Whether you’re an international migrant by choice, a university student moving away from home for the first time, an overseas worker or a refugee; you will most likely find yourself struck with homesickness. UN statistics show that the number of international migrants living abroad reached a global record number of 244 million in 2015.
As an international migrant myself, I know how hard it is to move to a different country, adjust to new surroundings and adapt to new cultures. I had terrible symptoms of homesickness when I first moved away from home but I was able to face the challenges head on and get over it by doing the things I’ve listed below.
In this post, I will share some tips on how you can combat homesickness.
Explore your new home
Give yourself a few days to settle in and make sure you take the time to get to know your new surroundings. Allow yourself the time and space to explore and enjoy this part of your move. At first, all you’ll want to do is stay at home and log on over Skype or Facetime to talk to family and friends for hours. While that’s tempting and something which will certainly help you cope with homesickness later on, be open to going out and getting to know your new city first. Find out where key locations are such as grocery stores, schools, clinics, gyms, churches…you get the idea. No matter how tempting it is to stay at home, don’t. Go out and get to know the area you’re living in. Jump on the nearest subway or tube station and find your way around the city. Avoid comparing your new city to previous city too. You will find that it’s hard not to compare but resist this urge as much as you can. Don’t look for the things you no longer have access to now that you’ve moved. That will only add to your anxiety and sadness which makes your homesickness worse. Appreciate your new home and embrace all the changes that come your way.
Moving abroad is definitely challenging but there are also many positives about living overseas. After all, there is a reason why you moved in the first place. Try to maintain a positive mindset especially during the times when you feel the most overwhelmed by the loneliness you feel. When you find yourself having intense feelings of wanting to go back home and quitting, think of all the positive things about your move and the reasons why you decided to move away. Who are you doing this for? Did you move for a new career? Are you doing this to support your family? Think of the benefits your move will bring and those reasons, no matter what they are, should and will see you through. Always be inspired to take the next few steps and know that the loneliness will pass. Always look at the positives of anything you do to avoid any feelings of anxiety and isolation. Focus on the amazing qualities you possess which all helped you get to where you are today. It takes a lot of courage and strength to live overseas and don’t underestimate those incredible qualities you have.
Keep the same routine you had back home
Too much change can certainly feel overwhelming and scary so try to keep some things in your life the same after your big move- starting with your routines. If you’ve always been an early bird and you like to be up and ready by 6 or 7 AM or if you like to go to the gym after work, go ahead and keep the same habits. If you have always been lazy though, that’s one habit to kick and say goodbye to. Remember to keep active because exercise certainly helps to boost your mood. A change of home doesn’t mean you have to completely change everything about yourself. Having a routine will help you cope with the initial instability and insecurity you will feel after your big move. Maintaining the same routines will also give your life the structure it needs especially during the first few months which are usually the toughest.
Make new friends
No man’s an island and we all need companionship now and then. If you moved to a new city or country with your partner or family, the loneliness you will feel won’t be as bad. However, if you moved alone, there is a risk of you isolating yourself without realising it. If you’re an introvert, you may find that you’re happiest alone; choosing to stay home instead and that’s fine but if you’re an extrovert, you may find that you will feel lonely and upset if you don’t have anyone to hang around with so go ahead and meet new people.
Remember to choose your new friends wisely and see if the new people you meet share the same interests and values as you. I find that the best way to meet new people and make new friends is by joining community groups which are focused on things which you are passionate about. It’s always nice to be a part of a group where you can spend time with like minded people and at the same time, enjoy yourself by doing activities which you love.
Keep in touch with friends and family
Let’s thank technology and social media platforms for allowing us to stay more connected wherever we are in the world for free. When I first moved away from home, my brothers and I could only keep in touch using MSN and Yahoo messenger chat rooms. We also had to spend a few hundred pounds a month buying calling cards which didn’t last long. Now, there’s Facetime, Skype, Viber, Whatsapp and many other messaging platforms that provide unlimited video calling services wherever you are in the world. Sometimes, I talk to my family and friends as I’m doing other household chores or walking around town for hours and that way, it’s as if they’re with us and the homesick feelings we feel instantly disappear.
Stay in touch with your culture
Keep up with the latest news and current affairs from back home. This is a great way to make sure you have something to talk about with your friends and family when you catch up with them. It’s also a great way to make sure you remain a part of that community or nation even though you’re living far away. By keeping in touch with the latest news, you remind yourself that moving away doesn’t mean you have to be stripped of your culture and heritage. You are still who you are and changing locations doesn’t mean a change of heart and mind. A lot of countries allow for your to have dual citizenships and vote even when you’re outside of the country so make the most of it and exercise the rights you have as a citizen.
Schedule regular visits if you can
If you can afford and have the time to visit your home city or country, do so. I understand that not many employers allow extended annual holidays and that could make it difficult for some to travel and visit their families. Again, you can always keep up on social media or video calling services but nothing beats family reunions. If you schedule in some holiday time with your family, you can’t help but look forward to it which means, you have something to motivate you when the going gets tough.
When you plan on going home, make a list of the things you want to do with your family and friends. Plan the trip wisely to make sure you make the most of the time you spend with them. It is normal to get side tracked and get pulled by friends to do other things once you arrive in your country so stick to a strict schedule and prioritize who you need to spend the most time with.
Eat home foods and enjoy new foods too
When I first moved away from home, I missed the white rice the most. Philippine rice is very similar to Thailand’s Jasmine rice but when we first moved, I only ate Basmati rice for the first few months because we didn’t know where to buy Jasmine rice from. Eating new foods and completely eliminating Asian foods from my diet made me so homesick. Food is one of the hardest things to adjust to when you move to a different country. I mainly have an Asian diet now thanks to Asian grocery stores around the area and over the years, I have learned to improvise and cook Asian dishes with a Western twist if I can’t find the complete Asian ingredients I need. Find the local grocery stores near you that sell foreign foods and ingredients. If there’s a restaurant nearby which serves your home country’s food, go ahead and eat there. There’s nothing more amazing than eating your favourite foods especially when you’re feeling homesick. If your parents cook meals a certain way, ask for their recipe’s or better yet, have them watch you cook via Facetime or Skype so they can talk you through it. It’s a great way to bond and a great way to taste their meals while you’re away.
If you wish to, I also suggest that you eat the traditional food of your new home country. It’s always nice to be open to new cuisines and maybe you can even combine the cuisines and tastes you love for a more unique eating experience. As nice as it is to stick to your national cuisine and normal diet, appreciating and celebrating your new home country’s food is also a great way to immerse yourself in the new culture you’re adapting to.
Learn new skills and take up a new hobby
Distract yourself from the loneliness you feel and the homesickness feelings by keeping busy. Keep busy with learning new skills and taking up a hobby. One of the best things to learn is new languages for example. Not only will it help you in adapting and making new friends, it will also help stimulate new parts of your brain which are essential in learning new skills. It’s great mental exercise and you also distract your mind by focusing it on new things which will make time go faster. When we’re homesick, we tend to focus on sad feelings and time will seem wasted and go slower. Don’t be a time waster. Make the most of the time you have now. Pick up a hobby and as mentioned above you may want to join clubs and community groups or, learn to play an instrument, paint, write, decorate your new home…anything that keeps your mind focused on other things other than your sadness…do it. Focus on improving yourself and keep doing positive activities. You will find that the more positive things you do, the more positive things you will achieve and the more positive you will feel.
It has been more than a decade since I moved away from home and now, as a dual citizen, I find that having two home countries is one of the best feelings in the world. I embraced everything about my move and didn’t let myself be beaten by feelings of homesickness and now, I can proudly say that I am grateful of all the things I have achieved and the friends I have made from the two countries I now call my home. I wish for you to also have the same feelings one day so I encourage you to never give up. The sadness you will feel today will be replaced by happiness tomorrow so keep strong.
I hope that this list helps you overcome your homesickness and when the going gets tough, think of all the reasons why you’ve decided to make this move and tell yourself, ‘This too, shall pass.’
Are you an international migrant or have moved away from home and experienced feelings of homesickness as well?
Do you have any other tips you may want to add to this list?
Please share them in the comments box below.
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