Getting homesick is a very normal process when it comes to living and working abroad. Nearly every expat gets this feeling at least once in their life after moving away from home. If you thought you’re alone in this, you aren’t! Let’s be honest, I also know this feeling and most of my Next Station colleagues too. We made it through this pain and I want to share with you how we did it.
But let’s start with a short summary of what feeling homesick is about, as learning what being homesick means and how homesickness is impacted is the first essential step to fighting it.
What Does It Mean to Be Homesick?
Everybody is experiencing homesickness differently. Still, in general one can say that people who are feeling homesick experience insecurity and feel physically as well as emotionally uncomfortable with where they are. Some of us may live through a very mild form, feel a bit nostalgic, and can get cured with a video call with our loved ones. For others, feeling homesick can show more extreme symptoms. In this case, it is associated with depression as well as anxiety and can lead to insomnia, problems with appetite, and concentration difficulties.
I don’t want to go too much into detail here, but if you want to know more about what happens with your body when you feel homesick, just check out the linked article.
What Causes Homesickness?
Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says: “Homesickness has everything to do with attachment.” This means, you can feel homesick either because you’re missing home or you just don’t feel comfortable in your new environment yet.
Expats may find themselves experience both, as homesickness is not an illness you can only suffer from once or twice. It can randomly hit you many times, especially if you live far away from your family and don’t see them very often. The older you get and the longer you stay in another country the more often you might get the feeling of missing out on important events. The only thing that changes about how you feel when you’re homesick is that the pain may somehow fade out instead of disappearing.
How to Deal With Homesickness
Somehow, feeling homesick is part of the expatriation process. Just like the excitement that you feel during your first week in the new country. If you think about moving away from home for a while, it can never hurt to know what to do in case homesickness hits you. Therefore, we prepared an information survival guide for you!
Step 1 – Accept The Situation
As I already mentioned, feeling homesick is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. It can happen to everyone and the best way to fight it is by accepting this in the first place. Engage in some self-reflection. What is it that you miss? Sometimes it’s not a place or a person but another version of yourself. Are you unhappy with who you are in the new country? Time to get to the core of the problem and solve it!
Tip: If you’re not yourself, find out where the problem is and face it!
Just to show you what I mean by giving you the tip above: I was recently experiencing very often that in some situations I would have behaved differently back home, as the language barrier is still an issue for me. To become more myself I decided to face my fears, so I went to the neighbors to ask for a corkscrew! It may sound a bit stupid, but for me talking to people in French is a huge deal. In the end, the guy was really nice, we had a nice conversation and I felt super proud. I hope you get the point ;).
Step 2 – Be Clear About What You Want
Feeling homesick may lead you to feel like the “victim” in this whole situation. But be honest: it was your choice to move abroad, right? You’re exactly where you wanted to be, just facing a little low. Remember everything you’ve achieved so far! The whole recovery process is about owning the situation, being clear about what you want, and taking the right decisions.
Tip: If you’re missing the city, take a moment and “stroll around the streets” on Google maps. It’s really fun while having a friend on the phone.
Step 3 – Stay Healthy
Usually, the first reaction people have when they’re feeling sad is to stay on the sofa the whole day and watch Netflix… maybe get some comfort food. Is that you? This behavior seems comforting in the beginning but will not help you in the long run. Instead, you should do some fitness! Doing sports will set free endorphins that will cheer you up.
Tip: Plan a cooking session and prepare your favorite food from home or find a restaurant from your home country. There are so many memories hidden in familiar tastes.
Step 4 – Stay in Touch
Staying in touch with your family and the people around you is crucial! You’re not the only one missing someone, they miss you the same way. Still, calling them every day won’t make the situation easier. Instead, what about starting to write letters? Handwritten it will have a nice personal touch and be a nice memory to keep.
Tip: Bringin comforts from home like a pillow, your favorite food, your teddy bear, etc. will help you through this hard time.
Step 5 – Build a New Network
To feel more “at home” in your new city you need people around you that make you feel great or to whom you can talk. Shortly, you need to make friends.
A network of expats is the perfect group to share your experiences with. Most of them will know how homesickness feels and they might already have some advice for you how to deal with it. Maybe you’ll even find people from your home country or city. But the most important thing: talking to them will give you the feeling that you’re not alone.
Tip: Find a mix between staying in touch with your home but also work on new relationships and be thankful for the “parallel home” you found.
Step 6 – Create New Traditions
Feeling homesick goes with missing the feeling of love, protection, and security. To get these feelings back you must make the new place your home and establish some habits or routines that build security. It can be the way you do your grocery shopping, follow hobbies, or organize your time in general. It’s up to you.
Tip: Find a coffee shop or similar place that you’ll visit regularly. After a while it will start feeling familiar.
In the end, don’t forget to plan regular visits, even if it’s only a weekend. Everyday life can be very overwhelming and you might not feel energized enough to travel, but believe me, once you see your family again, you’ll feel that it was worth it.