Everybody who’s moved abroad knows that, though there are perks, it can be incredibly challenging. Whether it’s the struggle of not knowing anybody or the financial pressures of the move, there are many difficulties to navigate with such a big lifestyle change.
But the biggest (and perhaps most expected) one is missing home. How do you cope with living far from your family? How do you handle not having old friends close by? And as for home comforts like favourite foods and weekend routines—what do you do when they’re no longer in reach?
As part of our Migrant Experience blog series, we spoke to Transfernauts to find the best advice for missing home. Here’s a selection of our favourite tips and tricks.
Embrace your new surroundings
One of the best words of wisdom we can share is to throw yourself into your new life abroad. After all, if you’re busy tasting local food, throwing yourself into work or getting to know your new neighbourhood, you’ll have less time to sit about and miss home.
Our Marketing Manager, Iurii, is Ukrainian but now lives in Warsaw, Poland. He says, “I miss home. And some things I miss can’t be replaced—like my Mom’s borshch or Ukrainian dumplings, for example. But I have one superpower—I can quickly adapt to new conditions, new countries and new people. When you move abroad, you have to be open-minded and embrace meeting new people and attending different events. This will give you the feeling that you’re closer to the local culture.”
So, try the local foods you’ve not yet tasted. Attend the latest free exhibition at the art gallery a couple of blocks away. Visit that cafe at the end of your street. Say yes to everything (well, within reason). And ‘Start as a tourist, then be an expat’, as they say.
Keep in touch
If you’re missing home, it’s worth reminding yourself that family and friends are just a phone call away. And if time and finances allow, you can plan a trip back home in the future.
Our Growth Manager for Russia, Svetlana moved from Russia to Germany for her studies. Six years later, she still lives in Berlin and plans to stay indefinitely. But naturally, Svetlana still misses home: “I do miss my family. They’re my main energy resource and I’m very attached to them. I try to visit them several times a year and they come to Germany too. Sometimes, we meet in another country altogether.”
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic means visits aren’t always as easy as they used to be. Iurii says, “I do miss my friends. Because of Covid, they can’t come to Poland to visit me and that’s the biggest problem. I miss their birthdays and parties. We have video calls every week but still… it’s not the same.”
A little hope and optimism tell us that with a bit of luck, things will soon improve. With vaccines rolling out quickly around certain parts of the world, fingers crossed our freedoms to visit family and friends will soon improve. Until then, video calls it is.
Create a routine
Once you’ve moved abroad, it’s important to establish a daily and weekly routine as quickly as possible. By doing so, you’ll add more structure to your day and feel like you’re more in control.
Naturally, it’s important to be flexible with your plans—you wouldn’t want your solo cereal date on your balcony blocking a potential coffee with new friends, for example—but a little structure can make a difference. In fact, research shows that it significantly reduces the risk of homesickness.
And remember, routines don’t just have to revolve around work, exercise and essential errands. Factor in some time to have fun. And more importantly, allow yourself some space in the day for doing absolutely nothing. You have just moved abroad, after all.
Schedule some ‘me’ time
On that note, spending time alone can be a huge saviour when you’re missing home. We know this sounds counterproductive, but hear us out.
Spending time by yourself and reflecting on your feelings can be immensely calming. Consider keeping a journal and recording the experiences of your move abroad. If something’s upsetting or stressing you out, write it down. Not only is it incredibly therapeutic, but it’ll also help you understand your feelings and ultimately, encourage you to be kinder to yourself.
The importance of making friends abroad and establishing a network is a given. But don’t underestimate the value of learning to enjoy your own company, too.
Consider the option that it might not be that bad
Not yet moved abroad? If you’ve yet to make the big leap, don’t assume that missing home will be tough. In fact, you might be surprised that the experience is easier than you think.
Thanks to things like video calls, we’re more in touch than ever. And with the likes of specialised restaurants and niche food supermarkets available in cities and large towns, it’s becoming easier to access favourite foods and home comforts.
In the space of 1 year, 5 months, our Principal Product Designer, Vinod has moved from Dubai to India to Germany to Lithuania. Now based in Vilnius, Vinod plans to stay put for the time being to be close to his fiancé but is aware that situations are temporary and can change.
He says, “I do miss home in certain ways, but I’m also glad I left. Home is here and now for me.”
And hopefully, it will be for you, too.