Homesickness in the Netherlands: What is homesickness?
“Homesickness is 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.” – This may apply to your homesickness in the Netherlands.
Who gets it?
Anyone who is in a non-home environment for a prolonged period of time, so this could include even kids who are at summer camp or hospitalized for a prolonged period of time. More typically, it affects immigrants, foreign students, foreign employees, refugees, displaced people, or military.
Also, anyone of any age in these circumstances can experience it, and how homesickness manifests varies between children and adults. For example, children are more likely to experience social or behavior problems; adolescents in an academic setting more likely experience absentmindedness, nontraumatic ailments, low self-esteem or obsessive thoughts or behaviors. Adults may experience depression or anxiety symptoms, have difficulty focusing or concentrating, or withdraw socially.
What can you do to prevent homesickness?
(The recommendations that follow are adapted from this reference.)
- Initiate social contact with others before arrival. There are plenty of Facebook groups, for example, that enable this to happen. For example, as an American I only recently joined Americans in the Netherlands but there are plenty of posts from people who are planning to move here in the near future.
- Make friends with a mixture of homeland friends and host-country friends. Having predominantly homeland friends can get in the way of acculturation and intensify feelings of homesickness.
- Make or keep healthy lifestyle choices. As difficult as that can be for a certain some (abroad or not), eating and drinking well, sleeping enough, and getting regular exercise can make a big difference. Among university students, for example, increased exposure to unhealthy behaviors may develop into maladaptive coping behaviors, e.g. binge drinking or drug use. Healthy behaviors can go a long way in support of mental and physical health.
- Develop your sense of self-compassion. Negative thoughts self-criticisms are so easy and potentially even automatic to fall into as a foreigner. Be kind and forgiving to yourself for the variety of hurdles you’ll inevitably encounter.
What can you do to treat homesickness?
- Talk to others about feelings of missing home. Homesickness is a form of mental health issue, which unfortunately also means there’s a need to normalize discussion about it. Talking about how you feel may initially induce a bit of anxiety, but 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 sharing your interests, and potentially finding community groups that celebrate your homeland traditions. For example, connecting with other expats, e.g. through social events organized for expats, can help with developing both personal and professional networks.
- Recognize when to ask for help. 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 resources through an expat center, through health insurance or an occupational health physician (or bedrijfsarts) could be potential options.
Finally, remember that treatment for homesickness is a gradual process, not an immediate fix!
Have you ever had homesickness in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to join our Facebook group while you’re here. 😉