If you were looking forward to working and living abroad, homesickness while living abroad is one of those things that can come as an unexpected and inconvenient surprise.
The dictionary defines homesickness as “being sad or depressed from a longing for home or family while away from them for a long time,” and feeling so is not uncommon. Homesickness is something I endured a lot in the first year of living in Vienna, so much so I even wrote a blog post on tips I used to stay emotionally stable.
For example, if you have only recently moved abroad to work, homesickness can make settling into a new country more difficult. It’s even thought to be a contributory factor in your decision to return to your home country (repatriate).
Thankfully, there are steps to help you deal with homesickness without making the drastic decision to return to your home country. Here on American in Vienna, I partnered with Allianz Care to bring you six solutions if you’re dealing with homesickness:
1. Live in your new home mentally
Language matters. If you still refer to the place you live abroad as ”the apartment,” then chances are you have not yet settled in – emotionally and physically.
Bring as many comforts from your last home as you can, and if you can afford it, purchase items that remind you of home. Make your expat accommodation feel familiar. Then, try calling it ”home.” Although it may not feel like home at first, in time, it should.
2. Acknowledge your feelings
A valuable way to deal with homesickness as an expat is to acknowledge your feelings. Feel them, embrace them, and then engage in self-reflection: Journaling or talking with a counselor can help with this.
Think or write about why you are feeling homesick. The root cause may be loneliness, missing friends and family, or stress/anxiety.
Additionally, think about ways to process those feelings; maybe join a local yoga class, book club, sports team, or start your group for people with the same interests as you.
3. Meet New People
Although it may seem overwhelming at first, meeting new people in your new home country will help deal with homesickness. Connecting with people and making friends was KEY for me to lessen my homesickness. I first started going to Yelp hiking events, which led to me making new friends and feeling more comfortable in Vienna.
However you may ask, what if I’m too busy to commit to a class or event? There are SO MANY ways to participate in the community for the non-committed folk. Just check out Facebook groups, Meetup.com, or Internations.org. There is bound to be something for you. Try to push yourself into joining one of the many expat forums or expat groups for various unique activities such as chess or skydiving.
Just recently in Vienna, there was a speed-friending event on Meetup.com where you could meet a large number of people individually for two minutes. It was similar to speed-dating, but as a way to make friends. There can be some fantastic, wild events going on where you live, and you may regret it if you don’t check them out
4. Use technology – but not too much
While working as an expat abroad, technology can be your best friend or worst enemy. It is a brilliant way to stay in touch with family and friends at home regularly, but social media can make you feel more aware of what you are “missing out” on.
Nights out, birthdays, and family reunions can be hard to watch from a distance. If certain online accounts are hurting you instead of helping you overcome homesickness, stop watching/following them until you feel stronger.
It is important to remember that social media shows only a small percentage of someone’s life, so you may not be missing out on as much as you think. Perhaps use that time to work on constructive things, like meeting new people and taking the time to explore your interests and hobbies living abroad.
5. Plan trips to your home country
Visiting your home country to see family and friends in person can help with your expat experience. However, if you would not want to see them (i.e., coming from an abusive home, family trouble, etc.), skip this step.
You could try and book trips to your home country at regular intervals. Some expats try to visit once a year, and others, every three years. It just depends on how much you can afford and your schedule. Crucial occasions, like anniversaries and milestone birthdays, could be a trip you’d want to get involved in.
6. Take care of yourself
When you first move to a new country and don’t know anyone, it can be easy to slip into unhealthy routines. Staying at home and watching TV to cope with homesickness can help in the short term, but after a few months, it is likely to have an impact on both your physical and mental health.
So, try reducing your chances of homesickness through exercise. What sport or activities do you like? Indeed, YouTube videos you can follow online or classes you can attend in person. I went through a 30-day yoga challenge with Yoga with Adrienne that changed my life for the better. The endorphins of exercise will help you keep feelings of homesickness at bay.
If you still find yourself struggling with feelings of homesickness, it may help to talk to someone. Allianz Care expat health insurance plans include an Expat Assistance Program which provides a confidential and professional 24/7 multilingual support service that can help expats and dependents address a wide range of life issues and challenges.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Allianz Care