If working and living abroad is something you’ve always dreamed of doing, homesickness as an expat can come as a surprise, but it is not uncommon. If you have only recently moved abroad to work, it can make settling in to a new country much more difficult. For many expats, homesickness is even thought to be a contributory factor in their decision to repatriate.
I’ve teamed up with Allianz Care to share several steps you can take to help deal with any feelings of homesickness without making the drastic decision to return home, just yet!
6 ways to cope with homesickness as an expat
Live in your new home mentally
Language matters. If you still refer to the place you live abroad as ‘the apartment’ then chances are you have yet to fully settle in. Bring as many comforts from your last home as possible, so your expat accommodation feels familiar. Then, try calling it ‘home’ until you start to believe it.
Acknowledge your feelings
Just because living abroad is the best thing you’ve ever done it doesn’t mean you will always feel good about it. So, a useful way to deal with homesickness as an expat is to acknowledge your feelings. Engage in some self-reflection: journaling can really help with this. (It’s why I write posts like this!) Think or write about why you are feeling homesick and allow yourself to have negative feelings.
There may be several reasons you are feeling down, including:
- Missing friends and family
- Stress or anxiety
- The time of year – Christmas always caused the most homesickness for me
Once you have worked out where the issues lie, think about ways you can alleviate those feelings; maybe join a local yoga class, a sports team or arrange a visit home.
Meet new people
The quickest way to settle into a new country is to build a network of friends and feel a sense of community. Meeting new people can be intimidating at first – I always felt like I was friend dating! – but the risk of feeling awkward for a few hours is far outweighed by the chance of gaining a new friend for life.
In terms of meeting new people, my top tip would be to think beyond expat groups or forums. While these can be great for meeting new expats in a similar position to you, I’ve found more long term friendships grew out of a shared interest.
In my case, I signed up for every travel blogging event, meet up and conference going when I first arrived in Sydney and the girls I met at these events are some of my closest friends 4 years later.
Use social media to identify events in your areas of interest and go to as many as you can commit to. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you click with for a coffee 1-on-1 afterwards, even over Twitter. I’ve made some great mates via DM!
Technology, while working as an expat abroad, can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to settling in. It is a brilliant way to stay in touch with family and friends at home on a regular basis, but social media can make you feel more aware of what you are ‘missing out on’ too.
Nights out, birthdays and family reunions can be hard to watch from a distance, especially when photos pop up on Facebook of ‘all the crew’ and you’re noticeably absent.
Just remember that social media is a highlights reel of life and you may not be missing out on as much as you think.
Similarly, try not to go too overboard with updates of your amazing new life abroad as it may make it hard for family and friends to understand when you express feelings of homesickness.
I recommend scheduling regular Skype calls with close friends and family members – Mum and I skyped every Friday – and that way you can update them in real time about how you honestly feel.
Plan trips home
Getting home to see family and friends in person is crucial to the long-term success of the expat experience. Try to book trips home at regular intervals or at least for the most crucial occasions, like holidays, milestone birthdays or the arrival of new babies.
If, like me, you live somewhere like Australia, going home is never going to be a cheap endeavour but I honestly think it’s crucial you budget the expense of flying home into your new lifestyle. It’s the best way to stay connected to a home you might one day return to.
Take care of yourself
When you first move to a new country and don’t really know anyone, it can be very easy to slip into unhealthy routines. Staying home alone every evening and watching TV can be novel in the short term, but eventually might impact you physically and mentally.
Why not use the spare time you have to get to know your new home better? Plan daytrips, explore different neighbourhoods, visit all the top-rated cafes and take long walks in the local area. You’ll get a rush of endorphins from being active and it will help you get your bearings too!
If you still find yourself struggling with feelings of homesickness, it may help to talk to someone impartial. Allianz Care expat health insurance plans include an Expat Assistance Program, which provides a confidential and professional 24/7 multilingual support service that can help expats and dependents address a wide range of life issues and challenges.
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