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Moving Abroad: Expatriate Homesickness

Expatriate Homesickness - Tips for Coping with Homesickness

Expat Homesickness is Normal!

In the Let the Adventure Begin! article series, one of the most common refrains will be that perception is everything. How you interpret your reactions to what you encounter abroad, internally and externally, can largely determine how you perceive the level of success for your time abroad.

For example, when someone is about to speak in public, they will typically be nervous. This may include shaking hands, uneasy stomach, sweating, etc. How you perceive those symptoms is what matters most, not that you have them. The best public speakers will view those symptoms as part of the fun, while those with terrible stage fright may consider them a sign of the failure they are about to experience.

And it's not much different for the expatriate experience. You should expect to get homesick - most people do. If you perceive that as just part of the adventure, you'll likely be fine. However, if you see it as a sign that you can't make it abroad, there is potential for problems to escalate. Police your thoughts and viewpoints to make sure you are looking at the experience in a way that will help you settle in abroad!

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If you find yourself homesick, make sure you have done your best to feel connected in some way to your former life. Have a few photos, watch movies and listen to music that reminds you of what you long for, and talk on the phone or e-mail old friends and family members. However, you still have to stay focused on the present and what you need to do to settle into the expatriate lifestyle. Think of where you are as being one part of your life's journey. Ask yourself, honestly, if you are really trying to settle in and adjust. If not, what do you have to do to make that happen? Make a list, and then tackle each item one at a time, one day at a time.

If you or one of your loved ones do find it hard to adjust, there are some signs of depression you should be aware of to help nip problems in the bud before they spiral into crises.

Most people know that depression can involve feelings of sadness, but there are many others. Men, and some women, too, can become angry, irritable and hostile when they are depressed. Fatigue, crying without reason, restlessness, loss of interest in work, activities and sex are all signs to take seriously. Some people find it hard to make decisions or concentrate.

As a therapist, one of the most maddening aspects of the profession is the stigma that still remains for counseling. It's the primary reason that most people are in the midst of a full blown crisis before they go for counseling or therapy. Don't let this happen to you while you are abroad! If you or anyone in your family is not adjusting well to life abroad, utilize the resources available to you. It may or may not involve counseling or therapy, but if what you are currently doing is not working, you have to try a different approach. Take action and find a way for you and your loved one to fully embrace and enjoy your life abroad.

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This Issue Written by Joshua Wood

Joshua Wood is one of the owners of In addition to expatriates and international relocation, he has written about numerous other topics over the last 15 years. He is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist, and one of his primary areas of interest is the psychological impact of international relocation.

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