Fighting Homesickness as a Long-Term Expat

Fighting Homesickness as a Long-Term Expat

If you’ve been living away from home long-term, either as an expat, student, or travel junkie, chances are you’ve experienced homesickness. Fighting homesickness on a daily basis doesn’t have to be your reality, and I thought sharing a bit of my story, as well as some tips on how I combat homesickness could provide some encouragement to you.

My Story of Fighting Homesickness and Living Abroad

On my first long-term trip away from Canada shortly after high school graduation, I experienced such severe homesickness. Sure, I was loving the journey but the angst of being so far from home for six months straight took its toll on me practically instantly.

Fighting Homesickness While Living as an Expat Long-Term

I was enjoying my first big adventure, but there were so many moments that I wished I could just pop back home, if even for a few days. I caught myself finding every little thing extremely sentimental, and constantly sharing with my new friends about what life was like back home.

Finally returning home after the six months that felt like years, I was surprised at my almost instant desire to leave again. I had been daydreaming about home with rose-coloured glasses, as we all do when we’re homesick, and ended up heading to Australia only a couple months later.

After that, I’d continued living in new places for a few months here and there on a regular basis, and in all honesty, I hardly experienced much homesickness. I think the reality check from my first time returning home hung in my mind, plus there was always a return date in sight.

But this time around things are different than they have been before. I’m now living in Australia with my husband for the foreseeable future, which has sparked bouts of homesickness due to the fact that there’s no immediate “end” date for when we’ll be returning. With that, I’ve had to once again fight against homesickness and learn how to keep it at bay on a daily basis now that I’m an expat long-term.

That said, I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a few tricks over time.

Tips and Words of Advice


Recognize Your Triggers

One of my favourite bloggers, Birdgehls, mentioned some of her weird homesickness triggers she’s had in the past while living as an expat away from her home in Australia.

I was so relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with strange triggers!

In all realness, most of the time the things that’ll trigger your homesickness may not be typical or make much sense, which means you may not even realize that these things are causing you strife to begin with.

We all expect to feel homesick during holidays, weddings we’re absent from, or things of that nature. But what about the day to day stuff?

For instance, I get weirdly homesick in just about any international chain store. Starbucks, Costco. Places like that. They usually look and function practically identically around the world, and I get a bit of a shock when I exit the store and realize I’m not back home. So strange, but something I need to be aware of!

I’m interested to hear about your weird homesickness triggers in the comments below, I don’t know why but I find it fascinating 🙂

Living in Two Places at Once

Looking back on that first trip, I can see a piece of my behaviour that only made my homesickness worse. I was trying to be fully present in life at home, as well as in my new environment far away.

While keeping in touch with family and friends is extremely important and valuable while living abroad, you also need to accept that life back home is going to continue on without you.

I suggest having quality phone calls or Skype sessions here and there throughout the week, rather than constantly being on your phone texting and checking social media like I was. Seeing what all of your friends back home are doing without you is a recipe for FOMO and general “blah”ness.

You can’t live in two places at once, ultimately you need to be present in your current location and fully embrace it. Don’t avoid going out and meeting new people because you’re opting to Skype with someone from home every minute. Put down the cell phone and live in the present! Enjoy the foreign culture, nurture new friendships, and soak up every moment.

Going Home Can Help

This sounds obvious, I know, but hear me out.

I don’t mean to say abandon your new life overseas because it’s tough to be away, I’m referring to the fact that taking a quick visit home can do more than you’d expect.

Oftentimes visiting home can remind you of why you left in the first place!

After that first big trip I previously mentioned, when the 6 months were up and I returned home, I felt like a fish out of water. I returned to my 9-5 office job and many friendships that I felt like the outsider in. On top of all that, I was also experiencing reverse culture shock, and trying to readjust to my own culture.

It was such a messy time with so many conflicting emotions. I was happy to be home and where things were easy and familiar, but I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a circle. I remembered why I had wanted to travel in the first place. Home didn’t feel like home, and I had always wanted to get away and experience living in new countries and cultures.

Being a full-on expat now, with no set “end” has made my heart ache at times for home in a way I haven’t experiened before. I miss changing seasons, relaxing with family, and things of that nature. Yet, I can also accept that living here in Australia as opposed to Canada, for the time being, is best for me and my husband.

When I keep that in mind I have so many moments where I realize how lucky I am to live in such an amazing country and the unique opportunities we have access to that we wouldn’t otherwise.

Make Your New Location Home

Perhaps one of the best methods of fighting homesickness is to make your current location home. This goes beyond simply having a place to hang your hat.  Don’t just survive, but thrive where you are as best as you can!

I went in depth about this tip in a previous post: How To Make Anywhere Feel Like Home because it is so important and really does wonders to fight off homesickness.

Even if your time abroad or as an expat is temporary, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the cultures and experiences that come with it. You will grow so much as a person and broaden your horizons like you wouldn’t believe as long as you go for it!

Fighting homesickness can feel like a never-ending battle, but I hope this post encourages you that there are ways to persevere through the difficult times and truly enjoy your time abroad. Life goes too quick to not take the time to make the most of your circumstance.

Tips for Fighting Homesickness as a Long-Term Expat
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I’d love to hear some of your personal tips that have worked for you to fight homesickness. Let’s help each other out in the comments below by sharing some stories and tips with one another.


14 thoughts on “Fighting Homesickness as a Long-Term Expat”

  • I wish I had some tips but I don’t! I often suffer from homesickness when traveling. My husband and I often talk about moving abroad but being far from family makes me sad. Hopefully I will get over that.

    • Yes, being away from family is definitely the hardest part! I’d suggest trying it out short-term first and see how you feel.

  • As an ex-pat, living in my 5th country other than the one I was born in, I can totally relate. One of the things I make sure I do, is let myself feel it. Don’t try to bottle up the sadness of being away and let the feelings out. Cry. Whine. Do what you need to. It’s good to get it all out sometimes.

    • That’s very true! I’m the queen of stuffing emotions, great reminder to let it out every now and then.

  • This post really resonates with me on another level. While I never truly feel homesick I totally get what your saying. I am guilty of being in two places at once. I speak to my mom and best friend everyyyday on FaceTime. But at the same time I don’t let that stop me from doing things in the city I’m in. If I can’t talk they understand. And YES about the reverse culture shock. On my first time going home after being in Thailand for nearly a year I landed in NY and everyone was *obviously* speaking English. It really caught me off guard. Like wait you are in America. You have to speak English. Lol Really great article

    • I’m so glad this resonates with you. That’s good that you have it worked out to where you can be in touch daily but still keep your life moving in your new city! It’s a really hard thing to balance 🙂 Hahaah yes, I know what you mean, reverse culture shock is always so unexpected and such a weird feeling. Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed!

  • I think, it is wrong/funny , to be attracted to material things in homeland like your flat, landscapes, which anyway belongs to someone else etc , especially if you were leaving for material reasons-better paid job. Also it is imho wrong to grieve for people. If they were your true friends, they would speak with you whenewer you want to-thanks to modern tehnologies.
    I am missing just our dog. He can not speak over phone while some of my parents does it. He just stay beside and bark as loud as he can to make me understand that he waits for me coming back soon.

    • Hmm, I do get where you’re coming from, but if there’s anything I’ve noticed it’s that you can’t necessarily choose what you miss from home. Sometimes it’s beyond random.
      As for missing friends and family, despite the fact that Skype and everything exists, and that I speak with loved ones often, I still really miss their physical presence and company, as do they. Time zone differences can also make it really difficult at times too. That said, I’m so grateful for modern technology! I can’t imagine only being able to communicate through letters, so I’ll definitely take what I can get 🙂
      Aw, missing pets from home is definitely rough. That’s sweet that he recognizes your voice and barks to you though 🙂 All the best!

  • I can relate to all of this, especially the bit about not trying to live two places at once. Of course, being present in the moment is I thimk one of thr toughest things about being an expat. Whether we’re home or abroad, we’re always missing out on something. After 4 years I think I’ve got the balancing act under control. The times I miss home the most are when people there have milestones I can’t be present for. But that can happen anywhere you live!

    • You’re right, it’s seriously difficult to stay content. Takes some serious mindfulness at times to keep yourself at bay! Glad you’ve gotten the hang of it over the years 🙂

  • I found when I moved overseas people from back home in Canada were not letting me settle and with social media would message as though I was right next door, constantly demand photos and wonder why I would only respond at my normal time…they have a hard time realizing there is a time difference.

    Yet, when I do go back to Canada to visit, I will literally have just arrived from the airport and will be asked when I am going back?! I just got here! lol

    There are also those that want to live through your life overseas and want to know absolutely every aspect of it, which also makes it hard to settle.

    My greatest obstacle, even though I work with amazing people is there is still a sense of loneliness. I’ve always treasured time on my own but sometimes one can have too much of it even working in a new environment.

    I have decided to at least start help overcome that by starting a Facebook page for those that are also from Canada but live in the region I do in Europe. I think it’s important to not be afraid of trying new things in your new home and consider it home. Having a return type of date would keep giving one an out.

    Adjustments take time, don’t be afraid to reach out to others about it either. This is a fantastic article, thank you.

    • So true! Home visits are always interesting that’s for sure… On the one hand it’s sweet that everyone wants you to come back ASAP but on the other hand, it’s also like, “um, you know you can visit me, right?” 😉

      I can resonate with you on the loneliness aspect. I’m introverted, and sometimes I crave a relaxed conversation with someone that isn’t all get-to-know-you small talk. That Facebook page is a great idea though! What an awesome way to build your own little familiar community. I love it when I meet Canadians here, it just makes you feel at home instantly.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment and for taking the time to read this. All the best to you in Europe!

  • Oh my goodness, I relate to all this so much. It took me a solid year to get my feet under me and cope with homesickness. I was never wishing I could go back to the U.S. per se, but like you listed above, there are so many aspects that I wasn’t expecting. The hardest thing for me was building my life where I was—when it was awkward to make friends or intimidating to go out speaking Spanish (at the time I was living in Bogotá) it was much too easy and comforting to withdraw and talk to friends on skype and make plans for the next visit. Flexing those mindfulness muscles is such a help to keep you in the moment!!

    • That makes total sense! Living abroad pushes us out of our comfort zone in too many ways to count. Glad you’ve gotten the hang of it now 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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