5 ways to deal with homesickness
Moving abroad is an exciting experience for many. The social media pages of expats are usually full of amazing pictures, great food, and exciting adventures, making their lives look perfect. However, what these pictures may not reveal are the challenges associated with living abroad.
When I moved from Hong Kong to Germany, my first year was very tough. I often felt homesick. Sometimes, I just wanted to pack up my stuff and fly home. Fortunately, I fought through this, resisting my temptation to leave, and am now living happily in Germany. If you are feeling homesick, here is my advice on how to deal with it.
1. Find a hobby in your new area
What were your hobbies before moving abroad? Can you continue these hobbies in your new area? If that's not possible, maybe you can find a new hobby?
When I first moved to Germany, my days were very dull. Every day I went to university and then straight back home. There was a lot of time at home for me to feel homesick. But then I started jogging, and I started to feel much better. Jogging became my new hobby and doing sports made me feel happy.
If sport isn't your thing, you could also try learning new skills by joining a cooking class, language class or music class. You will find that your days are more fulfilling and you may also meet interesting people along the way.
2. Make friends from your home country
It is true that you should make local friends while living abroad. This is the best way to learn the local language and culture. However, making some friends from your home country in your new area wouldn’t hurt.
When I moved to Germany, I mostly hung out with local people. However, I did have a few close Chinese friends with whom I felt very connected. With them, I could speak my native language, cook Chinese food, and talk about the challenges we were all facing in Germany. The best part was that we could celebrate some Chinese festivals - such as Chinese New Year - together.
Moreover, when living abroad it's common to feel especially homesick during festivities that are usually celebrated with family, such as Christmas. Since our families are not nearby and most Germans are home during Christmas, having someone to hang out with at these times can reduce the feeling of loneliness.
3. Limit social media use
Using social media is a good way to keep in touch with your friends and family back home. However, excessive social media use can actually make you feel more homesick.
When I felt homesick in Germany, I used to call my friends back home and talked to them for hours. It was a good way to vent out my feelings. However, I realised that I was spending too much time on the phone and missing out on actual activities in Germany.
Besides, social media makes it easy for people to keep track of what others are doing. It may make you feel more homesick when you see your friends doing fun activities back home.Trying to limit your social media use may help in this case. You will find that simply putting down your phone and going out for a walk can make you feel better.
4. Explore your new city
Living in a city is very different from visiting a city. When you are visiting, you may want to do a lot of touristic activities and explore the city. When you live there, on the other hand, you tend to explore less as you may feel that you have enough time to do it later.
One way to deal with homesickness is to get exploring. Stop complaining about your new city and try to find what you love about it. You can either explore your city as a tourist, or discover underground places like a local.
It can be something small, like finding your favourite coffee shop, or a nice park to relax in. Doing so makes you appreciate or even love your surroundings and feel more positive and at home, thus reducing your homesickness.
5. Meet new people
Your experience abroad is not so much related to the city as to the people. If you live in a wonderful city, but do not have any friends there, you will still be unhappy. The people around you make up most of your living experience. It is therefore important to connect with other people in your new area.
It may be challenging to meet new friends at the beginning. Try to join different events and activities organised by your workplace or university. Joining Facebook groups is another way to meet people from your area. Be open-minded and meet different kinds of people. Once you find some people you can connect with, talk about your feelings with them. You will feel better when you can share your feelings with someone.
It is okay to miss home once in a while. But it shouldn’t ruin your abroad experience. It would not make sense if you always want to be home while you are away. Rather, you should enjoy your time abroad and make the most out of it.