Once you make the leap to move to a new country, it’s easy to think that you’ll never miss your old life, especially when you’ve relocated to paradise (whatever your version of paradise might be). However, it is much more realistic to prepare yourself and recognize the signs of homesickness early so that you can deal with them appropriately.
What is homesickness? It’s when you start to strongly miss familiarity: your friends and family, your usual drinking hole, your favorite TV shows, knowing how to easily fix a problem.
At first when you’re living abroad, the newness of everything is enough to keep you content. Even the stress of learning how to get around is merely another exciting hurdle to tackle. This phase can generally last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
However, homesickness can sneak up on you as you start to settle into your everyday life. You begin to realize that you’re the same person doing the same things with the same feelings, but now you’re in a different setting without your support system or the usual comforts of home. The full effect of this feeling can even take years to occur.
The depression and angst that can start to set in has been dubbed the “expat flu”. During this time you may find yourself more susceptible to actual disease from stress. But the good news is that the quicker you accept and recognize that your suffering from homesickness, the quicker you can relieve it.
If it’s people you miss in particular, start reaching out to them. Don’t be afraid to let them know how you’re feeling and that you need their support. Thanks to email and programs like Skype, the faces of your loved ones are only a click away. Plus, they’re probably missing you just as much.
The other big obstacle with homesickness is missing the familiarities, which can be any number of things. Try to get yourself into a schedule that makes you feel more in control. As you really start to settle in, you’ll probably find yourself meeting more people as well.
Another method to combat the “expat flu” is to surround yourself with little bits of familiarity such as photos of loved ones, prized belongings from home, or comforting meals. If needed and possible, start planning a trip back home or book a flight so that you have something to look forward to. More than likely, once you’re there you’ll be ready to return to your new country in no time.
Coping with homesickness takes time, but just remember to take it day by day and to keep a positive outlook on your exciting opportunity in a new location abroad.