By: Walter Treur, CAP J-1 Trainee

For someone from The Netherlands, winter in northern Florida almost feels like summer in July. To us, Christmas and freezing weather always go hand in hand. The feeling you get when putting on a thick coat, cap, scarf and if you’re unlucky removing an inch of snow from your car every morning. But it’s less of a burden with the coziness and happiness of the December holidays because the cold really adds to the seasonal spirit. However, this year was very different with Christmas for the first time in the Floridian sun.

Granted, the locals did their best to get into the right mood. Starting on Black Friday when my favorite radio station played non-stop Christmas songs. The neighbors did an excellent job in decorating their houses with all sorts of colored lights, Santas, and reindeer. But somehow, looking at light shows with a t-shirt on and walking on flip-flops, felt somewhat surreal and not very Christmasy. Nevertheless, there was a lot to look forward to, starting early December with the company Christmas Holiday party.

My wife and I were both invited and we heard good stories about previous years. When we arrived at the venue that night I could immediately tell we would not be disappointed. There was an excellent band, dance floor, open bar, good food and several casino tables with play money. But no party is complete without the right audience. Both my wife and I became good friends with my colleagues over the last ten months. So we really enjoyed ourselves happily celebrating, dancing and drinking with our Floridian friends. It was hard to say goodbye that night since it was probably the last time we were all together like this before we go back home in January.

Christmas day, two weeks later, was something else. The Santa-to-mall ratio had increased and I started to recognize and sing along the local Christmas songs. But still, the weather outside was everything but frightful and I had given up on getting into the same Christmas spirit from home. Nonetheless, Christmas day was a lot of fun. Listening to the anxious kids singing Jingle Bells before opening their presents. I was even nervous myself because I was unsure whether they would like the gifts that we got them. But they were all very happy with what they received and I could look back at a very satisfying night.

The day after, when my wife and I got back from grocery shopping, most of the decorations in the street were gone. Suddenly I felt torn between sadness and gratitude. I longed for my family from home after this extraordinary year, but I was happy to spend this special Christmas with our new family from Florida.

More photos of Walter celebrating the holidays can be seen in the “Highlights” section on the right!

Learn more about the J-1 Intern and Trainee program here.