Friday, August 1, 2014
I've been thinking a lot lately about being an expat (you'll understand why soon), and the inevitable homesickness that comes with living overseas. I had always loved to travel and had never actually felt homesick until I moved to Australia in 2009. Then, after having a baby here, I became even more homesick! I do, however, have some coping mechanisms and I thought I'd share them here today. If any of my fellow expats have other tips please share in the comments section.
Skype. This one is pretty obvious and is the main way I deal with missing my family and friends. I Skype with my mom at least 3 times a week, and honestly don't know what I'd do without it. Often we'll have Skype on while one of us is cooking or eating, and it makes it feel like we're just hanging out together and sharing a meal.
WhatsApp. One of my best friends just moved to Canada and we've been using WhatsApp to stay in touch. Just like when she lived here, we'll text each other bits and pieces throughout the day, normal things, like what we ate for lunch and photos of what we're up to. The casual nature of it makes it feel like she hasn't left. One of the things that makes me the saddest about living here, is that I feel like I've lost that close relationship with some of my best friends. We keep in touch but I know so little about their everyday life. Communicating every day, about the little things, really helps.
Maintain your traditions. Australians don't do Thanksgiving and Halloween has only recently been embraced, mostly by kids. One year we had a Halloween party, which mostly seemed to confuse our Australian friends, and was hilarious in its own way. I do make an effort each year to celebrate Thanksgiving though. Some years we've invited friends over and other times it has just been the two of us, eating stuffing and pumpkin pie, but I love it. One of my fellow Canadian yoga teaching friends and I were talking about doing a Thanksgiving yoga workshop followed by a feast this October, so stay tuned for that...
Have expat friends. This point was really driven home to me the other night. I was at a staff dinner where many of us are Canadians/Americans with Australian partners. We ended up having such a great heart to heart. It was so nice to connect with others who are in the exact same boat as me. We talked about our long term plans, missing our family, raising kids here and all kinds of other topics near and dear to us. Fair warning though, if you're a long term expat, make sure you also have friends who are from your new city. If your circle of friends is made up exclusively of other expats, you will never feel totally settled and you will be losing friends constantly (I know from experience).
Have a visit to look forward to. There was a stretch of 2.5 years where I didn't go home, and I didn't have a trip to look forward to. It was way too long! Even though our next visit to Vancouver is still 4 months away (and we booked our flights a couple of months ago), it makes such a difference to have a date in the calendar circled. Something to look forward to.
Don't expect everything to be the same at home. This is something I struggle with when I go home. There's a part of me that wants things to be just the same as when I left, but of course, they're not. My friends have new partners and jobs, businesses close and new ones take their place, and even my family moves and shifts. It's true that the only constant is change, and it's best to embrace it.
My next tips all fall under the same umbrella of immersing yourself:
Read. When I'm feeling homesick I like to re-read my favourite Canadian authors, like Douglas Coupland and L.M. Montgomery. I find the familiarity really soothing.
Watch. Watching movies and tv shows from Canada helps to quell the sadness that creeps in when I start to miss that good ol' Canadian accent. Earlier this year, I got hooked on Arctic Air. Sure, it's not the best show ever made but the Canadian accents and references made me happy and I was devastated that it was cancelled.
Listen. Every week I listen to my favourite podcast, The Vinyl Cafe, and it never fails to warm my heart. I also like to listen to CBC radio on my computer. I love hearing the news from Vancouver; it makes me feel like I'm still in touch.
Eat. Ok, so we don't really have a Canadian cuisine, per se, but we do have poutine. And maple syrup. And bloody caesars. And pumpkin pie. And enjoying them does me a world of good when I'm longing for Vancouver.