Embarking on a new adventure in a foreign land is exhilarating, but alongside the excitement of exploring a new world comes the challenge of homesickness. You physically separate from your loved ones when you move. You miss many special days like birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Sometimes you may need a family member’s shoulder to cry on, or you may feel sad because you miss the birth of your niece. In this blog post, we’ll try to delve into the emotional rollercoaster of homesickness and find solutions to help you overcome homesickness.
Homesickness can be seen as a form of separation anxiety, linked to the ‘loss’ of a familiar environment and the ‘mourning’ that ensues. It’s a longing not just for the physical place of home, but for the psychological constructs of security, familiarity, and the integral parts of our identity tied to our home environment.
Homesickness, much like a child’s separation anxiety from their primary caregiver, can be understood as a manifestation of the fear of losing the “object” that has been a source of security and comfort. In this case, the “object” is our home environment — our family, friends, familiar sights, sounds, and routines. We all form our identity around this home environment. It is expected to feel homesick when we first become separated from it.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Recognizing the symptoms of homesickness is an essential first step in addressing it. You may feel a deep sense of loneliness and longing for the familiarity of your home country. Your emotions can fluctuate between sadness and frustration, making it difficult to adjust to my new life. Some common signs of homesickness include:
- Constantly thinking about your home country, family, and friends
- Feeling lonely and isolated, even when surrounded by people
- Struggling to adapt to new customs, language, and social norms
- Experiencing mood swings, irritability, or sadness
- Developing physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or sleep disturbances
Addressing Homesickness: Tips for Expats
Stay Connected: Schedule a weekly video call with your family to discuss your experiences in the Netherlands, share updates from home, and maintain a strong emotional connection.
Establish a Routine: Continue your favorite exercise routine from home, such as jogging or yoga, to maintain a sense of familiarity and stability in your new surroundings.
Embrace Local Culture: Participate in traditional Dutch celebrations, such as King’s Day or Sinterklaas, to learn about local customs and forge connections with Dutch locals.
Build a Support Network: Join a language exchange group or a local sports team to meet new people and develop a supportive network of friends in the Netherlands.
Practice Self-Care: Dedicate time each day for relaxation and mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing, to manage stress and maintain emotional well-being.
Give Yourself Time: Be gentle with yourself and remember that it’s normal to experience ups and downs as you adjust to life in the Netherlands. Accept that some days will be more challenging than others, and trust that, with time, you will feel more at home.
Seek Professional Help: Reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in expat adjustment issues to discuss your feelings of homesickness and develop strategies for coping and thriving in your new environment.
Homesickness is a natural and common emotional challenge faced by expats in the Netherlands and around the world. It is important to accept that you are going through a big change in your life, and it will cause some difficulties. With time, patience, and perseverance, you’ll soon discover that your new life in the Netherlands is full of exciting opportunities and rewarding experiences. Remember that seeking professional help is always an option if you find yourself struggling to cope.
Bowlby, J. (1960). Separation anxiety. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 41, 89–113.
Hack-Polay, D. (2012). When home isn’t home: A study of homesickness and coping strategies among migrant workers and expatriates. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(3), 62–72.