The Psychological Underpinningsof Homesickness in International Expats

The Homesickness Phenomenon: A Deeper Understanding

Moving to a new country presents a wealth of new experiences, however, for many international expats, this transition is often shadowed by the profound sense of homesickness. In the backdrop of the Netherlands’ picturesque landscapes and dynamic cultural scene, this phenomenon unfolds, providing unique insights into the emotional challenges that expats face. Homesickness encompasses a deep longing for the familiarity and comfort of one’s home environment, catalyzed by a sense of uprootedness and separation from the known. In the context of international expats, the feeling of homesickness can be more pronounced due to a range of factors.

Age and Cognitive Flexibility: The Interplay

Among international expats, homesickness varies across different age groups. Typically, older individuals who move to a new country may encounter more intense feelings of homesickness. The reasons are multifaceted, including their ingrained routines, established social connections, and a potentially reduced cognitive flexibility that makes adapting to new surroundings more challenging. Conversely, younger individuals, especially those in their adolescent years, may exhibit more resilience to homesickness. Their ability to adapt to new environments, thanks to greater cognitive flexibility, coupled with an increased proficiency in digital communication technologies, can significantly buffer the impact of homesickness.

The Solitary Expat: The Hardship of Distance

The hardship of moving abroad often intensifies for those who undertake this journey alone, leaving their families behind. Apart from confronting cultural and linguistic differences, these individuals grapple with the absence of their immediate support network. This situation can be further complicated by demanding work schedules and performance pressures, which can limit opportunities for social integration and heighten feelings of isolation and homesickness.

Cultural Differences and Language Barriers: An Added Layer

The strain of adapting to a new culture and language can contribute to feelings of homesickness. The struggle to identify with their new environment and the longing for their home, where cultural and linguistic elements are innately familiar, exacerbate this emotional discomfort. Misinterpretations due to cultural differences in communication can sometimes deepen this sense of isolation.


Homesickness, while a universal emotion, takes on distinct contours in the lives of international expats. The convergence of factors such as age, solitary relocation, and cultural differences intensifies this experience, highlighting the need for more tailored psychological support for this group. As we continue our research, our focus will be on crafting strategies that can mitigate these challenges, fostering a sense of security and belonging among international expats.

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