Tips To Curb Expat Homesickness

5:16 AM Jmo 0 Comments

     Living outside of the country you grew up in, whether it's for work, long-term travel, volunteering, military spouses, etc. can be one of the most rewarding and exciting periods of one's life. Every day is an adventure for an expat. Even simple errands like going to the grocery store can turn adventurous

     But that doesn't mean that every day is a "vacation". Though you may be "living the dream" to some, living abroad can come with a wave of unbridled homesickness. One, that at times, can be somewhat debilitating. Dealing with these feelings can be complicated. Emotions are often heightened while living abroad and amplified by being away from the friends and family you've left back "home". 

"We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and the urge
for the foreign and strange."
-Carson McCullers

     Now. This doesn't mean you should turn it all in and pack up your bags. This will pass!  Enjoy your time abroad while you are here. Don't let homesickness get the best of you. Here are a few tips I put together to help you do just that!

1. Go Explore!
     Obviously if you've found yourself in the expat-situation, you are no stranger to exploring. But, once the "honeymoon phase" of living in a new country has worn off... it doesn't hurt to remind yourself how big of an adventure you're on. 

  • Buy a bike! This was one of the best decisions I made when living in South Korea. By bike you're able to find all the hidden gems and nooks and crannies you might miss while taking the bus every day. There's nothing more like a breath of fresh air and freedom than riding a bike through a foreign place. 
  • Take a group tour! Sure, sometimes these can be annoying... but group tours are a great way to find something you never knew you were looking for. 
  • Try to do something new everyday. Drum lessons? Sure!  Karaoke contest? Sure!  Salsa dancing? Sure! Explore what makes the culture, you happen to find yourself in, unique. Keep up the "vacation" vibes and challenge yourself to learn something new.

2. Get "Adopted".
     Mix with the locals. Please! Not only does this 8,000% add to your abroad experience, but it will also help curb your homesickness.  Expat friends are some of the best you will ever make, but, don't shy away from breaking the language barrier and gaining local-friendships. 

     I was incredibly lucky to have my "Korean family" while living in Daejeon. The Bak family is one of the sweetest and most genuine group of people I've had to pleasure of meeting. They made my time in SOKO warm, loving, and ...full!  I can't even being to describe how much food I was given, haha. It was like going over a grandmother's house. Sure, she didn't speak the same language as me... but that honestly didn't matter. At all.

My Korean mother 'Puppy'

3. Take a Break From the Online-World. 
     I know this may come as a shock and undoubtedly an oxy-moron coming from someone who makes a partial living off of social networking. But. Sometimes you just need to step away...

     Skype and Facebook are obviously invaluable resources for expat families and friends. Sharing photos and stories keeps everyone connected. But sometimes it can make you feel more split rather than whole. Try a day or maybe a week without and see if it makes a difference!

4. Plan a Trip With a Friend From Home.
     Prepare to explore your old backyard! Plan (a slightly different version of) a 'staycation'.  Planning your trip home will help you lose sight of homesickness, discover new things about your home country, and create helpful nostalgia.  All this, and you'll go back home with a list FULL of things to do and revisit.  It's a win-win-win! Planning these moments is an excellent way to look forward to going back rather than looking back and missing.

Vacationing in USA!

5. At-Home Fusion Food.
     I love fusion food! I think it's a creative way to share cultures. Why not take a crack at it yourself?

     Take a favorite recipe from back home and attempt to recreate it with the local ingredients. I know, I know... you're probably doing this already without even realizing it. But yes, that's the thing! You aren't even realizing it.  Take a moment to sit down, plan, shop, and prepare; keeping in mind you are knowingly making a "fusion food" dish.  Trust me, it's fun!

     Sure, they may not have the fixings for me to make authentic quesadillas here in South Africa. So, why not make "South African Quesadillas"? Not only are you making something creative and getting your brain out of the homesick-mindset, but when you come back to your non-expat home... you'll also have a little taste of your new country to bring back with you.

My attempt at 'Vegan Pulled-"Pork' Sliders': Korean trumpet mushrooms substituted the pork, topped with cabbage slaw and sprouts. Not bad, but fun!

6. Write.
     They say that writing is cathartic. This is very true. 

"Journaling allows you to dialogue with parts of your psyche that are frozen in time.", states Laurie Nadal, PHD and author of Zen and the Art of Windsurfing. "It allows you to tap into deeper reserves of creativity and problem-solving. By keeping a journal, you can get a flash of knowledge and awareness that you haven't seen before."

     You don't have to consider yourself a "great writer" to write. Keep a journal! Record all the funny, frustrating, and incredible things that happen to you along the expat-way.  (Don't forget the silly details too! It'll be great to go back and re-visit those some day.) 
     This blog started off as a personal journal for me to share and vent stories to friends and family back home, or simply myself.  Writing has definitely gotten me through some bouts with homesickness.

7. Represent!
     It may sound silly... but you know how they say, "Don't dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want."? Well, I'd say the same applies to donning those personal touches from home. Wear it, feel it.

     Bust out that college sweatshirt you swore you'd only wear on Sunday afternoons cleaning the apartment. Sport your home team jersey while attending sporting events abroad (Unless there's a bitter rivalry...then, yah maybe not). Rock that kitschy tourist bracelet you got way back when on that one trip. You know... that trip. 

     Little details like this make being away feel a little bit more like home. And, they make for great conversation pieces! The world is small, you never know who has been where. Maybe you'll run into to someone in Vietnam who happens to know where 'Shelby-Town, USA' is! 

'Smitten with The Mitten', and this necklace!

7. Don't Go It Alone.
     Chances are, you are not the only one around having these feelings.  Like I've said before, expat friends are some of the best you'll ever find. Open-minded, curious, insane amounts of fun and great listeners. Reach out to them. You're both in this together; you're both Lost In Translation.  

     As mentioned previous, emotions and anxiety tend to run at a higher degree when living away. This can cause homesickness, but, there can also be an upside to this phenomena. You may find yourself more likely to "open up", vent, and reveal things to people you would most likely keep bottled up. 

8. Think About the Journey.
     It wasn't an easy road getting to where you are now. Revel in that. Think about the journey that got you from Point A to Expat-Point B. Think about all of the small things that had to be accomplished to lead up to this point.  

     Maybe you're fulfilling a life-long dream. Checking off a Bucket List. Working your way up your career ladder. Chasing love. Helping others. Whatever you're doing, you are doing a pretty cool thing! Never forget that. And even if things don't work out, you took a chance. And that's the most important thing.

9. Don't Feel Guilty Or Selfish.
     You're living the dream. Adventures abound. What do you have to complain about?! -Please don't take this route. Sure you may have nothing to "complain" about, but living abroad with homesickness is a very real, multi-layered, and complicated issue. 

     These feelings are healthy! And the worst thing that these feelings could mean is that you have it pretty good back wherever you came from. Don't feel selfish about feeling this way. You're going to have those 'I just want to go home!'-moments. Trust me. I've been there. More times than I'd like to admit, I fear. But breathe, vent, write, do what you gotta do; trust me, it will pass. And you'll be back in the 'honeymoon phase'.

More advice & tips? We could always use more!
Comment below!

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