Ron Swanson is my hero. – (Photo from Pinterest)
Lately, I’ve been watching Parks and Rec. Which is an amazing show, if we forget Season 1 exists. But there’s a problem I have when I watch it (aside from watching way too much, but that’s everyone’s problem so it’s not special). I start to miss America big time. Which is odd, since most of the show pokes fun at all the problems in America, like obesity and ridiculous food problems and racism and such. And yet, for some mysterious reason, I start to miss home. I miss making fun of those giant drinks you get from Sonic with the most delicious ice. (C’mon now, they really do have the best ice.)
I miss the way things work. Maybe that’s it. I miss understanding everything that’s happening around me. I miss getting the jokes and cracking one-liners about my own culture that other people will get. I miss that. I miss feeling like I belong.
Homesickness comes in waves. It’s not always there. Sometimes I have the opposite of homesickness, where I’m sick of home. Which, then, should also…be…called….homesickness? No, it’s wanderlust. When I get tired of belonging and knowing everything and have to go. Geez y’all. I’m a mess. I’m an expat.
Currently, I miss things like Walmart and Taco Bueno and malls where all the stores have clothes that fit me. What a concept.
I also really miss Hobby Lobby and libraries. Those might be two of the things I miss most as an expat. I can’t craft like I used to because I can’t figure out where to buy stuff. And I miss libraries so much it’s nearly physical pain. Alright, tuck your snarky comments away.
Here are my steps to getting over homesickness.
Don’t Watch Parks and Rec
Or other American shows that might make you remember the best parts of your old life and give you rosy glasses. Everything annoying about your past becomes endearing when you look back on it. Some kind of Retro-Doppler Effect. The future is always rushing towards you screaming anxiety-ridden diatribes about how you should be HUSTLING NOW, and the past is lengthened into happy front-porch rocking goodness.
And awareness. Knowing that you’re idolizing your old life can help in getting perspective. Snap out of it and try to recall the bad stuff too. The reasons you wanted to leave in the first place. It wasn’t working for you. It might work in the future, but right now you have a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow and experience another culture, so accept where you are. And remember that there is good and bad in every country and every job.
Homesickness really hits when I’m not doing anything. I’m moping about at home after a long day at work and remembering how at least when I was at home, my comfort food was only a short drive away. But when I’m actively engaged in my life here, I don’t get as homesick. When I’m writing, eating with friends, playing D&D, or boxing, I’m busy living and not missing the things I don’t have.
Accept an Imbalance
You may never conquer homesickness. Some people might be able to fully leave their old life behind and sink into their new life forever. But for me, and for most of my expat friends, we’ll always have that part of us that loves home. Our native culture will always be an integral part of who we are. Home is home, after all. I still have two distinct images in my head when I think of ‘home.’ Two opposite truths that define me.
That will never change. Whether I go back full time to America or travel the rest of my life, one of my homes will always be in America, with my family. I will always feel the tension of being pulled in two directions. But maybe that means my life will be fuller. That tension will keep me on my toes. It will keep me aware of what I’m feeling and doing, and it will help me keep perspective when I relate to other people and cultures.
I’m okay with that. Sure, it means that when I’m in Korea I miss America terribly, and after two weeks in America on vacation, I’m itching to get back to Korea. I’m okay with that.
As long as I don’t watch Parks and Rec.
6 thoughts on “How to Deal with Homesickness as an Expat”
Hoping I get the opportunity to live abroad at some point–I’ve always imagined you learn so much about yourself. Your post confirms that!
I hope you do too! It is a fantastic learning opportunity, and an adventure as well. Mostly… 😉
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Two years ago when I went home to Hawaii, I nervously went through Immigration (why? who knows, habit?) and after the Imm officer stamped my passport he said, “Welcome home, Ms. Cox.” and I just loved it. I was thinking about that moment this morning, actually. I also loved the fact that everyone in the queue gave me distance – space! – I stifled a giggle. Seriously. I was giddy over this.
I’ve been meaning to watch Parks and Rec. I’d probably love it. Recently, we watched The Office (all seasons), but it didn’t make me homesick. I think b/c I have a partner to laugh and share these things with. There are times though, when I do miss that belonging you talk about, but then again, I never felt like I belonged in the US, either. Hence, the great frequency in which I moved – searching, looking for a place called home.Not sure if I will ever find it, but I think Hawaii will be considered ‘home’…
I so get you! The first time I went back home after living abroad I had the same thing happen (maybe Immi workers are supposed to do that) and it nearly made me cry. I was so happy. And yeah, personal space….I miss it!
I often wonder if I wouldn’t ever miss home if I had a partner, but I don’t think so. I really love the atmosphere of my home, and I was escaping myself when I left, not anything around me. I did feel like I didn’t fit in, but I’m beginning to think that was just me not knowing myself. I didn’t fit…myself? I’m not making sense. I’m still figuring all that out.
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Thank you for sharing! I’ve currently been in Israel for one year now (home is Canada for me), and homesickness has definitely been an ongoing rollercoaster ride. This was a very helpful read and has put some things into perspective for me. 😊
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I’m glad to hear it! A rollercoaster is a good way to put it – some days are fine, some days aren’t. Best of luck to you!