I’m sure some of us are familiar with homesickness: the lurching, grapple-at-your-heart ache when you long to be somewhere else. Moving abroad can sure be challenging.
Whether you moved temporarily for university or long-term for a job, after the initial excitement of exploring and getting to know a new place has worn off you, only to be left with the unnerving reality that you have to “start again”.
Homesickness can manifest itself in different ways, some people isolate themselves and try to curb their loneliness with TV programmes or podcasts. Others may spend all their time communicating with family and friends back home.
Each individual deals with being home-sick differently, and you have to find a coping mechanism that suits you. To help you do just that, we explain and list some useful tips for combating homesickness.
What is homesickness?
Homesickness is defined as the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects. It is characterized by acute longing and preoccupying thoughts of home.”
Sounds familiar? This definition may apply to your homesickness in the Netherlands.
Who gets homesick?
Basically, anyone who is in a non-home environment for a prolonged period of time. This could even include kids at summer camp, or who have been hospitalized for a prolonged period of time.
Typically, homesickness affects immigrants, foreign students, foreign employees, refugees, displaced people, or military personnel.
Anyone (of any age group) can experience it in such circumstances, and the way homesickness manifests varies between children and adults.
For example, children are more likely to experience social or behavioural problems when homesick. Adolescents in an academic setting are more likely to experience absentmindedness, nontraumatic ailments, low self-esteem or obsessive thoughts or behaviours.
Adults may experience depression or anxiety symptoms, have difficulty focusing or concentrating, or withdraw socially.
What can you do to prevent being homesick?
Being homesick is not easy to beat, so it’s better to come prepared as much as possible. Therefore we’ve comprised some tips and tricks to help you stop homesickness in its track.
Initiate social contact with others before arrival
There are plenty of Facebook groups, for example, that help you accomplish just that.
As an American, I only recently joined Americans in the Netherlands where there are plenty of posts from people who are planning to move to the Netherlands in the near future.
Make friends with a mixture of homeland friends and host-country friends
Limiting yourself to predominantly homeland friends can get in the way of acculturation and intensify feelings of homesickness.
Maintain healthy lifestyle choices
As challenging as that can be for some, eating and drinking well, sleeping enough, and getting regular exercise can make a big difference.
Take for example how, among university students, the increased exposure to unhealthy behaviours may develop into maladaptive coping behaviours such as binge drinking or drug use. Healthy behaviours can go a long way in support of mental and physical health.
Develop your sense of self-compassion
Negative thoughts and self-criticisms are so easy and potentially even automatic to fall into as a foreigner. Remember to be kind and forgive to yourself for the variety of hurdles you’ll inevitably encounter.
How can you treat your homesickness?
Even if you pull out all the stops to cope with homesickness, sometimes it just doesn’t work. But there are remedies to make you feel a little less separated from your home.
Talk to others about your feelings of missing home
Homesickness is a mental health problem, which means we need to normalize discussions about it.
Talking about how you feel may initially induce a bit of anxiety, but it can ultimately increase your preparedness and confidence.
Find ways to reduce acculturation stress
This can mean getting more information about your new environment, finding community groups that share your interests, and potentially finding community groups that celebrate your homeland’s traditions.
Connecting with other expats, e.g. through social events organized for expats is one example to help with developing both personal and professional networks.
Recognise when to ask for help
This goes for anyone, but especially for international students, knowing what your options are for professional or lay resources, on or off-campus can be an important connection to address more difficult issues.
For expats, finding helpful resources through an expat centre, health insurance, or an occupational health physician (bedrijfsarts) is a be potential option to look into.
Mental health note: If you or a loved one are experiencing psychological problems or suicidal thoughts in the Netherlands, please call the suicide prevention hotline 113 or refer to www.113.nl for resources and assistance — DutchReview loves you. 💓
Finally, remember that treatment for homesickness is a gradual process, not an immediate fix — be kind and power through. 💪
Have you ever experienced homesickness in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018, and was fully updated in July 2022 for your reading pleasure.