How To Deal With Homesickness As An Expat

How To Deal With Homesickness - Reeva Cutting

When you move overseas, one of the hardest emotions to cope with is homesickness. This can strike anywhere, anytime, and often when we are least expecting it.

I’ve personally dealt with many bouts of homesickness, moving from South Africa to France in 2002, then England in 2003, and finally Australia in 2013. While it does get easier to deal with over time, sometimes the smallest things can trigger off emotions you were not prepared for.

Here are my tips on how to deal with homesickness as an expat, no matter where you are from, or where in the world you live now.

What is Homesickness?       

Homesickness is an emotional state of grief which strikes when you live far away from family and friends.

It’s a part of culture shock and can be a combination of loneliness, sadness, and insecurity, which can bring on high levels of anxiety, stress, and even depression.

Various factors such as learning a different language and understanding a new culture, can exacerbate the problem, making it more difficult to adjust to your new environment and routines.

The good news, however, is that homesickness is perfectly normal and can be expected especially when moving countries or across the entire world.

Although many expats may struggle to deal with homesickness at the beginning of their emigration journey, you can be rest assured that it does usually get better with time.

Tips For How To Deal With Homesickness

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step in treating homesickness is to acknowledge your feelings. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t miss your family, your friends and all the familiar things you were accustomed to back home.

Accept the fact that you will have good and bad days. When that happens, work out the root cause of your homesickness that you’re feeling.  It may be that you are missing your family, or that something has triggered this emotion – a thought, a smell, or coming across something that has reminded you of home.

Don’t supress your feelings of being homesick – acknowledge them but try not to let these feelings overwhelm you to the point you can’t get past it.

Give Yourself Time

Overcoming or simply coping with homesickness takes time. How long that may take will vary from person to person. Give yourself as much time as you need. There is no hard and fast rule that applies to everyone when it comes to feeling homesick.

In the meantime, there are a number of things that you can do to make adjusting to your new life as easy as possible.

Stay In Contact With Loved Ones Back Home

As expats today, we are all so fortunate to have technology at our fingertips.

This means that we can stay in contact with our loved ones back home at the tap of a screen. Call as often as you feel the need to. Over time you will start to make friends locally and find a routine that might mean your calls home become less frequent and less emotional too.

Meet New People

Ensure that you make every effort to make new friends when you arrive in your new home country.

My golden rule is to never turn down any invitation you may receive for the first 6-12 months after arriving. You just never know who you will meet and it could be your new best friend!

You could also join a sports club, a gym, a church group, a community organisation, and try not to  isolate yourself especially in the hard, early days. There are also Facebook groups for expats so find one that suits you and reach out to others who are in the same boat as you. Chances are they will appreciate it too!

Explore Your New Home

While you’re reminiscing about your home country, don’t forget to explore your new one.

Discover your local beaches, hiking trails, parks, shops, and restaurants. Take a drive out of town and see what your new home has to offer.

After a while, these once unfamiliar surroundings, will start to feel like home, and those feelings of homesickness may just start to arise less and less.

Stay Healthy

When you’re feeling homesick, you may find yourself spending too much time at home in front of the TV and binging on comfort foods, which is never good for the body or the soul if continued unchecked.

Think about what sport or activities you enjoyed back home. Get out, eat right and exercise. Now I hate exercise so don’t just think that means going to the gym or doing cardio! Find a friend to go on outdoor walks with – it’s free and is so good for your soul to be outdoors. Take up a new sport or rediscover one you used to love taking part in.

Start A Diary

A written diary can help you track your emotions easily.

Write down the things that make you feel homesick, no matter how small they seem to be.

You’ll then be able to find if there are any specific things that trigger your homesickness, or whether there are some patterns as to when and why you feel homesick. All this can help you be prepared for these emotions, and be ready to deal with them in the way that works best for you.

Remind Yourself Why You Moved

Emigration is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the toughest mental and emotional experiences you can choose to go through.

Many expats these days make the decision to emigrate, which can add a dimension of guilt when it comes to feeling homesick. We have chosen to be here, yet we feel guilty at making the move for so many reasons, such as leaving family and friends behind, taking children away from grandparents, taking a step back financially.

But always try to focus on why you made the move, instead of what you left behind. Stay positive, focus on the future, and know that this too shall pass, even if its just for a few hours.

Remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

What other tips do you have for how to deal with homesickness as an expat? Share them in the comments to help everyone reading this to overcome their feelings of homesickness.

About Author

Helping you move to, settle in, and explore your new home in Australia. Avid reader, beach lover, and horse addict. As someone who has emigrated, not once, not twice, but three times, I know exactly what you’re going through. The ups and downs of emigration are faster than a rollercoaster and I’ve been there – three times!

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