Celebrating Christmas In Paris

Champagne And Christmas In The City Of Light

Dec. 24, 2014, Paris, France: The Christmas season in Paris features oysters and champagne.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

About 15 years ago Vicki and I spent our first Christmas in Paris.

We stayed in Paris all that winter and decided Paris makes winter the best season of all. Museums, shows, fairs, conferences...Paris in winter runs at full speed. Everything stays open, without the sporadic closings that plague the rest of the year. French chefs cook better food in winter, with more game and heavier, tastier sauces. Fewer tourists clog up the city. I remember one rainy, cold Saturday morning, I raced to the Louvre to be there when it opened. For several minutes I had the "Mona Lisa" to myself.

As an aside, most tourists arrive and depart Paris on weekends. I figure they rarely want to take in a museum on either their first or final day. So Saturday mornings become the best time to visit the Louvre, Orsay, or other usually crowded museums.

But this was Christmas. Vicki and I had moved to Paris several months before and rented an apartment in Montmartre. We'd managed to back into Christmas with nothing planned, and that was fine with us. We like doing things together, just the two of us, on Christmas and other holidays, too. With nothing planned we decided to do what everyone in Paris does when they have nothing planned—walk around the neighborhood.

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Memories Of Celebrating Christmas In Northern Kenya

Feasting And Dancing On Sikukuu, The Big Day In Kenya

Dec. 23, 2014, Lokitong, Kenya: Paul Lewis remembers Christmas in Northern Keyna.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Sikukuu (literally, the Big Day) is how you say Christmas in Swahili, lingua franca of Kenya and the whole East African coast. The Sikukuu I have in mind saw me, many years ago, as a young army officer in the deserts of Northern Kenya, not far from Lokitong, near Lake Turkana. I was part of a force from the King's African Rifles, then Kenya's army, sent to protect local Somali tribesmen (whom we had just disarmed) against attacks by neighboring Merille tribesmen from over the border in Ethiopia who were still well supplied with weapons left behind by the Italian army after World War II.

As a result, the eve of that Sikkuu was no time for celebrations, preparing feasts, or even midnight Mass. Instead we planned to lay an ambush for the Merille, suspecting they might try a surprise night attack on our camp in the hope of catching us unaware. "They probably think we'll all be pissed (that is, drunk). So we must be ready for them," our commanding officer had said.

"But, surely, Sir," I interjected, "if the Merille think we'll all be pissed, they'll just take that as an excuse to get even more pissed themselves." To no avail.

So an uncomfortable night was spent lying silently in the sand under a thorn bush, a rifle by my side. Needless to say, we saw nothing and not a shot was fired, confirming the old maxim that soldiers spend most their time waiting for things to happen.

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Celebrating Christmas In Malaysia

Selamat Hari Krismas—Christmas In Malaysia

Dec. 22, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Christmas in Malaysia means Santa Claus in the shopping malls, midnight feasts on Christmas Eve, and fireworks.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Malaysia has only a minority population of Christians, so it came as a surprise to us our first year in the country to discover what a presence Christmas has here. Kuala Lumpur is especially festive. Streets are decorated with banners with holly leaves and the greeting "Selamat Hari Krismas" ("Wishing You a Happy Christmas").

Santa Claus is in the shopping malls, attracting large and diverse crowds, and we've seen women from the Middle East, wearing full-face veils, posing for pictures with their children alongside him and Mrs. Claus. The malls all have elaborate Christmas displays with gingerbread houses and massive Christmas trees with all the trimmings. Some of the decorations are a bit odd—giant mushrooms, for example, or suggestive, scantily clad angels—giving the impression that folks here aren't quite sure just what Christmas should be. 

What is absent in all the displays is any suggestion of the religious significance of the day. To the Malaysians, Christmas is just another holiday to celebrate after a long season of holidays: Ramadan and Hari Raya (both Islamic), the Islamic New Year, the (Chinese) Mooncake Festival, Deepavali (Hindu), school holidays...and Christmas. Shops use it as an excuse for giant end-of-year sales, and the malls are busy. 

Christmas is a legal holiday in Malaysia, although most stores and restaurants stay open. Many of the Christian Chinese and Indian families hold open houses to celebrate the day with friends and family and go to church. 

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Christmas Traditions In Thailand

Let It Snow

Dec. 21, 2014, Panama City, Panama: Paul Terhorst celebrates Christmas in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." The song reminds us of Christmas, yet snow comes only in the north. Most of the world has never seen snow. Most of the world listens to "Frosty the Snowman" without the slightest idea what the song is about.

Vicki and I will celebrate Christmas this year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a small group of American and Thai friends. Thais, Westerners, and others, mainly Chinese, will enjoy the party even though Thais lack a Christmas tradition and snow.

When Vicki and I first started coming to Chiang Mai, back in the 1980s, Thais would hang "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" signs on restaurants and guesthouses. The signs looked so pretty many Thais left them up year round. Thailand remains mostly Buddhist, without a Christmas holiday. But they care a lot about pretty decorations.

One year the owner of our guesthouse even stuck cotton in his palm trees. "Snow," he told me.

This year Christmas started in earnest in early November, right after the Loi Krathong festival. During Loi Krathong, Thais make hand-size floats (krathongs) and push them into the river, with a candle and perhaps money stuck inside. Sending the float downriver is seen as sending troubles away. Similarly, on Loi Krathong, Thais send up 3-foot-tall hot-air sky lanterns to lift troubles from their shoulders.

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Rental Investment At River Club, Carmelita Gardens, Cayo, Belize

How To Earn A Solid Rental Yield In Our Favorite Off-Grid Part Of The World

Dec. 19, 2014, Cayo, Belize: The River Club is a rental yield investment opportunity at Carmelita Gardens in Cayo, Belize.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

During a two-week vacation in Belize this past summer, I was bewildered by the dearth of midlevel options for hotels and restaurants in this country's Cayo District. You can find hotels in Cayo that qualify as low-end budget (charging US$50 to US$70 a night), and you can find high-end jungle resorts (charging US$200 to as much as US$500 a night, depending on the season). But if you're looking for something in between, currently you have but one good option (the San Ignacio Hotel).

This market gap has been noticed by local entrepreneurs, and some are taking steps to fill it. Specifically, Phil Hahn, the developer at Carmelita Gardens, has focused on the growing middle-range tourist market in conceiving his latest turn-key rental investment opportunity: The River Club.

Phil has designed an area along the river of his Carmelita Gardens community where he is going to build 20 resort-style residence units. After considerable research and planning, Phil has hit upon the combination of total units, size and configuration of units, amenities, and pricing that seems just right for the market he's targeting. 

Three types of units are available, all designed for comfort and rentability. While you could live in one of these cottages, suites, or studios, they were conceived, again, with the short-term renter in mind rather than the full-time resident.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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