Combating homesickness: 6 ways to start feeling at home
Recently relocated? Feeling homesick? Want to know how to overcome it and quickly?
Last month, I ran a series of discussion workshops with a group of expat women, all of whom were accompanying partners. I started off the session by asking them to share their ‘relocating musts’. Each of these women had struggled with homesickness, and yet all of them had found their own way to cope with this challenge of relocating and make the most of their expat experience.
From listening to these women, and others I have supported, I’ve compiled what I think are the very best ways to combat homesickness and start feeling at home in your new environment, quickly. If you’re struggling with homesickness, take a look at these ideas. I hope there’s at least one strategy here that talks to you, and you can put it in to action today. Let me know how you get on….
Whether this is at the school your children attend or for a cause that you are passionate about, volunteering is a great way to meet new people and make local friends. For those who are restricted in what work they can take on this is also a great way to find purpose and put your skills and talents to good use.
2. An expat network
“I arrived here [Montreal] from Mumbai, thinking it would be easier [than Mumbai] to fit in. In lots of ways it was. I didn’t need an expat community to get on. But by not connecting with other expats, I missed that connection with others going through the same things as me.” Heather
Yes, local friends are important but don’t under estimate the benefits of linking in with an expat network. These are people who understand what you are going through. Ask your partner’s company if they have a wives/partners group, or try Internations or I am a Triangle, two great networks with groups in most cities around the world.
“The one great access to support was via partners/spouse expat network.” Lucy
3. Stay connected with family and friends
Staying connected has never been easier. ‘Talk’ via email, regular Skype or Facetime. Post pictures and updates on Social Media. Make sure you are familiar with the technologies and that you take the time to explain it to those you want to connect with. You may even choose to set up a blog, which can be a fantastic way of sharing your experiences. For some expats an annual trip home is a must. If you’re one of them make sure you prioritise this in your budget.
4. Maintain or discover a new hobby
Identify something you are passionate about, whether it’s reading books, knitting or going to the gym. You might find it easier to continue with something that you enjoyed in your old life (but maybe didn’t have enough time to do seriously), that you can pick up again in your new expat life without too much effort.
For me this was running. Exercise is great, because not only does it get you out of the house, but also releases all those endomorphines that leave you feeling more positive.
However, if you’re not sporty, don’t worry. Just find something that you enjoy doing, ideally that links you up with other people that inspire you, either face to face or virtually. If books are your thing join a book club, if it’s cooking, find a cookery course etc…
5. Create a routine
Decide what you’re going to do as a daily or weekly routine, and stick to it. Try and wake up at a similar time each day. Draw up a list of daily and weekly tasks and work out when best to schedule each one.
Remember to set aside some time for something fun and interactive. Get in to the habit of writing down what you are going to do the next day, the night before. That way you always have something to get up for! Research shows that those that feel they’re in more control suffer from less from the stress associated with homesickness.
5. Learn the language
“The language barrier here [in Montreal] makes everyday tasks more challenging. It left me feeling frustrated and like I was failing to integrate in to my local neighbourhood” Dawn
I’m not talking about an A’Level or even a GCSE, but a grasp of the basics. Knowing a few key words and phrases goes a long way in helping you feel more at home.
If you can understand the signs and the day to day conversations people are having around you – what the cashier is saying in the your local supermarket for example – your new environment suddenly feels a lot less strange and much more familiar.
6. Right attitude
Be prepared to take the rough with the smooth!
“I think it’s important to remember that not all days will be good, but that doesn’t mean you have made the wrong decision. You have to take the good days with the bad.” Dawn
Patience, openness, adaptability are all great attributes to have when moving from one place to another and having to adapt to change. According to recent research conducted by Cut-e, it’s these skills plus a sense of humour which predicts whether expats will thrive or not.
However, even if you have these attributes, it still takes time to fit in, and even longer to belong. Give yourself time to process the transition – and be kind to yourself. Everyone gets through feeling homesick at their own pace, and it’s not a process you can rush.
How do you deal with homesickness? Please share your ideas in the comments below. I look forward to reading them!
Homesicknesses is a very normal and completely understandable reaction to moving abroad. It’s okay to miss home once in a while. However, if you are really struggling and think talking to someone may help, please do get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.
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