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Dealing with homesickness and learning to settle in a new country

Homesickness is a legitimate and debilitating condition nearly everybody experiences when moving abroad. This article looks at some of the actions you can take to minimise any homesickness you experience.

Written on 30 May 2023

Homesickness affects almost everybody who moves abroad which means that finding ways to cope with homesickness is vital. Unfortunately, there is no one solution to curing homesickness and it can be extremely complex and is not the easiest set of emotions to navigate.

For some people the symptoms of homesickness can be fairly light and can be corrected with minor changes. For others, the problems are much more significant and require extensive adjustment in order to manage effectively.

It’s important to remember that homesickness is common and virtually everybody has experienced it to some degree when relocating abroad, so you should never be embarrassed or concerned about discussing this with your family or friends.

Below is some guidance and tips for managing feelings of loneliness overseas.

Creating a home in your new environment

There is a huge importance to creating something that feels like your home in your new space. Investing some care, time and money into your home and workspace which radiates the necessary comfort you need, can bring familiarity.

Knowing your new surrounding is the way you have planned it to be, and look will ultimately provide a feeling of control over your surroundings, which is essential when it comes to settling into your own peace of mind.

If this is not a realistic option for you as a person, you may wish to aim to seek out a local ‘safe place’ for you to get to know, become comfortable in and find comfort through those means instead.

This could be anywhere that may hold a similarity to home – whether it be a local restaurant with a specific cuisine, a calming café you are able to work from just an outdoor park or venue with fresh air and calming surroundings.

The importance of routine and home-habits

Attempting to maintain elements of your home routine can be beneficial to minimise symptoms of homesickness. Applying the effort to actively seek out ways to maintain a partial familiarity to your home routine and habits will create a sense of much-needed belonging and comfort.

Whatever your likes or hobbies may be, the chances that there are people in your area interested and participating in these too is extremely high in most places, so a little research to seek out friends and locals with the same interests as you can be extremely helpful to your overall state-of-mind.

Mental and physical health focus

It is much easier to fall into a slump of a less active lifestyle when struggling to find your feet after moving somewhere unfamiliar. It is known and understood that maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is crucial to improving your mental health. Even going out of your way once a day or a couple of times per week to actively seek fresh air can work wonders for mood levels. However, maintaining an active lifestyle of 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, along with a healthy diet can help ensure your mental health does not deteriorate.

Difficult emotions like loneliness and homesickness often manifest into unhealthy eating habits, or even sometimes overeating due to feelings of boredom! You can use these urges and apply them positively as excuses to explore local foods and restaurants, improve your cooking skills, and maybe even getting to know the local produce suppliers and where to shop for lots of healthy brain foods!

Try to avoid takeaways, eating alone and very specifically avoid familiar fast food outlets which may feel familiar but will be detrimental to your physical well-being.

Applying a positive outlook

It’s not uncommon for something to go wrong in a move abroad and it’s very easy for these events to trigger negative feelings that lead to an overall feeling of “failure” or that “things aren’t this hard back home”. Try to remember that these things can happen anywhere, and that it wasn’t always perfect back home.

Try to recognise and appreciate the positive things that happen, rather than focussing on the negative.

Writing down your positive experiences in your new home and country can serve as an active reminder of all the things you have enjoyed since moving there. It will be accessible to you whenever things become difficult or if you are having a distressing day with your feelings of homesickness.

Give yourself time to settle

It may seem like a no-brainer, but reminding yourself that huge adjustments take time. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to understand that things will not level out just as you desire straight off the bat.

Homesickness is complex and can cause crippling anxieties and uncertainty, but all of those feelings are almost always temporary. It could not be more normal to miss your home and things you have left behind, but it does not have to be the end of your journey.

If plans are to eventually return home, work on restructuring your brain to comprehend the fact that there is a possibility that one day, you may end up missing this moment, and actually having feelings of homesickness about where you are right now.

It is so important you seize the opportunity you have had presented to you, regardless of whether it was for work circumstances or personal relocation.

Keep in contact with people at home

One of the major factors which can drive homesickness is the infamous “fomo” or “fear of missing out”. When you move abroad and leave family and friends behind, knowing or thinking they are having a great time without you can be triggering and cause you to not focus on enjoying your life and creating your own stories to tell.

With so much technology available, the world is a much smaller place so it’s easier and cheaper to keep in contact with people back home. Try to avoid staying up to date through social media alone as that will rarely tell the whole story and will typically embellish just how great life is.

Schedule in calls and chats with your loved ones and people that matter and that feeling of missing out and missing people can reduce more quickly.

But it’s also important to not ignore the need to make new friends and have experiences to share of your own, and if opportunities to do things in your new home arise, these should nearly always take priority.

Understanding and reducing cultural shock

No matter where you move, there will always be an element of culture shock, whether you’re moving across your home country across the world. The way people live will always vary, no matter how similar something may seem from afar.

Understanding the differences in local cultures can take time or can be immediately obvious. Some you will be aware of before you move and some will become apparent after spending time in your new home. Culture with have an impact across social and work life, so be as prepared as possible before you move. Do your research and talk to people to ensure you aren’t left feeling unsure in your new surroundings.

Appreciating that cultures and the way people do things will always be different and accepting this rather than fighting against or complaining is going to make settling in much easier.

You can also bring some of your own culture to your new home, such as how you celebrate birthdays or Christmas, which will bring familiarity.

Just remember that because something is different or not as you would do it, doesn’t mean that it is worse or better.

Get formal assistance to minimise culture shock and homesickness

One option which expats often overlook is to get formal assistance in the form of a culture coach or mobility expert who can set up a plan to help you adapt to life in your new home.

Part of their approach will be to create a plan for you to follow as well as set up coaching sessions where you can discuss your situation and they can help you understand more about how to settle in your new home.

We work with trusted mobility experts and are happy to provide a free introduction which will also include a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and provide you with answers to your general questions.

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