Whether you find yourself moving to another country for work, school, volunteering, or to be with your international love, it’s common to feel a sense of homesickness at some point.
Despite the excitement of moving abroad, it’s common to feel a sense of loss being away from home and anxiety from trying to adjust to your new surroundings.
While many expats experience homesickness, the causes and emotional / physical impacts are different for each person; from acute emotional distress all the way to an almost debilitating depression which can impact your health.
Whether you’re taking up a lucrative employment offer in London or Dubai or simply researched incredible Bangkok condos for rent, understand that no one is fully immune to homesickness.
The key to dealing with homesickness is to be able to recognize the feelings and work through them, rather than trying to ignore or prevent them.
Feeling homesick is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, and there are a number of strategies that will help you to better cope with the various effects of homesickness.
How to Overcome Homesickness after Moving Overseas
Recognize the Feelings of Homesickness
There are many different ways people can manifest signs of homesickness. While everyone’s homesickness will vary in cause and severity, there are a number of common feelings associated with feeling homesick.
These often include feeling lonely, anxious, fatigued, sad, and insecure. If you don’t find ways to cope with these effects, they can often progress to depression, panic attacks, nausea, weight loss from loss of appetite, and isolating yourself from society.
Sadly, not everyone is equipped with the mental tools to be able to cope with such a big change as moving abroad. There’s often a lot involved with such a move which may include dealing with a new language, feeling cut off from your normal support group, and general culture shock.
The lack of familiarity brought on by a new environment can prove difficult to adjust to, especially straight away. You are likely to miss your normal routine, friends and family, your favorite restaurants or food, etc.
Thankfully, there are many ways you can cope with your homesickness, technology now allowing us to stay in touch with loved ones whenever we wish and allowing us to do things like watch our normal TV shows and read hometown online newspapers.
That being said, it’s important to not fall into the trap of dwelling on the past.
Many of us tend to idealize where we came from when we reminisce. We forget about all the negative things that drove us to wanting to experience life abroad in the first place and simply choose to remember all the good things we miss.
It’s important to keep your head in the present and look to the future when living abroad, while utilizing the following strategies to help overcome any feelings of homesickness.
Explore Your New Surroundings
Isolation will only intensify homesickness. While staying inside may feel like a safe haven from the strange unfamiliar surroundings, it can also easily become a sort of prison that prevents you from fully experiencing all the reasons that enticed you to move abroad in the first place.
The more time you spend getting out and about exploring your new settings, the easier it will be to escape your own mind and the thoughts of missing home that can fester when remaining inside.
Force yourself to leave the house at least once a day to interact with your new environment. And when I say get out and about, that means going beyond the popular touristy sites and attractions.
The more you limit yourself to the touristy sites or areas promoted by the guidebooks, the more you will feel like a tourist or outsider. The goal is to begin to feel like you fit in as though you were a local yourself.
You can still stick to the activities and habits you normally enjoy back home, but force yourself to also go outside your comfort zone to embrace new activities that the local culture may offer.
The more you expose yourself to new things and ideas, the less strange they will become over time.
Make Yourself at Home
While your residence or accommodation may change from what you’re used to back home, that doesn’t mean you have to live as though you would when staying in a hotel as a short-term traveler.
Being an expat in a new country for an extended period of time means you can fully unpack your things and set up your new digs to make your new home feel like a home.
Arranging the rooms of your new place to resemble those you had back home will help you to better settle into your new environment. While it’s great to get out and about to explore your new environment, it’s still nice to have a comfortable place you’re excited to return to each day.
You won’t likely be able to pack a lot of your belongings from home unless your employer is paying for the relocation of your belongings in the case of an overseas business opportunity, but you can still go out and purchase items that will help you feel more at home.
This may mean going out to buy kitchen utensils you regularly use back at home, buying office equipment and supplies, comfortable bed sheets, etc.
Simply purchasing the items you regularly use and are missing from home can help turn your new place into an actual new home you feel comfortable in. This is especially important if you plan on living abroad for an extended period of time.
Stay in Touch With Family and Friends
While you may be physically removed by great distance from family and friends back home, you can easily still stay connected to them through email, phone calls, and messaging apps.
You shouldn’t abandon the support group that has helped you throughout your life and simply try to go it alone while coping with life in a new country.
Having family and friends you can simply talk to and seek trusted advice from can quickly ease any stress and anxiety you may have. When you can regularly communicate with loved ones back home, it makes it seem like you are not all that removed from your old life.
While it’s important to stay connected to those back home, be sure to limit your communication so it falls within a healthy balance of keeping up with news from back home and actually living your life in your new home abroad.
Spending too much time on social media scrolling through the feeds of family and friends back home can actually trigger and worsen your homesickness due to constantly being confronted by events you may be missing such as birthdays or get-togethers your friends and family are having.
It’s important to remember that the feeling of missing out you may get while seeing all the updates from back home is likely to be the same sense of missing out your friends and family are experiencing while seeing and hearing about all your exciting new adventures overseas.
Build New Relationships
Just as important as maintaining your important relationships with family and friends back home are, is creating new relationships in your home abroad.
Look for ways to get involved in social activities or volunteer opportunities that relate to your interests. This will allow you to attract like-minded people who may share common interests that will act as ice-breakers to hopefully making strong and lasting connections.
Your reason for living abroad is likely to determine the ease for which you will be able to meet people. Those relocating for business, school, or volunteer opportunities are likely to meet and make connections with others more easily than solo travelers who simply decided they wanted to live in a foreign country.
If you are finding a language barrier is making it difficult to find new friends, try seeking out fellow expats from the same country as you’re originally from.
Not only will this allow you to make quick connections and gain helpful advice regarding your new settings, they are likely to have met and made connections with locals if they’ve been living there awhile and can act as your go-between to making friends with real locals.
You’ll find that even when there is a language barrier, strangers in most countries are generally kind and eager to offer you assistance if you are brave enough to seek it. Showing interest and respect for the local culture, in combination with attempting to learn a bit of the local language, will go a long way to making connections.
Don’t be afraid to open up to strangers when trying to build new relationships, but be sure to use your wits so you do so in a safe manner. You do want to be careful to not share too much personal information until you feel as though you can truly trust someone.
Create a Routine
Creating a routine or some kind of schedule can help you to feel a sense of control. When you feel in control, the less severe your homesickness is likely to be.
We all tend to live by routines back home, as it forces us to get things done and not procrastinate. Creating a routine and schedule also makes it more likely that you’ll meet others and as you become more and more familiar with your surroundings the less foreign they will seem.
Feel free to engage in similar activities you would back home and follow similar patterns of when you usually eat meals or go to bed. If you love to jog, continue to jog. If you like yoga, attend yoga classes.
You don’t necessarily have to adopt every custom when trying to fit in while living abroad. You still need to be the person you normally are.
Maintaining who you are is important, although it’s equally as important to gain new perspectives on things, respect your new home’s culture and beliefs, and attempt to expand your comfort zone.
Be flexible and understanding with people and the way of life, being open to include new activities and ideas into your routine over time as you settle into your new home abroad.
Maintain Your Health
Lastly, it’s vital to maintain both your physical and mental health while trying to adjust to life in another country.
This means eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, getting any recommended vaccinations, and not resorting to drugs or alcohol to cope with your feelings of homesickness.
It’s easy to feel unmotivated when dealing with homesickness. Feeling down can lead to overeating or not eating enough, and becoming lazy when it comes to maintaining proper fitness. That’s why it’s crucial to try the above steps for coping with homesickness in order to stay healthy.
Having a healthy mind and body will give you a step-up in combating homesickness. Getting active and social in the community is great for your body and mind, but remember to also schedule in a bit of alone time where you can get in touch with any feelings you may be experiencing.
Whether it’s through yoga, meditation, or practicing mindfulness, taking time to de-stress and think positively will do wonders for your mental health.
Consider writing in a journal, highlighting your accomplishments, setting goals for life in your new surroundings, and noting all the positive things about your new life abroad.
If your homesickness, however, is becoming too much to handle on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If left unchecked, feelings of severe depression can get worse and become serious.
Homesickness is a real thing that many expats experience. It’s completely normal and may take time and effort to combat.
It’s not a bad idea to go in expecting to experience some level of homesickness. You want to have a plan in place for how you will deal with it should it happen.
I hope some of the above strategies will allow you to lessen the impacts of homesickness while living abroad. While homesickness may not be preventable, you can see that there are many ways to effectively deal with the feelings associated with it.