For people living abroad it is not always easy to feel at home. In the beginning you are experiencing a lot of adrenaline, you have tons of energy and it feels you are entering a new chapter in your life; Excitement allover! But when this first period is over, you start noticing that you are not on holiday and miss your home, your family and friends. In my case I even missed my own local supermarket (yes, I never thought I would miss some particular things in my grocery store).
You might also become frustrated because things you were taking for granted, now seem to be impossible to get. Finally, you could also be experiencing the culture shock, which is very common. Even when you moved to a neighboring country, the cultural differences could be bigger than expected. Homesickness is very common and is something serious. You could compare it with a mini grieving process.
So what can you do to make yourself feel at home more easily? Read my personal top 5 in no particular order:
1) First of all stop comparing.
If you persist in thinking about how great it is in your former country or city, you will keep missing it. It doesn’t help you to move forward and to feel better. So just stop with it. Only then you can be open to see, feel and experience the new country in a more realistic, objective way. Now put on your new glasses and remember all the benefits of why you decided to move to this new place. Sometimes it happens that you were transferred suddenly e.g. and it could feel or you think you didn’t have a choice. When this is that case, you will have to go through this phase too. Comparing and only thinking about the negative sides doesn’t help you. What could be positive about this new move?
2) Meet new people and try to make new friends.
When you find yourself a couple of persons to do things together, to talk, to laugh, to eat or to go for a walk, you will feel more comfortable in your new place. Making new people can be scary in the beginning, but, it will be fun! Meeting people gives you the opportunity to learn about other cultures and gain new insights. It will support you, because you will soon find out you are not alone. The people you meet can also give you advises on nice activities in your city and country.
To meet people just go to places you like, such as the gym, a cooking class, yoga, international club, expat club or meet with mums or dads from Kindergarten and school. When you are doing things that interest you, there is a huge change you will meet people that could become your new friends. I would suggest you to try and meet locals as well as people who are -just like you- an expat or not from this country.
3) Explore and be a tourist and local in one!
Strap your boots on and go for a stroll in the parks, walk through the city, hike through the surroundings and explore. Explore your own neighborhood. Try new bakeries, supermarkets, new (coffee)bars and restaurants. Go to a museum, an art exhibition or a theater. This way you will get to know your new place much better. Find the (hidden)gems in your city or in your new country. What is beautiful? What are positive places for you in this new place? Where do you feel at ease, or where can you get new energy? Is it walking through the forest? Or maybe browse the local market, or sitting at a terrace watching people? Find yours and do it!
4) Learn the local language.
Yes, even when you are an English native speaker living in a country where a lot of people speak English to you. Not having time, or no talent to learn languages, is not an excuse! People will appreciate it and it will get them talking. Search for a language school that fits your needs and just do it.
You will need to learn the language. Speak it as much as you can. Watch the national television, read books or magazines (depending on which phase, you can start with children books). Listen to the radio and to other conversations. It will help you so much to feel more at ease, when you understand much more around you and will feel more independent and secure.
5) Give yourself some time to accommodate
Don’t be too hard on yourself; It takes some time to adjust and this time will be different for everyone. It is also very normal that you will feel moments of homesickness even when you are living abroad for a long time. Allow yourself to have these moments and accept it. You’ve had a history there so this will always have a special place in your heart and in your mind. Don’t blame yourself for experiencing all this, but allow yourself more time. Maybe you are thinking you should already have achieved something like finding a new job, mastering the new language well enough or that you haven’t found a new best friend.
Please reconsider. Is this really true? When you arrive in a new country and/or new city, you will always need time to adjust. You probably learned a lot of new things, settled down and probably the time before the move wasn’t quite relaxing, was it? So please, allow yourself some time and some space. Take a breath and for a moment do nothing. And think again. What goals do you have? Are they realistic? What have you already achieved? Think small, not big. So what have you achieved since you came here? (in case you moved you did managed piles of paperwork for everything. So you already managed some things and you survived). Now make some new small goals and work on them.
Allright, these are the first 5 tricks I'm giving you. In my next blog I will tell you more important tricks about what you can do to feel more at home in a new city and country. For now, try the first ones out, maybe you already did. I am curious, how did it go? What was going well? What did you like about it?