how to deal with homesickness

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.

16 comments:

  1. Great tips for staying in touch :) I know how tough it is to move away from home. WhatsApp and Skype have been my saviours throughout a long distance relationship that's going stronger than ever! Mmm Maple Syrup!

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  2. Yes yes yes a million times yes!!! This speaks to me so very perfectly. I'm an Australian expat living in London with my partner - we have no family or close friends from our 'before' life over here which has been both a blessing and also a good jolt of homesickness every now and then. I can't talk highly enough of Whatsapp and Viber though for keeping in touch with loved ones. I don't know how people moved overseas even fifteen years ago when the internet still wasn't really as prolific and as accessible as it is now. We are lucky to be doing this right now.

    I love keeping up with Aussie radio and clips from morning news on youtube, and of course Skyping with family and friends is a total saviour. We're yet to visit home after over a year of being here, with a trip planned in a few months time and I've been wondering about what it will be like to go back and to experience all those changes you refer to above.... It'll be interesting!

    This was a great post, thank you :)

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  3. I get homesick way too easily, I'll admit. These are great tips to take into consideration and I will definitely do some of these. Thank you for sharing!

    Naturally Jes

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  4. This blog post really hit home. I moved about 11 hours away from home (nothing like overseas, but still feels far!) two years ago, and homesickness still hits me hard sometimes. For some reason, this past weekend was a difficult one for me. I hadn't thought about some of your "remedies" but will have to try them in the future! Thanks so much for posting!

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  5. this is a great post. thanks for writing it. my family & i are moving to spain in november & i've been worried about homesickness. i'm happy to hear someone else's view & how they deal with it, so helpful!
    -k
    www.kerryjune.com

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  6. Right on! Great tips, I think the best one is having the date locked in and to look forward to :)

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  7. What would I be with whatsapp, FaceTime and Skype!

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  8. Gabby, your post really resonated with me as a Torontonian living in Michigan. I am the mother of 3 wonderful, talented, artistic, sensitive daughters - one of whom lives in Toronto, one in Miami and one here with us in Michigan. My heart just hurts when major milestones come and go without hugs and "memory making" from all loved members of my family. Like you, we do Skype, whats app, text, phone and plan trips to be together to keep the heart hurts at bay. I will very frequently send "I love you" messages to my daughters out of the blue when I think of them - this really helps all of us. I was heartened to read that you Skype with your mother 3 times a week - this is something I will propose to my 3 daughters - that we Google Hangout (no cost for 4 chatters simultaneously but same as Skype) - thanks for the idea!
    I really love the sensitive nature of both your writing and your relationship with your daughter, Gabby. I actually knew your dad Bill well in high school and I see his sensitivity and kindness in you. It's so special to see this live on in his daughter and, I'm sure, will in his granddaughter.
    God bless you and I encourage you to continue writing, blogging and loving that little precious angel. Blessings, Laurie
    The profile pic is an older one of my 3 daughters - love them so much : Here is my blog url: http://canuckinamerica.com

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  9. i'm not an expat, but i travel a lot for work and these are such great tips. whatsapp is a lifesaver! also, i think you are right on about connecting with others in the same boat -- when i miss home, i feel so much better once i verbally express it to someone else who travels a lot and understands.

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  10. I love this post! I just found your blog and it was the very first post I read. After living my entire life in one city and recently uprooting for the first time after getting married, I can relate. And I only moved across the country! Next year when we relocate overseas I'm sure it will be a whole new set of challenges. Cheers!

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  11. As an Aussie now living in Canada, I hear ya!

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  12. So happy I found your blog via your Cup of Jo interview. I am originally from Sydney and I moved to Vancouver four years ago - you in reverse! I love living here but your description of homesickness is perfect. Lovely to read your thoughts about living in Australia too :)

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  13. I am neither from Canada/America or living in Australia, but I am still an expat - Swedish living in Ireland! For the past 10 years (yikes!) I have lived away from "home" and funnily enough I still have some of my very closest friends left from when I was a teenager. How do we make it work? Just as you say, by WhatsApping everyday situations and sharing pictures to get a little glimpse of each others lives. If you ONLY Skype it becomes such a big deal every darn time, my best friend and I ended up talking for 4+hours and it was both amazing and exhausting to babble through everything that had happened since the last time. We still do Skype but less planned and more to discuss some stuff even more than we have already done via chatting on WhatsApp. She also recently had a little baby boy (the first of my friends to have a baby) and I feel like I have been part of her entire pregnancy and him growing up the first months thanks to a lot of messaging and TONS of pictures. Hurray for technology!

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  14. I'm also a Vancouverite - and also replanted in Sydney! I moved here two and a half years ago, for a year, but ended up staying for a guy. I'm now here indefinitely (probably permanently), and I suffer home sickness SO SO much. Especially when it goes longer than a year since I've been back. I read your post on Cup of Jo, and related so much to what you said, especially about how you found things when you first moved here. So glad I found your blog!

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  15. I know I glamorize living as an expat but I have no idea how I would actually feel once I got there. We are thinking of making a big move, potentially to a foreign country so I'll keep these in mind.

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