So, I just moved to my 5th country and homesickness hit me like a ton of bricks! This was a real shocker because I thought I was immune to it after moving so many times. Here's how I overcame it...
Moving to a new country is a hard experience for anyone, because it requires you to create a new life for yourself. This can be with regards to building a career/source of income, making new friends, developing a new social circle and adjusting to the culture of your new environment. That takes courage, and many do not realize this until they begin experiencing homesickness.
“As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) who had lived in four other countries, I did not anticipate that I would struggle with homesickness in Canada.”
Why I moved…
I moved from Boston to Toronto in 2018 (see How to Immigrate to Canada as a Permanent Resident). This was due to the political climate in the US, which had also resulted in a mass migration of skilled workers out of the country. As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) who had lived in 4 other countries, I did not anticipate that I would struggle with homesickness in Canada. The past 8 years in the US had been my most formative ones. I had built most of my friendships and strong professional network during that period, and I had to give it all up and start afresh.
Within my first 3 months in Toronto, I was still struggling to get a decent job despite having an MBA and 3 years experience in the States. For someone who was considered a social butterfly, I also struggled to make friends – close ones, not acquaintances. All these made me frustrated and homesick! I did not realize that homesickness was a form of depression until I started processing my feelings.
I explain more in this video below.
Typically, most people assume that in order to get over homesickness or transition well to a new country, one needs to get involved in a lot of social activities. Unfortunately that did not work for me. I realized that this was because I hadn’t given myself time to adjust to my new reality. An example of this behavior included me signing up for events (also paid ones) and not showing up. If you can relate to that, you’re probably homesick.
The following 5 steps can help you overcome homesickness:
Social media can worsen the potential for making real connections and it also places unrealistic expectations to present a perfect and happy life in your new environment. Instead, take a break from anything that brings your anxiety or prevents you from being present in your new environment. If you’re not in the best state, disconnect. Prior to my move, I was building my brand online and posting content on my journey – successes and failures. When I became homesick, I developed anxiety around the need to create content for an audience while feeling like I was not in the best state in my personal life. As a result, I took a 6 month sabbatical from Instagram. This was a great way for me to take a break and reassess where I was emotionally and mentally.
Once you’re in a better place emotionally and mentally, start attending events (networking, social, faith-based), going out in nature and joining new communities etc. That’s the best way to meet people and learn new information about your surroundings. Helpful sites to search for groups to engage with in your hobbies and interests include: Meetups, Facebook and Eventbrite. If you live in Canada, a few websites to check out for events or things to do for the weekend include Narcity, blogTO and ToDoCanada.
In order to sustain the connections you are making, continue to follow up or invite your new acquaintances to future events or activities you’re checking out.
Be intentional about your relationships. Regularly stay in touch with your old friends and family for support. Relationships take time and having to rebuild that core circle of friends in a new place can be frustrating. The reality is that most people are very comfortable in their relationships that they sometimes don’t notice the newcomer struggling. Keep making the effort even if it’s uncomfortable.
Talk more with locals in your new environment to better understand the cultural nuances and develop meaningful relationships. This curiosity will help you navigate the job market, rebuild a social life and adapt quicker.
You’re being bombarded with a lot of new information and it may take a while to process it all. Constantly reflect on the information you’re learning and how that aligns with your values and needs. This will help you assess when to slow down on your various activities and practice self love.
Homesickness can affect anyone, so there’s no need to feel shame about it. Recognizing it and taking the necessary steps to remediate it early, will help you get a better grasp on your new life and ensure a smooth transition.