I’m back in Tuscany and feeling a little homesick. If you’re an expat, you might be familiar with the roller coaster of emotions that is part of the package. Saying you miss family and friends is a vast understatement. You don’t just miss people. You miss places. You miss the comfort of the familiar. You miss the habits and haunts you used to have and if you live in a country that doesn’t speak your language, you miss that too.
Homesickness isn’t something that really ever goes away. I don’t feel it as strongly as I did in my first year, but it’s always in the background. Since you can’t get rid of it, you need to deal with it!
I’ve developed a few techniques.
keep reminders close
If you visit my house, it’s a veritable museum of things that remind me of Australia. I don’t mean blow up kangaroos and Australian flags. I have photos of my family and friends framed in every room. My husband said you’d be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t live here since there are so few photos of him. It sounds cruel, but I see him every day. I don’t need photos. My family and friends take centre stage.
One of the nicest things you can do is put together a few shots of your home town or city and frame them as art with meaning. It can be as simple as a multiple-photo frame with iconic black and white photos from home.
celebrate the things you love from home
I was never very patriotic when I lived in Australia. Now I tear up every time I see a koala. It’s ridiculous, but you embrace it as a homesickness salve. So I celebrate Australia Day and Melbourne Cup Day and stream Australian radio stations and television shows. I even watch the Australian coverage of Eurovision!! I’ve found the more you keep up with things, the more you feel connected to home. So don’t delete that newspaper subscription. Read your own favourite newspaper or magazine online.
cook from the heart
I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the ways I first made friends in Italy was by cooking my own cuisine for very curious dinner guests. Food is also a cure for homesickness. I make ANZAC biscuits, mince pies and hot cross buns because they remind me of home and because I used to eat them all the time in Australia. I’m even tempted to frame a jar of Vegemite because it’s Australia to a tee!
But it’s not just about cooking the food your country is famous for, but also the dishes that remind you of home. For me, it’s my nonna’s cooking, which is actually Italian food, but Southern Italian food that you wouldn’t otherwise taste in Tuscany.
keep in touch
Sounds like a no brainer, but it’s actually a lot harder than you think especially when you’re dealing with a 10-hour time difference. I have a friend who calls her mother every day. That’s a little extreme. I try to keep in touch with the people closest to me – my mother and grandmother – with weekly phone calls. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes, but you have to remember that they are missing you too! There are plenty of options out there, but I’ve found Facebook chat to be the best for tach savvy friends and good old Skype for those relatives who don’t have the internet.
It’s really easy to lose contact with friends once you move overseas, so make an effort to stay in touch even if that just means keeping up a regular WhatsApp chat group or organising Skype catch up sessions. Me and my closest friends try to chat on Skype at least twice a month and it makes a huge difference.
be a busy bee
This might feel like it has no connection to homesickness, but the busier you are, the less you’ll miss home. If you’re hanging around the house feeling sorry for yourself, well, you’ll feel sorry for yourself. Find a job or a hobby or something to keep your days full. Get out and join a gym or club and make friends.
The number one tip to surviving expat life is to find a reason to be wherever you are beyond the original reason you came here. So if you moved overseas for love or work or school, find other reasons to be there. That’s really the only way you’ll come to love the place you’re in and start considering it home.