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Expat Guilt: how to deal with homesickness when living overseas

Living overseas as an expat is an exciting and rewarding experience, offering opportunities for personal growth, cultural immersion and career advancement. So why are so many of us consumed by the guilt of leaving our old lives behind? And how do we deal with homesickness?

Expat guilt is more common than you might think and lead thousands of us to believe we’ve made a huge mistake. With around 56.8 million expatriates living all over the world, and expats making up almost 30% of the Australian population, it helps to know you’re not suffering alone. Thankfully, there are proven ways to cope with expat guilt and make the most of your international journey.

What is Expat Guilt?

Expat guilt is a common emotional struggle that the majority of people face when moving to a different country. It manifests as feelings of unease that arise when you are away from your home country, family, and friends. Many people experience overwhelming guilt that they’ve abandoned those that matter in pursuit of their own selfish enjoyment.

Those that experience expat guilt often convince themselves that they’ve done something terrible and reproach themselves for quitting on the ones they love. Those that don’t experience this type tend to have expat guilt of another nature: not making the most of their time spent overseas. In both cases, the anxiety becomes unbearable and quickly spoils the time spent in a different country.

How to Deal With Homesickness

Most of us have experienced homesickness at some point or another, but none more so than those who have relocated for a permanent or indefinite amount of time. The familiar, predictable atmosphere where we have spent a large portion of our lives is no longer there to comfort us.

Instead, there are lots of new things to come to terms with and grow accustomed to. With a new culture and a totally different way of life, living in a new country provokes waves of homesickness at the most unexpected of times.

Taking steps to prevent or banish expat guilt is the key to overcoming homesickness and enjoying the transition to living in Australia. Here’s how:

Acknowledge and Accept Your Feelings

Remember that expat guilt is a normal and natural emotional response to being away from home. Give yourself time to process your feelings and emotions, recognizing and acknowledging when you feel homesick rather than suppressing it entirely. 

Understand that it’s okay to miss your loved ones and feel a sense of longing for your home country. After all, you’ve likely spent the majority of your life there. It’s as much a part of you as you are a part of it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move on.

By accepting these emotions, you can begin to work through them more effectively and learn to love your new environment.

Being kind to yourself is the first step in how to deal with homesickness.

Stay Connected

Maintaining strong connections with your family and friends back home is crucial for coping with expat guilt. Take advantage of modern technology and stay in regular contact through video calls, emails, or social media. Set aside dedicated time for catching up with loved ones, sharing experiences, and seeking their support when needed. 

Staying in touch with your friends and family back home not only alleviates the guilt associated with being a long way from home but maintains ties in a world that feels more familiar. Your loved ones can help give you the confidence to adapt to a new way of life.

Be Forgiving

Maintaining long-distance friendships is not easy. No matter how hard you try, or how much effort you give, some friendships won’t stand the test of time. Relationships with friends, family, and loved ones are two-way streets, and you can’t force the other party into maintaining their part of the bargain.

Adopt a forgiving mindset, remembering that people have busy lives with various commitments. Their lack of effort isn’t a reflection on you but merely symbolises the many changes we face in life. Focus on those who make the effort, and immerse yourself in the experience of a lifetime.

Establish a Support Network

Making new friends is just as crucial for minimising expat guilt as staying connected with old ones. Building a support network with fellow expats or locals in your host country can make a significant difference in your overall well-being. 

Seek out social groups, expat communities, or professional organisations that align with your interests or background and make time to engage with like-minded individuals who understand your unique experience. 

Your new support network will not only help you to experience Australia like a local but alleviate feelings of isolation as you form friendships sure to last a lifetime.

Read how to make new friends in Sydney here.

Embrace Your Host Culture

Culture shock is a very real phenomenon that affects those navigating a new cultural environment. The process of transitioning from one culture to another is disorientating and often evokes strong feelings of homesickness. Potentially even more so when it comes to trying to fit into a new workplace.

Immersing yourself in the local culture can help alleviate feelings of expat guilt and homesickness and foster a sense of belonging. Expats should dedicate time to explore and understand the customs, traditions, and values of their host country by engaging in cultural activities, learning the language, and building friendships with locals. 

By embracing your host culture, you’ll deepen your connection to the place you now call home and replace expat guilt with feelings of joy and fulfilment and discover how to deal with homesickness.

How to deal with Homesickness and expat guilt

Focus on Personal Growth

Living abroad presents a myriad of opportunities for personal growth and development and re-directing your energy towards self-improvement can help alleviate expat guilt

Engage in activities that align with your interests, whether it’s pursuing a new hobby, learning a new skill, or taking up a volunteer role. With beautiful natural landscapes and 3 million square miles to explore, there are plenty of ways to incorporate self-care and personal growth into your expat journey.

Expanding your horizons and investing in personal growth will not only help you overcome expat guilt but also enhance your overall experience living abroad.

Practice Self-care

Expat guilt can sometimes lead to neglecting self-care, which further exacerbates emotional strain. Take care of your physical and mental well-being by prioritising self-care activities. 

Engage in regular exercise, practice mindfulness or meditation, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough rest. Additionally, explore your host country, indulge in new experiences, and take breaks to relax and recharge. 

By prioritising self-care, you can better manage expat guilt and maintain a positive outlook on your life abroad.

How to deal with homesickness

Living overseas as an expatriate is a remarkable adventure, but it often comes with the emotional burden of crippling expat guilt

By acknowledging your feelings, staying connected with loved ones, building a support network, embracing the local culture, focusing on personal growth, and practising self-care, you can effectively cope with expat guilt and make the most of your time abroad. 

Australia is a vast and varied place that over 7.6 million migrants call home. Though you may have thrown yourself in at the deep end, it’s not too late to swim. Remember that it’s natural to miss your home country, but it’s equally important to embrace the opportunities and experiences that living overseas can offer. Embrace the journey and let go of expat guilt as you navigate the exciting world of life overseas.

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