One of the main problems for many expats living overseas is the feeling of homesickness.
It can hit you at any time, can last for minutes or weeks and, in some cases, cause you to enjoy living abroad far less than you would if you weren’t suffering from it.
Luckily, expat homesickness is not something you have to put up with.
There are homesickness cures you can follow that will prevent you from wallowing in self-pity and enable you to actually enjoy living in that country you have always wanted to live in. Until, of course, homesickness hit and you decided you were desperate to go home.
If you have just moved abroad and are missing everyone and everything back home, follow these six expat homesickness cures and you will soon wonder why you were so upset in the first place.
Don’t compare your new country with where you used to live
When you move to a new country, most things will be different. Even those that are the most mundane.
Unfortunately for many people, human nature dictates that we compare places we are familiar with against those we are not.
That type of thinking can lead to “At home people were friendlier” or “The bread I bought at my old bakery was much softer than the bread in this country”. Thinking that is not constructive and only likely to leave you feeling depressed and suffering from expat homesickness.
That is why, when you do move to your new country, try not to compare anything there with what you had back home.
After all, in many cases, the thing you remember from back home is often nowhere near as wonderful as you remember it being.
Stop talking to relatives and friends every day
Too many people move overseas and then spend the first few months on Skype talking to family and friends back home, on Facebook checking out what their loved ones are doing or stalking them on Instagram.
Stop doing that!
Being so connected to your relatives and friends back home is not good for anyone trying to establish a new life in a new country. It keeps you too linked to your past and makes you fearful about exploring new places and making new friends.
Instead, the best way to not develop homesickness as an expat is to limit the time you spend talking to loved ones online or on the phone, and limit the time spent on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
When I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, I apparently did this without even meaning to. So much so that, after I had been in Bangkok for four days, I got a frantic e-mail from my parents wanting to make sure I was alright as I hadn’t messaged them since my plane touched down and I was on the way to my new apartment.
Because I had immediately made friends with several Thais and expats in my apartment building and was off checking out local street markets, going to hot pot restaurants for dinner and taking boats down the Chao Praya River to the Grand Palace.
In other words, out having a fabulous time and enjoying my new life.
Of course, don’t be as thoughtless and self-involved as I was, and do make sure your family and friends know you are still alive.
Other than that, though, limit your contact with them to an hour or two a week for the first few months in your new country, and you will find you do not suffer from the typical expat homesickness anywhere near as much.
Explore your new country — While this might seem like the obvious thing to do, so many people move abroad and then continue to live their lives just like they did back home.
Instead of doing that, spend your free time visiting tourist destinations in your new country. Whether those places are in the city or town you are living in or hours away by car or bus.
After all, when you decided to move abroad, you must have wanted to learn about that particular country and its culture. Now is your chance to do just that.
Visit local churches or temples. Head to waterfalls, country fairs, floating markets, famed mountain or beach spots, or simply wander around town checking out all the independent shops that sell products so different than what you used to buy back home.
Every country has amazing things to see and do, and the faster you do them the more you will enjoy your new life and learn more about your new culture.
Learn the language
If you are living in a country whose people do not speak the same language you do back home, sign up for classes and learn their language.
Not only will this make settling in so much easier when you can understand what is going on around you and so feel less ‘left out’, it will also help you make new friends with other people in your class.
Of course, you can start off by learning your new language online. But that does not help you make friends.
If you do want to do that though, start off with the basics first and then move to an offline class to advance your new language skills and meet other people who are also learning.
Take advantage of every opportunity
When I moved to Bangkok, I barely experienced any expat homesickness at all.
That is probably because I was always out with new friends doing just about everything they asked me to do.
I went to a floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok, took a boat and saw that area’s famed fireflies at night.
A Thai friend took me to Chinatown to buy traditional Chinese desserts.
One night I took the local ferry boat down the Chao Praya River to the Bangkok backpacker area of Khao San Road and ate fried bamboo worms and drank ice cold beer with a group of French and German expats I had never met before.
In other words, if someone asked me to go somewhere with them, unless I had other plans I went.
That got me out of my new apartment, where I would probably have sat around missing my friends and family back home, and doing something fun instead.
The best expat homesickness cure of all, I believe, is to take advantage of opportunities given to you.
If you do, you will get to see and do amazing things you would never have seen otherwise. You will learn different ways of doing things, meet interesting people and have a world open up to you with opportunities you could only have dreamed of in the past.
Eat local food
One of the best expat homesickness cures for me on the rare occasions I felt it was to head out and eat food from one of the local Thai food stalls.
With stalls right at the end of my street, and food that was exotic and delicious for less than $1 a plate, why would I want to sit in my room feeling sorry for myself when I could be sat by the side of the road enjoying an amazing meal and a cold beer while watching the Bangkok world go by.
I remember one hot, steamy Bangkok night I was sharing a plate of shrimp fried rice and enjoying a cold Chang (Thai beer) with a friend, when all of a sudden an elephant appeared next to me begging for food.
How on earth could anyone possibly feel homesick after that?
Final thoughts on expat homesickness
So how do you cure expat homesickness?
Don’t dwell on the past but look forward to your now very exciting future.
Make tons of friends, accept all their invitations and visit places and experience things you had only dreamed of seeing in your previous life.
Learn the language, hang out with the locals, eat that country’s specialties and learn all about your new culture. Never say “No” if “Yes” could be interesting.
If you do just these few simple things, your homesickness will fade and you will soon be head over heels in love with both your new country and your new life in it.