How to Deal with Homesickness as an Expat

Image result for parks and rec meme ron

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.

Get Perspective

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.

Get Active

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.