Living abroad whether temporary or for your forever home can be a challenge to your emotions to missing home. You may have moved due to work, new studies or au pair, volunteering or just to explore the world. Whether its missing family and friends, the food, traditions or general silly things, it all counts to feeling homesick. There are many options and ideas to help you cope.
Here are 13 things to help overcome your homesick feelings while you are living abroad:
1. Sticking To Traditions
Sticking to your own countries traditions is a great way to stay connected. You can connect with loved ones back home during these traditions to celebrate together.
From my own experience, pancakes are a big thing in the Netherlands, where you can even buy poffertjes (mini pancakes) at pancake houses and in the supermarkets. But in the UK they are less popular, so I make sure I prepare pancakes on ‘Pancake Day’ which is Shrove Tuesday in the UK, which falls on the 7th week before Easter, and the day before Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent). I celebrate together by sending my delicious pancake photos to my friends and family!
Other traditions I still follow is Christmas Day with presents and a roast dinner, which is differently celebrated in the Netherlands with Gourmetten and no presents. However I do participate in the present-giving of Sinterklaas.
2. Making Your New Home Feel Homely
I personally felt that this is one of the most important things you can do to not feel homesick in your new living location. Photos and presents from loved ones with a combination of things you love (for me candles and cushions!) can really help make you feel homely without being at home. Home comforts will settle you to feel more comfortable when you are home.
3. Treats To Get You Through
Focus on yourself is the next important thing, such as taking a day to visit the spa, some well-needed shopping, seeing the latest film at the cinema or visiting a new restaurant. And don’t do it all alone, invite someone along and take photos!! Making new memories is an important part of staying positive.
4. Staying Positive – Fight the homesick feelings
There will be days that you will be hit very hard in the face with sadness, while likely standing somewhere random like in a museum or when doing your food shopping. But those times will be more managable the longer you are abroad, as you become more settled at your new home and learn how to deal with your homesick negative emotions.
Staying positive could be like writing positive experiences and feelings in a journal and reading them back when feeling homesick. Also, don’t feel unhappy and down by keeping these feelings to yourself, share with loved ones how you are coping and I’m sure they will respond positive with how well you are doing abroad!
5. Keep A Journal Or Keepsake Box
Since living in the Netherlands, I have kept a diary that has the week plan on one side and an empty page on the other, where I write, share and stick things in (like photos or museum tickets) from that week. It’s a great way to look back at all the things explored as well as keep track of staying active in your new country.
You could also do the same with a keepsake box, keeping your tickets and memorable items in one place. So when you open it each time to add something, you can look back at all the new memories you have already made.
6. First Be A Tourist, Then Be An Expat
Get some maps, charge your camera, read some travel blogs and make a list of things to visit within your first two months in your new country. You could join a free walking tour, visit the national museum, drink at a buzzing hotspot café, explore the local library and take a touristic day trip (my first day trip from my new home of Rotterdam was to Kinderdijk in the Netherlands!).
7. Make A Bucket List For Your Time Abroad
Having a bucket list should definitely get you out of the house and exploring your new location. Some ideas could be to trying some restaurants, visiting some cities around you for a day trip or to try a new sport.
For me, I was an active gym member but running was a no go, so I took the challenge to run 10k at the Rotterdam Marathon! Was a great achievement ticked off my bucket list!
8. Don’t Feel Guilty Sharing Your New Memories Online!
This one is close to my heart when thinking of loved ones back home. I used to feel lets say 50% excited to share my new photos and stories but also 50% guilty to share that I was actually having fun in my new country. I didn’t want to make it seem like it was better in my new location than my home, but at the same time I wanted to share to show I was doing well and learning new things that I never had a chance to do at home. Double feelings haha!
I know it’s hard for loved ones at home to hear that I went shopping without them, or had a delicious dinner which I know they would of also loved. But you just have to accept it, stay positive and move on to the next making memory.
9. Some Good Old Fashioned Snail Mail
Receiving parcels with goodies and letters from family always help feel less homesick, since it’s very touching from a loved one. Don’t forget to send stuff back too, as they will love something in return from your new location. When I first moved to the Netherlands, I sent back some iconic blue and white clogs with caramel stroopwaffels!
These days there is skype to easily keep in contact but something physical is something to really hold on to during those homesick times.
10. Don’t Skype Too Much
Don’t skype too often either, make the skype calls when you have new things to tell or to catch up after every few weeks. I personally love that I skype every 2-3 weeks with parents as we then both have something new to share and it makes it more worthy to call, but we also have the odd whatsapp message too if theres something really cool to share.
Just make sure keep track of the weeks inbetween your calls, I usually write it down to remind myself to skype after 2/3 weeks on the calendar, as the weeks can go fast once you start settling down, exploring more and filling your weekends with activities.
11. Food, Food & More Food
It’s great if you can bake your own treats or buy some delicacies from home in your new country (or receive them from packages/snailmail), but make sure those negative homesick feelings don’t cause you to over eat. Eating your favorite comfort food should always be in moderation. Stay healthy!!
I stay British abroad by eating my favourite dairy milk chocolate, custard cream biscuits, cereals like shredded wheat/shreddies, strong chedder cheese, buttered crumpets and preparing the occasional English roast dinner. Not all the time of course but I stock up after a few months. I couldn’t of eaten these things without the help of finding a slightly over expensive store uniquely selling only British & American products in the Netherlands, since you cannot find these things in the supermarket. However I have been open to trying all the different Dutch food too!
12. Stick To Your Habits
Those habits you used to do at home? like popping to the market every tuesday, yoga on sundays or swimming every friday night? Keep doing them!! It’s great to stay in your rhythm of habit by still doing the activities that you would usually do. All it takes it to find your local market near you, a gym membership for yoga classes and to visit the closest swimming pool.
13. Learn Something New & Connect With New People
Learning something new could really help keep yourself busy during times you are homesick. It’s great to always learn something new but also to connect to new people, who may possibly be in the same situation as you and feeling homesick. Joining a new gym class/running club, attend a book club or music event, or even those new language lessons will really help!
In my first year as an Au Pair, I joined Dutch lessons close to where I lived, in the hope of mastering a new language as well as meeting new people from similar situations or backgrounds. Here I met some great people who were also students or had moved here for work/love.
I hope some of these tips will help with keeping those homesick emotions under control. Stay positive and make new memories!
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Do you deal with being homesick differently? I’d love to hear so let me know in the comments!