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11 January, 2016
While some expats get quickly caught up in their current life and don't suffer the distance created between them and their families, others aren't so lucky. In fact, many expats suffer from some form of homesickness. In its mild form, it can be nothing more than a twinge of nostalgia which can be easily cured with a conversation with the loved ones. But in some cases it might take an extreme form and affect the well-being of people who left their home country in search for opportunities. Some of them miss their lives left behind and simply cannot help but return.
Here's a guide to expat homesickness together with some tricks to help you feel better if you find yourself feeling nostalgic about your home country.
1. Understand what you're going through
Homesickness is an affliction that can take many forms. For some expats, it will be nothing more than a sudden craving for a specific food or an activity closely tied to a habit they had when living in their home country, for instance watching sports tournaments. In many cases the intensity of homesickness fades, but sometimes expats are surprised to suffer from it continuously, even if moving abroad is something they've wanted for a really long time. Sometimes a feeling of homesickness can appear out of the blue years after they moved from their home country.
Homesickness is very often fueled by a feeling of not being part of important moments and celebrations which cannot be recreated like friends' birthday, Christmas festivities with the family or a nephew's first steps.
If you find yourself feeling homesick, just consider it natural. It happens to everyone, at one point or another. And best of all, it can be managed. Here are some key tips for you to help deal with your nostalgia.
2. Practice self-reflection
Feeling homesick is often not just about missing certain people or places. Take a moment to consider what is it that you're really missing. Maybe it's a different version of yourself? Maybe you miss your identity or security? Unfamiliar surroundings often force us to pose questions which would never come up otherwise – the most important of them being: Who am I? What do I want in life? That's why it's sometimes a good idea to simply take some time to focus on yourself and think about your priorities and values. Once you know what's making you unhappy, you'll be able to address the problem, for instance by creating new connections or finding similar creative outlets.
3. Focus on your well-being
Instead of resorting to a bag of snacks and Netflix, follow your routine and keep your endorphins flowing. If you're feeling blue, sitting and brooding won't change anything. You might feel isolated in the new place – why not take up a new sport or join a club? Have a look at Meetup to see what's happening in your area – if something catches your eye, go for it. Indulge in a new interest you'd never expect yourself to pursue at home. You'll be doing something you enjoy and meet new people who have similar interests. This might lead to some meaningful friendships.
4. Don't think of yourself as a victim
When you're homesick, you'll be easily irritable and prone to blaming external factors and other people for your misery. But this won't lead you anywhere – if anything, it will affect your interpersonal relationships. You're where you wanted to be, so stop moaning and start owning your decision. Choose what your days look like and take little steps to arrive there.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk about it
Happiness and sadness find you in each and every place. Ignoring your homesickness can turn out badly. Expats who feel homesick sometimes choose not to acknowledge this feeling and seek help too late. If your homesickness catches up with you day and night, it's time to consult with a specialist. If your state of mind affects your performance on the job, don't hesitate to reach out and seek professional guidance.
6. Benefit from networks and resources
Being an expat gives you a great opportunity at connecting with your fellow expats in various networks, clubs and circles. You might find some of them right at your workplace – for others, just take a look around the web to find relevant expat forums. It's good to get involved even before you arrive there – expats are your best source on key bureaucratic information to help you get on with the formalities. And they'll provide valuable support when you feel homesick.
7. Keep your home close
Sure, you cannot replicate your life and home in another country, so don't even try it – you'll only get more upset in the process. But don't just cast it all away. Be sure to look for your favorite programs or find shops which sell delicacies from your home country. Allow yourself to reconnect with your home from time to time. Move on and adapt your traditions to local circumstances.
8. Don’t get discouraged
If your dream move doesn't feel right instantly, don't get discouraged or irritated at yourself. Settling in takes time – you'll need to develop a new routine, make new friends and network with new professional groups. But be proactive and accept all invitations. You need to get used to meeting lots of new people. Even if it seems challenging at the beginning, you'll get through it.
9. Understand that home is a complex concept
One thing that will help you a lot in dealing with homesickness is developing a new understanding of home. Home is in fact a much more complex term than we usually give it credit for. Home envelops anything from our personalities and longings to values and actual people or places. Connect to fragments of identity that relate you to your home. One good trick up your sleeve is the native language – find opportunities to speak it often and every time you'll see yourself reconnecting with your old identity.
Expats often get sad when thinking about their homeland. Obviously, they tend to idealize it and forget about all these things that made them leave it in the first place. By using the strategies listed above, you'll break out of your thought patterns and get a clear sense of where you are – just where you wanted to be. This is the right place for you, at least for the moment.
About the author: Kate Bones is part of the team behind checkdirector.co.uk. She is an expat from UK to Canada. She likes to share her expat experience with others and discuss problems that expats come across.
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