I haven’t chatted all things expat in awhile, but speaking with friends recently the topic of how to deal with homesickness as an expat has come up a fair amount recently. (Between swapping book and TV/movie recommendations obviously.) It’s going to be a long time before a lot of us get to visit home, so it’s no surprise that it’s something on our minds.
Living permanently in another country as an expat, it is so easy to fall into days where the grass looks greener on the other side. It is so easy to think “Hmph, if I were at home it would be so much easier/better/simpler/this wouldn’t happen…” when you run into problems and you’re not in your home. C’mon, really?
The first step is learning how to diagnose homesickness. Symptoms can include (in varying degrees of strength)
- A disturbed sleeping pattern.
- Feeling angry, nauseous, nervous or sad.
- Feeling isolated, lonely or withdrawn.
- Feeling overwhelmed, insecure, anxious or panicky.
- Feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth.
- Stress headaches.
- A lack of appetite or concentration.
- Viewing everything from home with rose-tinted glasses.
Make a list of what you love about your adopted country
Get out your journal [/blog post] and list out 20 reasons why your home is fantastic.
Talk about your homesickness with someone who understands
A problem shared is a problem halved – and before you know it, you’ll be giggling over something completely ridiculous. I’m lucky to have amazing expat friends who totally get curing homesickness (and if all else fails, we grab a glass of something cheeky.)
Pick a (hilarious) fight with people from neighbouring countries
If you’re from NZ/Australia, just mention pavlova or lamingtons to friends from the other country, and sit back for fireworks…
Catch up with your family/friends at home
A long chat over video can make such a difference – or even setting up a Facebook Instant Message group or Whatsapp group. We have one, and despite the 12+ hour time differences, it feels like we’re in the same place. Share funny memes, hilarious happenings in every day life or check what secrets go into your Dad’s bacon & egg pie…
Make a playlist of favourite songs from home
Gather together some up-tempo tunes that make you smile, and turn them up LOUD.
Beat homesicknesses with a taste of home
Make a family favourite dish evoking childhood memories, track down your favourite biscuits via an expat grocery store or mix up a cocktail – my favourite is a vodka, lemon, lime and bitters. Bonus points: buy something local that’s similar to something from home and revel how poor it is in comparison *cough* Penguins *cough*. (OK, that one’s kind of evil, but we’re being real here.)
Get out in nature
Stretch those legs. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. It’s such a basic idea, but a wonderful tool to help deal with homesickness.
Watch an old favourite movie or series
Put on something ridiculous and laugh your way through to the other side of tears.
Investigate a meetup (online or in person) with an expat group from home
When I was first in London I organised a monthly coffee with fellow Kiwi ladies, and I met some of my best mates from them. For New Zealanders in England in particular, there are the New Zealand Business Women Network’s monthly coffees (currently online), Kiwis in London organise all kinds of bar nights and events, Ngati Ranana – a Maori culture group based in London – meet and practise all the time and the NZ Society UK often puts on events. If there isn’t something, make one!
Cure homesickness by decorating your adopted house with a little memorabilia
…and you’ll (often) be able to support a small business too!
Start a job or hobby you’ve meaning to do for ages…
Distraction can be wonderful – do *that* thing you’ve thought about for so many years and put off. There are so many opportunities in a new city if you’re prepared to take a risk to do something outside of your comfort zone.
Just know when you’re trying to deal with homesickness that it does usually fade – and remember that alcohol is a depressant, so go lightly with your self medicating.
What activities help to cure your homesickness?
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