The anxiety diaries: Exeter Christmas markets

Is it really worth the promised Bailey’s hot choc?

Christmas: the time for secret santa (spending far too much time deciding whether to go for chocolate, booze, or socks), belting out Mariah at every given opportunity (kitchen, Forum, club), and of course the return of the Christmas markets.

Although for most, the prospect of Christmas markets conjure up Holiday-esque images of quaint, snow-covered England, for me they predominantly conjure up, well – panic. Whilst it seems idyllic and festive, the reality is what feels like hundreds of people squished into the Cathedral Green, walking in between chalet huts which are positioned way too close to one another. Yes there’s just enough room for two opposite lines of slow plodding traffic to flow but it all comes to an excruciating, grinding halt as soon as someone actually wants to stop and look at one of said chalets. Forget trying to peruse or purchase something from the markets without feeling like you’re being low-key body slammed or being shot the evils from people stuck in the traffic.

Whether you’ve gone with one friend or a football team’s worth of flatmates, you’re almost guaranteed to lose one another, either stuck walking too fast or too slowly to easily retrieve them. The combination of crowds, Christmas music belted out on loudspeakers, excess, and pretty much no space to have a time out, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Trying to feel festive without the anxiety is a challenge so here are my top tips for managing:

1. Go earlier than you think

It’s true that a proper Christmas market experience means going when it’a dark outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to go at 8 pm – going around 5 pm means you get that cosy, festive feeling with fewer crowds, and you tend to be leaving just as it starts to get heaving.

2. Make sure you’re going with the right people

You might feel less pressure with just one or two people – if so, definitely try and go in a small group. Equally, it might be easier to go with a massive group so you can always find someone to come with you to the stalls you want to visit / avoid. Being around people who know how you might react in this kind of environment can help, even if it’s just understanding that you’re going to duck out a bit earlier.

3. Do some research about what’s there and where you might want to go

Whether it’s asking a friend who went last year, or stalking Instagram, knowing what stalls are there can help you to plan your route – having an idea of what it’s going to be like can help massively. If, like me you’re mainly heading there for the lights and a peanut butter hot chocolate, knowing where I’m going makes it easier to manage the stress of going, and you can avoid the busiest parts of the market, making it much more enjoyable.

Anything you’ve been curious to try at uni? DM us on Instagram @thetab.exeter with suggestions of what you think we should do next.

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