There’s no doubt that 2020’s ongoing pandemic has meant many changes to the way we live, work, and play. And if you’re an expatriate living overseas, there’s a fair chance that you’re feeling those changes acutely.
Gone are the days when it was easy to just jump on a plane and head home for a visit. With flight paths constantly changing or unavailable, PCR test requirements, and border closures, plenty of people worldwide are physically isolated from their loved ones. As The Guardian columnist Emma Brockes puts it “If you’ve made a life abroad, coronavirus gives homesickness a new edge”.
The physical distance and feeling of hopelessness can take a real toll on one’s mental health. According to the BBC, homesickness can manifest in increased anxiety, depression, restlessness, and a host of other uncomfortable effects.
Staying sane is often a matter of making the best out of a bad situation. So with that in mind, here we detail a few ways for expats to feel more at home and combat the homesickness blues.
1. Stay in touch with your friends and family back home
Granted, it’s not the same as being in each others’ physical company, but thanks to today’s communications technologies, we have plenty of ways to stay in touch and connect with our loved ones. Whether it’s sharing a few jokes on social media or group Zoom calls, the people we care about most are just a few taps away.
Make time to connect with your crew and family members back home, and try to not feel despondent about the time differences; there’s usually a certain time of the day that will work well for both parties
2. Keep a few keepsakes from home around you
You don’t have to erect a shrine to your home country or decorate your walls with your nation’s flag, but having a few little keepsakes around can help you feel more at home and relaxed. For some people this could be pictures of the beach near where they grew up while for others it might mean trinkets. It doesn’t really matter what you pick, so long as it means something to you.
Read next: First Time Traveller’s Guide to Pack Luggage
3. Eat and drink your favorite stuff from home
Craving vegemite, pineapple lumps, or a pack of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups? There’s no need to miss out on your favorite treats from home just because you’re far away. Get family or friends to send you care packages with your favorites inside. Or, look for specialty stores that stock stuff from your home country. Sometimes supermarkets have special sections for foreign foods too.
4. Don’t give in to a negative mindset
It’s all too easy to fall deeper into a negative mindset when you’re in a funk of homesickness. But this can make things worse and contribute to feeling isolated and depressed. Try to accept the situation for what it is and avoid adopting a victim mentality. We know it’s easier said than done, but positive thinking can have a real, well, positive effect on your life.
In fact, experts believe that positivity can impact not only your mental health but your physical health too. And if that’s not a solid argument for a mentality shift, we don’t know what is!
Read next: Your Guide to Start a Travel Blog in 2021
5. Embrace the local culture and the locals
Othering yourself (that is, setting yourself apart) from the local culture and the locals can mean the difference between feeling isolated and feeling accepted. We all know of expats who have lived in their host country for years, yet don’t speak the local language, don’t have any local friends, and don’t engage with the local culture.
You don’t want to be that kind of expat. Instead, immerse yourself in the host country’s unique culture as much as possible. Make friends, enjoy the local food, and embrace the differences.
6. Meet up with other expats in a similar situation
Having friends from the same place can really boost your morale and help you feel more at home. If you’re struggling to make friends in a newish place, try reaching out to other expats in a similar situation. InterNations and other social channels for expats will allow you to find plenty of other people living right where you are. Attend events and make some new pals, but be wary of falling into a social crowd that’s composed purely of other expats, as we explained above, this can contribute to feeling isolated and disconnected to the host country’s people and culture.
7. Watch some TV from home
It might sound a little bit silly, but sometimes just watching some TV shows from home can put your mind at rest and help you stay sane when you’re feeling homesick. Of course, you can’t just turn on your TV and instantly connect to Australian TV, for instance. But there are ways around this and all you need is an internet connection and a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Because many TV channels offer on-demand streaming services, you can watch these shows from each channel’s dedicated app. However, geo-blocking restrictions mean you’ll have to “hide” your device’s IP address and true physical location. That’s where using a VPN to access more content comes in: set your VPN’s location to your home nation and then stream merrily away.
As you can imagine, this trick also allows you to watch TV shows and movies from all over the world. So, for example, if you’d like to watch the latest American Netflix series but it’s not available in the host country yet, switch your VPN to a US server.
We hope these tricks for combating homesickness and feeling more at home as an expat living overseas are helpful. Do your best to hit a balance between embracing the local culture and staying in touch with your own. And remember, the current crisis won’t last forever and soon enough you’ll be able to visit home and all your loved ones.