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Battling the Homesick Blues

12 July, 2012 09:42  Erin Erin

Luggage in hotel room - FotoliaA simple question from @MissAboutTown brought up an issue most expats encounter,
"Six weeks after the permanent overseas move, homesickness is starting to strike. Anyone got advice on overcoming it?"

No matter how excited you are to go abroad, homesickness is inevitable. Ranging from mild to severe, feelings of dread, helplessness, and anxiety can be enough to make some expats return to their home country. In addition, homesickness can bring about complicated questions, like now that you are abroad - Where is home?

Expats on Twitter offered their experience dealing with homesickness.

@reluctantexpat
Ah tis hard. Takes time. Use Skype, email, twitter, fb to keep touch with home. And embrace new life as well. Hugs
Winter in SYD is short. Wait for spring - you will love it. *more hugs* Tis nice to be proud of where you are from

@loubille
I found blogging to be good therapy - that and a glass of nice French wine. Best of luck, it takes time :)

@RudiRudiRudi207
Just push through it. It will wear off eventually.

@my3tartlets
Hop out of the flat and go explore - get away, see something or go somewhere you've never been. We've been there.
Skype; FaceTime; email; explore new town and area; find other expats; plan a holiday; journal/blog/vent

@chickenruby
'fraid not, it's just a process you have to go through, out gets better after 4 months, big adjustment
I found being around other expats made it harder, especially seasoned ones, making friends
with the locals took about 10 months and after 17 months I still have my moments but all good now

@missjennigirl
accept every invite: party, sports, concerts - even if its not typically your thing. best way to meet people.

Coping with It

Clearly, everyone has dealt with it. That knowledge actually helps. If you know you're not alone, and others made it out of the pit of homesickness intact, you know that there is hope for you. Here are some other tools to battle the blues.

Prepare

If you know what you are getting in to, you are better prepared to deal with it. Research the norms of the place you are moving to. What kind of visas are necessary? Do you have the right to work? What kind of schools are available? What's the climate like? Are there holidays in common? Where do you shop for groceries? EasyExpat City Guides are a great resouce to answer these questions and more.

Work on adjusting your expectations to adapt to a new place. While you should be excited, realize that not everything is going to be perfect. Some things will be better than where you come from, and some things will be worse. Lots of things will simply be different. It is in your best interest to try to avoid comparisons and accept things as being done another way. Changing your mind frame can be as important as the geographic move. You can adjust to a place, a place will not adjust to you.

Distraction

If you don't have time to feel homesick - you won't. Get involved in your new life in every way possible. The benefits are twofold, you can gain skills and experience while finding a social network. A new social circle can be the perfect guide through your new life. Options include:

  • Work - More than just a way to make money, employment provides an instant community. This is a place where you can find value in yourself and your abilities and re-develop your confidence.
  • Volunteer - Work visas can be difficult to obtain and some places have high unemployment that makes finding a job impossible. Volunteering is possible almost anywhere and can offer a great outlet for your energy, and a positive outcome for the community.
  • Sports/Gym - Joining a gym, local sports team, or exercise classes is a great way to improve yourself physically and make friends.
  • Children's Groups - Children can be the gateway drug to making new friends in a new place. Meet-up with people through their school, parent groups, or children's play groups.
  • Classes - Adult classes are the perfect way to find a group of people with similar interests. Whether it be art classes, dance, or cooking you can meet people and gain a skill. If you are in a place where there is a different native tongue - language classes can help you connect with the populace in and out of the classroom.
  • Party! Follow @missjennigirl's advice and attend every party, social engagement, or gathering. You've already moved abroad, this is a good time to try something different within your social circle as well.

Talk About It

Now that you know you aren't the only person struggling, realize that it could help to verbalize what exactly you miss. Talk to your partner, children, or expat friends and share your feelings. Even complain a bit. It's common to feel vulnerable in a new place and uncomfortable. Once you've released these feelings, do your best to identify the biggest issues and resolve what problems you can.

Does it just not feel like home? Decorate your home as soon as possible. Put up some pictures, paint your favorite colors, and personalize your space. 

Are you experiencing difficulties being understood or connecting with locals? If you speak a different language, you will naturally fell a bit alienated. Learn the language as soon as possible to connect with the people around you. Also observe local holidays, customs, and celebrations to fit in. Check out our guide on "Talking the Talk" to learn more about learning a foreign language. 

Do you fell listless - like you don't know where your place is? Figure out what you want to do and pursue it, whether it be hobby, work, or volunteering.

Do you miss your friends and family? Connect with home through e-mail, Skype, Google Chat, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Share pictures of your adventures and ask for friends and family to send you theirs. We are lucky to live in a day and age in which we are able to interact with people all over the world. Find out more about your options with "Social Networks Keep Expats Connected".

Are you missing your culture? Schedule a theme night where you cook food from home, watch a movie/tv show, and reveal in what makes your home country special. You can also connect with expats in your new country and share in joint festivities like the Royal Jubilee celebrations that took place across the globe.

It is important to hold on to these pieces of your culture as they are part of your identity. Especially during this time of transition, a loss of identity can be stressful. Be proud of who you are and relish the opportunity to be different. At the same time, note that it is easy to romanticize the place you've left and compare unfavorably to where you are now. Embrace who you are, where you are from, and all the new things in your life.

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.
John Ed Pearce

Blog

Despite these tools, you still might need an outlet for your frustration. A blog is the perfect place to do this. Blogs offer you the ability to introspect about what you are experiencing and share your life with a wider audience. Expat blogs are as unique as the people who write them, covering Globe Trotting, Gourmet, Volunteer, Humour, Photoblog, Fashion, or any combo therein. A blog not only allows you to share with friends and family, it can enable to connect with people all over the world, and even expats in your neighborhood. Fellow expats can be your best source of information, support, and laughter.

EasyExpat shares these wonderful experiences through Expat Interviews every Monday and Thursday, as well as highlighting the best expat blogs listed in the directory with our weekly Twitter Round-Up. List your blog in the BlogExpat directory at http://www.blogexpat.com/en/add-blog.htm.

Time

As mentioned above, a lot of the adjustment is just the passage of time. Give yourself at least six months to start to feel comfortable, although it may take longer to feel like home. Many expats report that it takes years to feel truly adjusted, and even then you may still be the odd man out from time to time. Whenever you get frustrated, or lost, or depressed, take a breath and remember that each new experience takes you closer to feeling at home.

   



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[Reply]

I've been an ex-pat for 15 years now and I miss nothing of England, I had and still have many friends, I have family with him I have more contact now than when I lived there. I can get tea when I need it (I need it a lot) I read the newspapers Etc, Etc. But you really need to immerse yourself in the culture of the country you live, embrace it, envelope it, be it, be a citizen. What's gone is gone, Live now, this is your life, stop fanny-ing around like an old tart. Shut the door behind you, Lock it, bolt it, board it up, use huge nails...See, I bet you feel less home sick already.

Stephen     12 Jul 2012, 17:55