“So you love to live there and you’re already quite used to your life abroad, but… Don’t you feel really homesick?”
This is one of the most frequently asked questions to people who live abroad. And with me it’s not different.
The answer I always give is: of course I miss my family, my friends, the weather, the food, and my home country itself. Some days the feeling is stronger than the others. But in general it is a bearable homesickness, and not an undermining one.
With time, one ends up developing “techniques” to deal with homesickness. And I’m going to tell you mine. These are points which I try to remind myself of when homesickness tries to strike.
- Life if full of choices
“Either this, or that”, as Brazilian writer Cecília Meireles would say. “It’s a pity we can’t be in two places at the same time”.
One of the things that activates homesickness the most is to keep thinking about all the enjoyable things that you are “missing” in your hometown. Indeed, there are many nice things happening there in your absence, but it’s a trade-off: you are not living several things there in order to live several others here. It’s important to focus on all the things you are profiting from being where you are, instead of the things you are missing in your home country. Be happy in the here and now.
“It is shocking and liberating – nobody needs you to keep living their lives”
(quote from the blog Antônia no Divã)
- My life abroad pleases me
In order for method #1 to work, it’s crucial that you are happy with your new home. Sure, no place is perfect, and everybody has their problems, but it’s important to clearly know your goals and reasons for living where you live. For those who live in a foreign country out of obligation and not personal choice, or hate their job, or left a partner back home, homesickness tends to feel a thousand times stronger. It’s essential to enjoy (if possible, love) living in your new city and to build a life (including housing, work, friends, social life and hobbies) that gives you pleasure.
- Leaving the comfort zone is part of the experience
As said in point #1, thinking about all the things that are better back home causes homesickness. The same way, thinking about everything that is worse in your new home place also leads to comparisons and, consequently, homesickness.
They say you need to have an ‘open mind’ to live in a foreign country, and boy that is true! Is winter in Europe freezing cold? OH YES. Do I hate cold? Very much! But I’m willing to try to put up with it, for some months a year. Are some Germans rude? Sure. But this actually makes me develop ways of communicating with different types of people, as I was previously used to dealing only with smiley folks. Everything depends on the point of view.
Some people don’t like changes and simply do not want to change. And that’s OK! Each person has their personality. But whoever wants to be happy while living abroad must be willing to live differently. Do I really suffer for not eating typical food from my country every day? Not really.
- Gotta love the Internet!
In this wonderful age of technology and globalization, it gets very easy and practical to keep in touch across countries. I always try to stay updated about my friends’ lives, even from afar. I try to catch up on how they are, what they have been up to and what their future plans are. And every time I see something that reminds me of someone back home, or when I have something to tell them, I immediately send them an audio message, a link, or a photo.
“Yeah, but it’s not the same when you talk to a friend over Skype, Whatsapp or Facebook…
In person is a lot better.”
FOR SURE in person is way better, and there is no social media that can replace a hug, or your presence in the flesh at your cousin’s wedding, or at father’s day lunch. That is unquestionable. But… it’s already a BIG help. I talk to my parents on Skype at least some 3 times a week. My mom in fact says that I talk to her more when I’m abroad than when I’m in Brazil visiting, when I have to share the attention amongst so many relatives and friends (lol). Which brings me to the fifth point…
- Soon it’s time to visit home
And what a happy time that is!!!
I try to go to my home country at least once a year. And, having many friends and relatives and only a few weeks to visit, I try to optimize my time there. I schedule each hour of each day to visit someone and/or some place and/or to eat some typical food. If possible, all these options together.
I also prefer to go for Christmas and New Year’s because it’s precisely during this time that most people get together for the season’s celebrations. This way it gets a lot easier to meet with different groups of friends and catch up with many of your loved ones at the same time. Making the most of each visit is essential (and sufficient) to be able to reset homesickness back to zero – at least for a while.
- It’s not just because I live far away that I don’t see all my friends all the time
When I’m in Brazil catching up with a group of friends, it’s very common for me to hear:
“You know, we meet only once a year, but when I think about it… I see these other friends here maybe twice, 3 times a year tops. And they actually live in the same city as I do.”
This is a fact which, although pitiful, comforts me. I try to remember this when I think that back home everybody gets together all the time and I’m the only one far away, excluded. Truth is everyone has their life, their work, their everyday obligations, and can’t always see friends, even those who live close by (which is a shame). And when I’m in Brazil visiting, my friends make an extra effort to be with me, because they know I’m not there all the time. Such a privilege!
Besides, my friends from Brazil very often communicate with each other through… that’s right, Whatsapp and Facebook! The same way I do with them.
This is my “in case it makes you feel better” reminder.
- What is true, remains
We all change with time – whether you live abroad or in your hometown. People change, circumstances change, but friendships not necessarily. Every time I go to Brazil, I’m able to look up close and feel lucky to see that my relationship with friends and dear relatives hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed: when I am with them, it feels like I had been there all along.
And then I think: PHEW! =)
“True friendship is not about being inseparable,
it’s being separated and nothing changing”
And that certainty is greater than any homesickness.