and with demand at its lowest, you may also find you can negotiate a lower price on your overseas property!”

Spending winter in a new location inevitably means spending the festive season there. The holidays are expensive, wherever you are in the world, but how much less (or more!) will you spend by celebrating the holidays in your new location?

To discuss how currency rate fluctuations can cost you over the holidays, request a callback from Smart Currency Exchange.

Key findings of the’s survey:


  • Here, the key difference is that the main meal is eaten on Christmas Eve – and contains seafood, as well as Turrón (Christmas nougat speciality).
  • The Spanish don’t tend to send Christmas cards (except perhaps to close family abroad). You will be able to purchase a charity pack for around €12 (£9.50).
  • Decorations do not have to be expensive as most things can be found in the ‘local Chinese shop’. Here you will find tree decorations costing from €0.75 – €2.00 (£0.59 – £1.58), and tinsel from €0.80-€2.50 (£0.63 – £1.98). You can also buy Christmas crackers for around €6.
  • Depending on size, you will be able to find a tree for €25.00-€80.00 (£19.79 – £63.33).
  • As in the UK, alcohol also plays a significant part in festive celebrations. You will find a bottle of port for around €4.29 (£3.40), sherry for €2.89 (£2.29), decent red and white wine for €7.99 (£6.33) and €4.99 (£3.95) respectively, a bottle of cava for €2.99 (£2.99) – €8.99 (£7.12), and a nice bottle of French Brut Champagne for €18.99 (£15.03).
  • If you really wish to recreate the traditional British Christmas in Spain, you will need to think about the following imported products: Christmas Pudding (€7.45 (£5.90)), Brandy sauce (€2.25 (£1.78)), Mince pies (€2.75 (£2.18)), Cranberry sauce (€3.85 (£3.05)), Mincemeat (€3.65 (£2.89)) and sage and onion stuffing (€1.45 (£1.45)).



  • Here you will find that there is not as much ‘hype’ surrounding the Christmas season as you would find in the UK– generally it is much more traditional and less commercial. Despite this, Christmas is still very much celebrated in the religious sense.
  • Trees tend to be much cheaper in France than in the UK, probably because there are so many growing here! The average tree will cost around €20.00 (£15.84).
  • A traditional French shopping list will include oysters, foie gras, turkey, goose and duck. You can buy all of these in the market; you will find that these products are all much cheaper than in the UK, and because they are all grown locally you are not compromising on quality.
  • There is not as much choice for cards in France – generally the best place to find these are at Christmas fairs, where you will also find decorations. These all cost much less than in the UK.
  • You will find that prices do go up during the holiday season, but in general they do not vary much from other times of the year.
  • Many of the shops and restaurants will not be open during the off-season, but you may be able to have your Christmas dinner at one of the ones that are open for a very reasonable sum!


  • Christmas decorations in Portugal are much the same as in the UK and, as in Spain, you can usually get these from super-cheap Chinese bazars. Another option, of course, is Zara Home, which is much more expensive.
  • Real trees are quite rare in Portugal, and most people will chose an artificial one. Quite often the large ones on show in each town will be imaginative metal structures.
  • As in Spain, the main meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, and this will usually be a kind of Shellfish – particularly bacalhau (salted cod). Turkey does feature but is not really the main event – you will generally be able to pick one up for about €25.00 (£19.80).
  • Local decent wine is around €6.00 (£4.75) a bottle, whilst a bottle of port will set you back €4.00 (£3.17). Our expat wine enthusiast suggests that instead of purchasing Champagne, you purchase the local Raposeira brand for €8.00 (£6.33) – which tastes just as good!
  • In general, Portugal is probably much cheaper than in UK – expats warn that advance present planning and delivery charges, as well as a pre-Christmas trip to the UK, does mean the costs add up.



  • Many families in the US traditionally buy their Christmas trees on the weekend following Thanksgiving, and have their homes decorated before the first day of December
  • Christmas decorations are much the same as in the UK, although outdoor lights are particularly popular.
  • The cost of decorations really depends on how much you want to spend. Stores like the Dollar Tree (much like Poundland in the UK!) sell everything from decorations, to gift wrap, lights and crackers to candles, each for just a dollar. Of course, the quality of some of these items can be poor – but then, it only cost a dollar!
  • Some stores dedicate warehouse-sized floor space to everything connected with Christmas. There are aisles of inflatables and Christmas “rooms” each with a tree and decorations. Most items here can still be bought for under $5.00 (£3.18).
  • Artificial trees range from $10.00 (£6.37) for a basic three foot one, to $5,955.00 (£3793.04) for a 15-foot pre-lit scotch pine! In the mountains, you can go and choose your own tree, but by the beach you will find that numerous Christmas tree lots spring up at churches, parks, DIY stores and grocery stores. The prices range from $30.00 (£19.11) for a six-foot tree to $50.00 (£31.85) for an eight-foot tree.


  • Here you will find that the run up is much more restrained and religious than in the UK – Italy is predominantly a Catholic country, and so you should find a distinct lack of commercialism and pressure from retailers.
  • The beginning of Christmas is marked on the 7th and 8th of December – and the 8th is a national holiday.
  • Natural Christmas trees are a rare commodity in southern Italy, instead you will find artificial trees in all shapes, sizes and colours – the average price of these trees are around €40.
  • You will usually find that the gift sets for friends and family in Italy are based on food and wine, such as wine, cake and cheeses, instead of plastic gadgets. The holidays really are about sharing food with family and friends in Italy. The Panetonne is one of the most popular Christmas desserts, and this will cost you around €5.99 (£4.74). Or you can try the Italian equivalent to Christmas Pudding, Fancy Cream Torte, which will cost around €12.99 (£10.28).
  • The average Christmas turkey costs around €3.99 (£3.16) per kg in Italy.
  • Alcohol plays a part in the festive period in Italy, as well as many other countries; you will be able to purchase a bottle of wine for €3.99 (£3.16) and a bottle of Prosecco for €6.14 (£4.86).



  • Christmas in Canada is seen as an opportunity to spend time with family, friends and neighbours, and Canadians pride themselves on undertaking a celebration that the whole community can be a part of.
  • Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies are not widely available, but there are speciality stores where you can find them at a premium.
  • You will find that prices are similar to the UK



  • In Greece, the cost of living was about 30% cheaper before they joined the EU, and is now about 10% cheaper – supermarket produce is considerably cheaper.
  • Christmas meals may be priced higher, but generally prices are lower in the winter.



  • You may well find it difficult to get hold of Christmas decorations and other items here. This is because Turkey is largely a Muslim country, and most expats will take the chance to return to the UK for Christmas.
  • Expats who do stay in Turkey for Christmas will usually attempt to celebrate in the traditional English way at a bar specifically focussed on Christmas.
  • Christmas Pudding and the usual sweets are not available in Turkey – you may have to buy early on a trip to the UK, or have friends bring them over.
  • Most drinks, apart from wine, are not available, so these will also need to be imported. A bottle of good red wine will set you back around 20TL (£5.61).
  • Gift wrapping and other Christmas items, such as crackers, are rarely available so these are usually made at home or shipped in from abroad. Christmas cards are not really available, but several expats do make their own and sell them – generally this costs around 6TL (£1.68).
  • If you do find a Christmas tree, you can expect to pay around 25TL (£7.02), and decorations for these trees will cost you from 5TL (£1.40) – 15TL (£4.21).
  • You will be unlikely to come across a turkey, but many expats choose to eat chicken instead – and this costs around 5TL (£1.40) per kg.


  • Most expats in Cyprus choose to eat Christmas dinner out – this will generally cost €25.00 (£19.80) – €60.00 (£47.50), depending on your chosen location.
  • A real Christmas tree will range from €8.00 (£6.33) for a 2m tree, to €160.00 (£126.66) for a 7m tree. A fake tree on the other hand will cost between €30.00 (£23.75) for a 150cm tree and €58.00 (£45.91) for a 210cm tree.
  • You can decorate your tree with 10m of lights for €10.00 (£7.92), and baubles for around €2.00 (£1.58).
  • In terms of drinks, you can purchase a quality bottle of whiskey for around €19.00 (£15.04), whilst a bottle of Champagne will set you back €40.00 (£31.66) – €130.00 (£102.90).


New Zealand

  • New Zealand is much more laid back, as it is summer there – usually the festive season is celebrated with barbecues and other seasonally appropriate food (which Brits may find it hard to adjust to!)
  • Your average Christmas tree will cost around NZ$20.00 (£9.82) – NZ$60.00 (£29.45)
  • Alcohol-wise, you can purchase a bottle of Moët Champagne for a fairly reasonable NZ$49.99 (£24.54).
  • You will find all the usual Christmas decorations and trimmings, along with cards for around NZ$2.50 and crackers for NZ$12.00 (£5.89).
  • A traditional Christmas Pudding will cost around NZ$7.45 (£3.66), you can buy an iced Christmas cake for around NZ$11.99 (£5.89) and Mince Pies are around NZ$3.50 (£1.72). Your Christmas turkey will cost around NZ$11.00 (£5.40) per kg.

*Please note: all currency conversions correct as of 10th December, based on exchange rates of:

  • GBP/EUR: 1.2665
  • GBP/USD: 1.5691
  • GBP/CAD: 1.7970
  • GBP/TRY: 3.5480
  • GBP/NZD: 2.0338
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