Work, school, friends, adventure – they’re all reasons why someone might move to another country. But as time goes by, what probably started out as an exciting new chapter in life can turn into a frightening and alienating experience.
Eventually, the thrill and awe of experiencing a new culture start fading and you begin to long for home, friends, family, and familiar things like certain foods that may be unavailable in your new country.
You may even begin to experience overwhelming issues like problems with communication due to language barriers, sorting out healthcare, or trying to find quality schools, doctors and other institutions for you and your family (if you have kids).
When you start to feel a longing for home or stress about issues you face in your new country, there are things you can do to help yourself settle down and feel more at ease.
Here are some of the easiest ways to deal with homesickness as an expat…
Dealing With Homesickness As An Expat
Confront Your Feelings
If you start to feel sad, lonely, or alienated in your new home, take some time for self-reflection so that you can get to the root of the issue. It helps to keep a journal or to take time out in your day to meditate. When you understand the cause of your feelings it’s easier to work on turning them around.
Build a Network of Expats
If you didn’t build a network of expats before you left home, you can seek them out even while living in your new country. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can be a nice reminder that you’re not alone. Befriending like-minded people will help you understand that there are hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of others like you, around you. Use Facebook groups like this one, if you’re in Frankfurt or this one for Kuala Lumpur and connect with others. This similar article on BBC also recommends finding a Meetup group to continue a hobby or activity you love.
Don’t Let Tedious Paperwork Pile Up
When you begin a new life abroad, there’s a lot of tedious bureaucratic paperwork to take care of to make sure that your visas, bank accounts, insurance policies, and all of that other “adult” stuff are taken care of. The longer you wait to get these things in order, the more overwhelming it will be to do it all in a rush. Get it out of the way so that you can enjoy your new home.
Don’t Be Afraid to Explore
Chances are, getting around your new city or town is much different from what you’re used to. Learning how to get around a new place can be overwhelming, but when you’re somewhere where the modes of transportation are literally foreign, it can be enough to send someone into shell-shock. The best way to get over it is to explore as much as possible. Learn the different modes of transportation available and don’t be afraid to ask people who live there if you have any doubts.
Find a Favorite Place
While it’s great to be comfortable at home, finding a favorite place in your neighborhood can go a long way in helping you feel more at home in your new country. Walk around and learn about the best places to shop and eat, and overcome the fear of the unknown. Find some places where you’re comfortable and visit often. Before you know it, you’ll be a “regular” and will probably make some new friends, too.
Make Local Friends and Learn the Local Language
Learning the local language and making local friends go hand-in-hand. They are a couple of the best ways to make you feel at home and not feel homesick as an expat in a new country. Additionally, when people see that you’re making an effort to communicate with them in their native tongue, they will have a lot of respect for you and will be happy to help teach you some of the local lingo. The best way to learn a new language is to practice with native speakers in casual situations.
Make Time to Stay Connected to Your Roots
Carve out some time at least once a week to connect with friends and family back home.
If you used to watch TV or something back home, you don’t have to miss out on your favorite shows or sporting events, either. Just download a VPN and connect your smart TV or other devices to a server that’s located back home and you’ll have access to all the viewing content you know and love. Keep connected to your country’s Netflix and other streaming services so that you don’t miss out on your favorite shows, movies, and sports that might not be available in your new country.
Being an expat can be daunting, especially if you’re a newbie at it. But as I said above, you’re not the only one doing it. There is a well-marked trail of expats across the world. Follow the tips above and be patient – it just takes a little time to settle in sometimes, but you’ll feel at home before you know it.
Feeling homesick is natural and the best way to deal with it is by working towards making your new country your new home.