Living abroad is always a challenge, but the biggest challenge is dealing with the feeling of being homesick. This miserable emotion overwhelms you even more so during special holidays, birthday and important events. I’ve missed weddings of more than a few important people in my lives (sorry guys!) and numerous milestone birthdays. Luckily I get to go home for most Christmases but coming back abroad after a Christmas at home can be extra devastating on the homesickness front.
I knew what I would be sacrificing when I made the decision to move abroad, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m grateful for Facebook which constantly updates me about all the wonderful gatherings and parties I am missing. Thanks to Snapchat I get to feel like I’m actually there in real time (that is if the snaps will load within the 24 hours before it disappears forever). BUT it’s still not the same.
So how do I deal with these waves of homesickness?
I got an iPhone especially so I can FaceTime my family, and seeing their faces definitely helps (which is why I prefer a video call to a phone call)! We are living in a time where distance doesn’t have to separate you from your loved ones. If you want to be at an event, you CAN be there. One Thanksgiving my cousins called me from the family party, and although my aunts and uncles were just sitting around chit chatting while my cousins rolled their eyes about how bored they were, it felt nice to be a part of the annual fam jam.
Some people hate group chats on FB and WhatsApp but I love that this technology actually exists. I have numerous group chats with different circles of friends and family. I never feel like I’m out of the conversation of what’s happening at home, and you don’t have to spend time messaging people individually. It’s more personable than just a FB post or update, plus isn’t this just how the world communicates now anyways?!
I enjoy sending postcards as much as I love receiving mail and packages. It helps people at home to know I’m thinking of them and that they should probably email me or send me a care package soon. An added advantage of postcards is that your recipients love collecting them and can also inspire them to travel.
Listen to the local radio station
My first few months in China were challenging due to language and lack of a social life. What really got me through was listening to a Toronto morning radio show every night (due to the 12 hour time difference I could listen live to the show at night). I’m not sure if it was the familiarity of the hosts and local news, or the tunes of Drake and the Weekend on repeat, but for that hour I felt like I was in my room at home in Toronto. It was comforting to know that even though I was thousands of miles from home, I wasn’t missing out (in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I have serious FOMO.. and I also love writing in parenthesis). It also kept me up to date on the music scene – this was prior to Apple music.
Make a Homecooked Meal
Cooking is relaxing for me, so on the days where I just want some of my mom’s rice and chicken curry, I make it myself. The first thing I do when I move to a new country is figure out where the local Indian spice store is, then I stock up on it. I have also bought the spices in Toronto and trekked the across the world. About once a month, I make an elaborate Tamil home cooked meal, and for that moment all is good in my world. Tim Horton’s coffee is another quick fix and I have lugged a tin of that across the world as well.
The most important thing to remember is that feeling homesick is ok. I’ve lived in 4 countries on my own in the past 10 years, and the homesickness doesn’t fade. It’s easy to feel sad; what’s more challenging is to make yourself happy amidst this sense of dread. Take a day off from your routine. Unplug. Make a list of things you love. DO THEM.
For me that means getting my nails done, reading a good book for hours at an outdoor cafe while taking breaks to people watch, getting a 90 minute top to toe massage that makes me feel like royalty, eating a delicious brunch, biking around on a sunny day, shopping, cooking… to name a few.
Take time to do what makes you feel good. Soak up your new environment and do things you can’t do at home (for me that’s getting an amazing massage at rock bottom prices). Be in the moment and celebrate your awesome self.
Believe it or not, but hugs are free. Humans do need an average of 5 hugs a day. So hug your friend, or a coworker. Find a Free Hugs group in the city you live in or start it yourself. Hugging someone makes you feel like you aren’t alone, and once in a while we all need a little warm embrace to help us feel that we are alive.