We thank Micke Ahola for sending this beautiful article. Micke is a Finnish national currently living in the UK. After growing up in the city of Espoo, Micke moved with his family to the Scottish Isle of Arran, before finally moving to mainland England to pursue a career in writing. He believes that his experiences as an expat have broadened his horizons, and given him the opportunity to meet a wide range of brilliant international citizens. You can get to know Micke better through his website/portfolio, https://mickeahola.com/
Homesickness can affect anyone. When you’re living abroad, distance from friends and family can easily make you feel lonely. Adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle can be especially hard when you don’t have your support network around to help you.
There is no easy fix to expat homesickness, but there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better and help you overcome it. Whether your homesickness hits you at certain moments or is constantly a drain on your mind, the important thing is to acknowledge the way you feel. It’s okay to be homesick – everyone is sometimes – so accepting your state of mind is the first step to helping you feel better.
In this article we will go through some of the best ways to overcome expat homesickness, and help you make the most out of your life abroad.
Homesickness is most often accompanied with loneliness, as you are likely to be far away from your friends and family when living abroad. While the internet and mobile devices have made keeping in touch across the globe easier, using instant messaging and VoIP (video chat-type) services, it is important to also make new friends in your new home country.
Nothing beats expat homesickness like making new friends. This can take some time, but you shouldn’t be put back by initial disappointments and should persist in putting yourself out there. Furthermore, many countries have expat groups which will let you meet people going through the same process as you are, and helps you share your feelings with other people who feel the same.
Making friends with locals in your new country is also a great idea, and will help you learn more about the local culture. A good way to do this is by connecting to people based on your hobbies and interests. For example, find a local tennis club or film society, where you will have some sort of connection or shared interest with other people right away.
Start living like the locals
If you are having a hard time adjusting to a new culture or way of life, overexposure can be a great way to learn and get accustomed. Spending time around locals and following the daily routines and lifestyle of your new home will help you understand the local culture and people better.
This can also help your local community accept you as one of their own, a great way to make yourself feel at home. Instead of sticking to popular expat spots, head to bars and restaurants that the locals love, and get stuck in to events in the area.
Do something scary
One of the best ways to overcome homesickness is to find and directly confront the source of your feelings. If you’re afraid you won’t make new friends, go out and tell people you’d like to make friends. If you’re afraid that you’ll embarrass yourself because you’re not accustomed to the culture, go and embed yourself into new situations where you will be challenged.
While none of this is easy, just making an effort can make you feel better and you might be rewarded for it faster than you think.
Have some time alone
It’s important to not neglect your own health and mental well-being. While exposing yourself to the local lifestyle is great, don’t hesitate to take a step back if you ever feel overwhelmed. Allowing yourself time to adjust is essential when you’re surrounded by a new culture, and will let you take things at your own pace.
Find comforts from back home
It’s often the little things that really help with homesickness – like treating yourself to your favourite chocolate or other food from your home country. In fact, familiar things like music and old TV shows are really great for helping you feel at home.
Accessing TV shows and movies from back home can sometimes be difficult when abroad, but this can often be fixed by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs route your web traffic through their servers, allowing you to change your location as it appears to the sites you visit. This allows you to access streaming content from your home country that would otherwise be blocked abroad.
VPNs cost a few pounds or dollars a month, but are a good investment if you don’t want to lose access to your favourite TV and streaming services when living abroad.
Spend less time on social media
While social media are great for keeping in touch with friends and family from across the globe, it can be harmful when trying to adjust to a new life abroad. If you find yourself spending too much time on social media thinking about all the fun you’re missing with your old friends, it might be best to put down your phone.
If you struggle to switch off, try scheduling social media time in the same way you might plan language-learning homework. Furthermore, think about taking certain apps off your phone but leaving them on your laptop or computer. These actions will make it easier to avoid constantly watching over what’s happening in your point of origin, with people you miss.
It all starts with acknowledging how you feel
Almost every expat will experience homesickness from time to time. This also means that there are many people who can relate to you – and denying your feelings will get you nowhere. Don’t hesitate to ask others for help. This will not only help you with your current feelings, but can help you make new friends and make the most out of your new life abroad.