You arrive in a brand new and exciting part of the world. You’re ready to meet fresh people, experience new cultures and widen your horizons and you can’t wait for it all to begin…
Then, despite all of your best efforts, you cannot shake the ache of home.
You can feel the heavy sinking in your heart as you look back on memories of your old room, friends, family gatherings, storefronts, accents, snacks, weather and yearn for that sense of familiarity and comfort around you.
Everybody speaks English so I don’t have to learn a new language ✓.
They listen to the same music ✓, eat the same food ✓, watch the same television shows ✓, and on top of all of that, I was going with my boyfriend so I had somebody I love to experience it all with ✓.
Even considering all of the above, I completely underestimated how much of a culture shock it would be. Everything is different. I am different. And multiple times since I arrived, I have felt lonely, lost and seriously doubtful of my decision to move here – and what I have learnt is that homesickness is totally normal!
Instead of letting my homesickness get me down, I have used it to fuel my determination to adjust and value this journey. There are some that stay in their hometowns their entire lives and that works for them. However, YOU have made the decision to travel, study, live, learn and experience another country. YOU are awesome.
Homesickness gets the best of us.
It means that you are lucky enough to have a bond with your home country and its people that is powerful enough to live in your heart and stay with you. I believe that is to be celebrated.
And home is always a flight away.
Despite this, I know that homesickness is difficult to shake once it plants its evil seed inside you and is impossibly tough to go through.
So here are my suggestions to help nip it in the bud so you can start to embrace this amazing decision you’ve made:
- Take time to be a tourist
It can be overwhelming when you start thinking deeply about the long-term decision you’ve made. Therefore, spend some time being a tourist of the area. Treat your new home as if you are temporarily stopping by, visit all of its landmarks and participate in its famous activities. Instead of sitting in your new apartment, worrying about your decision to live there, get out and learn more about it! Removing the feeling of permanency from the situation will help in heaps and you may even meet some new friends during your exploration.
- Don’t get caught up with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
I’ve found that the worst culprit for my homesickness is when my friends from home post a group Snapchat, or my mum posts a family gathering photo on Facebook, or my old work tweets about a cool promo they are doing. FOMO is inevitable and it is sad to know that your old life is continuing without you.
Take some time away from Social Media (maybe temporarily turn off notifications from your best friends) to avoid this from happening and make small promises to yourself each day about how you are going to start building new relationships.
- Surround yourself with home comforts
Whether it is your old stuffed animal, throw pillow, rug, photographs of loved ones, TV box-sets or favourite food, make an effort to ensure you have familiar objects that you love around you. Amongst everything that is new in your life, you will really appreciate having small comforts and memories of home to enjoy. It makes a huge difference for me.
- Talk about how you’re feeling
Homesickness does not mean you are weak. It is extremely common, understandable and nobody should ever judge you for it. Even those that seem strong, confident and super adjusted may be suffering behind closed doors. Talking to somebody (preferably from your new home) is invaluable and can really help release the emotions resting heavily on your mind. I feel that just saying my worries out loud and letting some tears out always lessens the burden.
- Send gifts back home
Despite my previous point of avoiding FOMO, it is still important to keep in contact every now and then with your loved ones. I schedule a Skype session with my family once a week and have made an effort to send small touristy gifts to friends back home. Just the act of thinking what people might like to receive from your new country allows you to appreciate how exciting it is and what it can offer!
I also make note of my loved ones’ birthdays and arrange for flowers or cards to be sent to them. This really helps me feel better about being far away, shows that I am thinking of them and gives me peace of mind that they won’t be forgetting me anytime soon!
- Bond with another expat
I have found that the biggest cause of feeling isolated is being the only expat consistently in a room full of locals. Conversations steer to your accent or your home country and it sometimes feels like what you are actually saying is lost. I absolutely love meeting other expats, and not necessarily even from my home country. Hanging out with somebody going through the same thing really helps and provides us both with much needed therapy sessions, bonding over missing home, sharing tips on adjusting to expat life – and it’s great not being the only one that is different in the crowd for once!
- Learn a new skill
Moving to a new country is an incredible way to broaden your understanding of yourself. Why not keep adding to your personal growth? If you can get stuck into a new hobby or passion, it will keep you busy and distracted from missing home and help you to make friends and feel more integrated.
It could be anything that takes your interest:
A sports team; an acting, art or cooking class; a photography, reading or writing group; a fitness or meditation class; a language school; a dance academy – Embrace the change in your life and in yourself!
- Treat yourself to ‘me’ time
Don’t forget to take an important break from the chaos of moving and adjusting to your new home. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi or even a long sauna and swim in your local swimming pool. Spend time by yourself reading your favourite book or watching your ultimate childhood movie. I think it’s important to recharge and feel comfortable alone as much as it is to be surrounded by new friends and experiences.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Remind yourself what you would be doing right now if you were at home. I can guarantee it wouldn’t be as exciting as what you could experience here and now!
What Makes a Country ‘Home’? Read more about embracing your second home HERE.
What are your biggest struggles when adjusting to living abroad?