How to deal with homesickness as an expat
Living Overseas

How To Deal With Homesickness As An Expat

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

  • Loneliness
  • 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.

  1. 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!

  1. Use technology…sparingly

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

How to deal with homesickness as an expatYou may also like:

Moving to Australia? Here’s how to get set up and settled quickly

How to combat homesickness at Christmas if you’re a British expat

10 things I’m loving about living in the UK again

5 Comments

  • Reply
    Tiffany
    December 10, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    I would also say that being homesick is normal and we shouldn’t feel bad about it. I also found it would happen about every 6 months or so. Setting up your own routine also helps. In the beginning, I tried to stay really busy and that helped.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      December 11, 2018 at 9:09 am

      This is such a good point. It’s totally normal to get waves of homesickness and sometimes you need to embrace them!

  • Reply
    Aida Ortiz
    July 15, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I try to combat feeling homesick by being involved in socioeconomic development and as an entrepreneur- starting a lucrative business. Currently, I live in Dominican Republic since Pctober 2018. I was born and raised in New York City, lived in Massachusetts for 12 years, Miami for 1.5 years and then followed through on my lifelong idea of contributing to socioeconomic development in Dominican Republic. It has not been easy. Although I have some family memebera that live here, ever day life is completely different in a subdeveloped nation. Basic utilities such as water and electricity are not consistent. Watching the ineffectiveness of how the country is run (rural areas in particular) is depressing. Municipalities and Provinces lack transparency in how public institutions are run and money embezzlement is the norm. Unless you’re living the bubble within high society or working in an American-run company, luxury or vacation settings, living in this country can really get to you at times. Finding food that you’re accustomed to consuming at home is an obstacle. Not to mention the lack of decent health care facilites in the event of an emergency. I have to remind myself every day why I should stay here with my 3 year old daughter, living far away from my 12 year old son, sisters, nieces and nephews and mother. I try to stay positive and find other expats that live here.

    • Reply
      Cari
      November 6, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      Hi Aida

      Cómo estás? I see you live in the DR? Entiendo tantas cosas que dices… ya en inglés yeah? I lived in Mexico a few times for graduate work. I can certainly relate to the differences. In Quintana Roo, though beautiful with the Caribbean outside my window, I struggled with insects, power outages, and tacos filled with things I never imagined. When food was good it was soooo good. But oddly we’d ask a friend who had a car to drive us to Cancun weekly to go eat at Burger King and see a movie because movies in Mexico are in English. But it got tired, even paradise is old after a while.

      I then lived in Philly, loved it. I was there for university, university of Pennsylvania. I really loved it but I’d call my mom and cry all the time. I was a few years older than most students so I never fit in and my friends were off campus. As much as I loved Philadelphia, and I lived in a super high rise building with a view all the way to the Delaware, I was so sad . A year before my fiancé left me so school was my only sanctuary. I know even with some family around, with your daughter near you nothing is home and it’s really very hard.

      I came looking for advice I’m finding I want to give some. But my advice will seem the same old thing.

      I lived in Oaxaca as well. Same thing with food. I don’t think friends or even family understand the difference, the difficulty of even the smallest comforts of home. I’d love a trip to Target, I’d love a good taco to have drinks with friends. I’d love my own husband to hug me and say he understands, I get the opposite.

      I see you said you’re very homesick. It’s been ten years for me, from California living in the UK, SCOTLAND, precisely. I married a Scottish doctor. I was excited. I had so many plans none of which came to fruition and I’ve never made friends aside from my brother in law and his wife who I love but they live five hours away.

      I had friends in all situations and hard as they tried, they never understood ….except one

      When in Quintana Roo, I’d just broken up with my ex, the absolute love of my life. We spoke once a week. He missed me, he’d say he was looking forward to hearing about my time there, he’d be interested in my life there no matter what. I will always love him for his care at the time. Maybe find one friend to feel at home with. I hope you’re doing better. I see your comment is a year old.

      Stay strong. I could go on all day with examples but hopefully you understand

      Cari xx

  • Reply
    Cari
    November 6, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    I’m from Los Angeles and live in northeast Scotland. I live in a beautiful home, in the countryside, in a beautiful area with no complaints except…I’m homesick and after ten years the homesick never goes away. My in-laws, thought they have all been good to me struggle to understand, my husband (the reason I live here) doesn’t completely understand…even friends back home don’t entirely understand. That leaves me.

    I should add to the mix that I sought and gained a job but it wasn’t challenging, it paid nothing but minimum wage, and my boss didn’t want me, she needed a different kind of employee. It was a cancer day unit, I was handed to her as an admin but needed a good chemo nurse. Soon our dog lost his vision and because we can afford for me not to work, I gave up the job and was my dog’s full time seeing eye person. He was a super happy dog and together we’d pack up my car and wander around indulging my love of photography.

    In 2017 we lost our dog to a proper old age of about 17. I’ve tried but have not gotten so much as an interview let alone a job. As a result, in ten years I’ve made no real friends. A former landlord and her husband were friends for about four years but they had family issues and we had to move to avoid the problems that were becoming ours as well.

    We now live in yet another amazing home. I’ve decorated my home and I’m proud of this place. Something is missing though, and that’s the feeling of it being home. My dad isn’t a 15 minute drive away, drinks with my friends aren’t possible on weekends, and my husband, a doctor, has a ridiculously busy schedule.

    I forgot these bits…
    …my dad has advanced Parkinson’s so he can’t travel to visit but his wife is amazing and cares for him well but Dad is struggling badly
    …at the end of April my husband was diagnosed with stage 3b renal cell carcinoma, and things aren’t good
    …my dad also has a weird form of leukemia called CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), one bad flu and….
    …my husband is having problems and we haven’t a clue if it’s metastasis or a rotator cuff tear, oddly it could be either but he hasn’t been physically active so that brings about lots of questions
    …my brother doesn’t speak to me…we’ve never gotten along sadly

    In a perfect world, we’d move to California and be close to my family. But while we’re okay financially, the husband still needs to work and I’m still looking for work.

    Who knew, as an Ivy League graduate I’d struggle to get even to most teensy of jobs.

    Today I am VERY HOMESICK… I’ve read ways to avoid it, deal with it, combat it…but I haven’t found ways to worry about the two most important people in my life while being in one place at a time. I desperately miss my dad. We’ve become the kind of emotionally close we were as I was as a kid, a pre teen. I’m usually home this time of year but my husband is due his quarterly cancer scan and I need to be here for that.

    I’m stuck between that proverbial rock and hard place…

    Any help for the expat blogger and community? I tried to start a blog once it failed. Now, I hope for a bit of survival skill if you have any to share.

    With gratitude…
    Cari

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