Living abroad is amazing! When you’re in your home country looking out, the grass looks greener abroad. But of course, when you get there, the grass sometimes looks greener back home. Because you miss it!
You sit on your couch, looking out your window at the view that has become your everyday view and you feel sadness as tears fall. You feel like you’re not where you’re supposed to be.
And with that comes the wish to be back home with your loved ones and friends. To that place where life is easier, and you didn’t have to think so much about how to do basic things once you left your house.
This feeling isn’t regret, it’s homesickness. It’s completely normal for anyone whose been away from home for some time. This article will give you all the tips you need to help cure your homesickness. Starting with things you can do without leaving your home to some outdoor options.
1. Call Someone Back Home
It is said that calling home too often can often cause more homesickness since you aren’t detaching enough while abroad. But if you haven’t spoken to someone home in a while, it might be a good time to do so.
My go to would either be my parents or my sister that I would talk to. One time I felt homesick, I told my sister about it and the next day I got a delivery of some nail polishes.
It wasn’t a grand gesture, but it was big enough to let me know that even through the distance between us, we are still connected. Technology has definitely come a long way.
2. Send Someone a Gift Back Home
Just as my sister did that for me, I could do the same and have something sent to them back in my home country. Just to have that connection and be able to give them a surprise.
Of course, with a mandatory call upon receipt. It’s wonderful to do something nice for them too. Somehow it makes the distance feel a lot smaller when you share in an experience like this.
3. Make Your New Home Feel Like Your Old Home
Often after a move to a new country, we can feel like we have no control which can also add to feeling homesick. There are so many things that we do that’s out of our control, like immigration appointments, installations, among many others.
For some people, organisation is the key to feel more in control. This provides a sense of control over your environment. And this point is not just for organisation but also spans to re-decorating.
You can add touches of whatever it is that gives you a sense of home to your new home. And if you can’t find it in your home country, maybe ask someone back home to send you that item that you’re looking for. There are many things you can do to settle peacefully.
4. Take a Social Media Break
There have been so many studies that prove that the thing that is supposed to make us feel more connected, is actually making us feel even more depressed; that is social media.
We see everyone’s happy moments on social media which only make up a small portion of their days, yet they make it seem like it is every moment.
Worse yet when you’re feeling homesick and see those images from your hometown. It’s going to make you feel like you’re missing out.
So just in general but especially when you’re feeling sad, put the phone down and step away. We don’t need that negativity, or should I say unnatural positivity here to make us feel bad about our lives.
5. Do Something You Love
Doing that thing you love to do always has a way of helping you get into a better mood, even through homesickness. My thing is singing, I love putting on some music or karaoke versions and singing along.
It just helps me feel like I’m getting the bad vibes out. It may not cure homesickness completely and put me in a good mood, but it’ll definitely make me less bitter than I was before.
Maybe your thing is exercising, or baking, or dancing. I like baking too because the creativity in making something new makes you focus on just that.
Find that thing you can’t resist, usually it is a great distraction for you mind. So let it get to work on helping you feel better.
6. Focus on Your Mind
I used to think when people said to be more positive, it didn’t quite make sense, how can you change who you are? But honestly, I started doing mindfulness since July 2020, mainly to help with letting go of my anxiety (and anger eek).
Anxiety can reach super high levels when you’re abroad and trying to figure out so many things.
Mindfulness taught me that I can control my mind and negative emotions much more. Since implementing these changes, I have noticed such growth in my behaviour and my outlook on life. I also realised that our thoughts perpetuate our bad emotions including homesickness abroad.
As our thoughts keep dwelling on the negatives, our negative emotions continue to grow. I use the Calm app, but you may find something else that works for you or even other methods to make sure you look after your mental health. And actually change your mind frame to a more positive outlook to be a successful expat.
7. Let Your Feelings Out
When you’re missing home while far from home, it helps to release your emotions in some way. As we know, bottling emotions is never good. We need to release and get em off our chest and out our head.
Emotions can really get to you and make you feel so much worse. So many times, I have just curled up into a ball and cried till I couldn’t breathe. Maybe not a smart thing to do when I was alone and had no one to help or rescue me if I needed.
Often, I would talk to my partner about it so we could get to making some home cooked food (let me not get ahead of myself, that’s the next point).
I also found expat groups on Facebook (or if your city has expats if you prefer to meet up in person). I was able to connect with expat wives throughout the world who would share their experiences and I did not feel alone in the struggle.
If you’re not comfortable talking to someone about your emotions, you can even journal.
8. Comfort Food
This is my personal go to for homesickness in a new country. I always like to have dishes from home when I feel homesick.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find Caribbean food in Bogotá so buying was not an option. And it was pretty hard to find ingredients to even cook something traditional.
That’s when I pulled out my secret stash or ingredients and foods from the Caribbean to indulge in. Making food is a good distraction and better yet, bonding time with my husband. After, I would just happily sit and eat.
9. Find Pieces of Home Abroad
If in your new city, there are options to do things from your home like restaurants or any other activity, when you’re homesick is the time to check it out.
Being back in a similar environment as well as with other locals can definitely help with the homesickness as you can feel a new source of energy from being in the environment. And speaking in your natural tongue if that’s an issue for you.
In Bogotá, there was nothing Caribbean/West Indian (although they call the north of Colombia the Caribbean). I was never able to immerse myself in such an experience.
However, when I moved to Mexico, I found some people who moved from my home country. With the friends I have, yes, I speak English but not my true dialect so I was happy to be with these people and not have to think about my words and could give examples from our local country that someone who hasn’t lived there wouldn’t understand.
Being around your own people is a feeling that you cannot find anywhere else.
To fight the homesick blues, what better to do than explore? You are in a new country after all, there’s much to be discovered. Assuming it’s safe, start with your neighbourhood and keep going further like a dropped stone rippling in a pond.
I started going to places of necessity first like the supermarkets. These happened to be in malls, so I got familiar with those malls as well. By all means, if malls are your thing, go explore them. Whatever you like to see maybe museums, nature point, find them. If you’re interested, here are some things to do in Bogotá.
As I got more comfortable, I learnt how to take buses on my own. I was able to start Spanish classes, make friends, and go out more (but that’s my next point).
If you want to explore even further, you can start looking at places within the country to visit and then go further to the continent or wherever your budget allows.
11. Take Pictures
While exploring, it also helps to take more pictures. We generally take pictures of the things that we like or make us happy. So if you go out exploring with this in mind, it can help you focus on the good and appreciate all the little things.
Of course, once it’s safe. If I did not do this extremely carefully in Bogotá, I might as well have just said goodbye to my phone as that would have made it very easy to steal. Here are some tips for staying safe in Bogotá, or any other city for that matter.
Some of you may be more professional and pull out your camera and all your lenses but hey I’m not a pro. At least, you’re getting out and zooming in to the little joys.
12. Connect with Others
Having company and social interaction is a proven method to help us be happy overall. I believe this is even more important as an expat far away from home.
There are so many negative emotions that can arise just as a side effect of expat life including loneliness and of course, homesickness.
If you already have friends, you can try doing activities from your home country together. If not, it’s a good time to put yourself out there and meet people, either virtual or through some type of events.
Two years after arriving in Bogotá, I finally started in person Spanish classes and made some close friends. I finally felt like I had found some people who I could count on which I didn’t have before.
Just being around them made me feel so much better. One was from China and the other Colombia so we were able to learn so much from each other. Find people, who make you forget your loneliness and are willing to explore with you.
13. Discover New Experiences
The last point of social connection leads into this as having friends usually makes it easier to explore and experience more. (Sorry thinking as a female where it’s easier to travel with other people for safety.)
Push aside the guilt of missing your home country and feeling the need to stay indoors and wallow in your self- pity. We’re allowed to be sad, but we have to pick ourselves up and get going and a great way to help feeling homesick is to have new experiences.
Of course, the first thing would be to try anything of interest to you like restaurants, museums, and class (cooking, music, exercise, hiking, whatever interests you).
For me it was whatever activities the local malls had yoga, Zumba, and painting. The fact that they were free also helped, yay to no commitment.
14. Treat Yourself
This is always something you should do. There are so many things you go through on a day to day basis that when you feel like you have had a success, or need a pick me up after a failure, it definitely helps to treat yourself.
So, when you’re missing home, it’s definitely the time to give yourself a break and allow yourself a treat. It’s really tough having to live abroad and all the difficulties that come with it.
Everything in moderation though, so of course, try not to fall down the hole of eating junk all the time because you constantly deserve treats. Or maybe your treat isn’t even food, maybe it’s shopping or buying yourself a game, whatever it is that you consider a treat.
When I was feeling homesick, I tried to fill my day with more positive things. Basically, all these points put together with the assumption that I didn’t have friends (because most of the time I didn’t).
I would go to Zumba in the morning (exercise 1 point), possibly go to a mall or store (1 point), do something I enjoyed like singing (1 point), cook and eat my local food (1 point food + 1 point pictures + 1 point treat myself = 3 points), call my sister and tell her how I was feeling (2 points), and connect with my husband (1 point).
9 out of 15 points without much of that being outdoors is not too bad. Which point do you think helps most with overcoming feeling homesick?
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