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Three Times I Wanted to Move Back Home

When moving abroad, a culture shock phase that brings homesickness with it seems unavoidable. Despite the fact that this phase doesn’t have much appeal, more and more people are eager to leave their bubble and burst into a new life somewhere entirely different. Although they have accepted the challenges that come with settling into a new place, struggles and hardships still appear and thoughts of moving back home are on the daily agenda. Language barriers, cultural differences, and social isolation are three factors that can considerably influence your expat experience and make you feel blue.

The Time I Cried on a Sidewalk Faraway

One of the reasons that you might think of home and how easy and comfortable it was to speak your own language and be understood can be common misunderstandings, as well as difficulties explaining yourself, or simply not understanding a word of the local language.

This kind of reminiscing only disrupts your expat experience and hinders you in settling in properly with a positive and openminded attitude. Surely there will be the times that you take the wrong train and, like me, end up in the countryside, where no one speaks your language, spend the rest of your day sitting on the sidewalk, crying the blues and looking up cheap flights back home.

At the end of the day, you get back up, you make an effort and change your mindset. The smallest effort, like enrolling in a language class can boost your attitude towards your new home. There you’ll meet other newcomers, who are also trying to overcome culture shock and with whom you can connect and turn over a new leaf.

The Time I Saw People Eating “Raw” Fish on The Streets

No matter if you are craving the good bread and sausage from Germany or the fresh fish and veggies from Italy, everyone misses their home cooked meals at one point during their expat experience. Food culture is a big part of feeling at home in a country and as an expat you are bound to encounter some weird eating habits that will make you long for that one heavenly dish from home. There will be times, when the local food overwhelms all your senses, like the soused herring from Holland that made me question the existence of good food in the Netherlands and resulted in an online order of German Bratwursts.

Looking back, I regret that I wasn’t brave enough in the beginning to actually try the herring, but at the time the overwhelming smell and unappetizing display was too much for me to handle. 

Lesson learned! The number one rule when it comes to cultural differences, is to be ready to try new things and be eager to experience the unknown, let it be food, music, or cultural festivities. Naturally you will question new experiences, but it won’t take away your curiosity that drives you as an expat and if you are a foodie like me and are new in town, I suggest you go out and eat your way through the menu. After all, the way to one’s heart is through the stomach!

The Time I Was Rejected by the “In” Crowd

As an expat you’re bound to be the odd one out at first. You are new, you don’t know anyone, and you’ve basically been catapulted back to the first day of school, when making friends essentially determines your entire experience.

Feeling isolated and unwelcome can easily happen if you shy away from new connections and opportunities that could result in making true friends. Leave your comfort sweater at home, go out and mingle!

Of course, unsuccessful meet ups occasionally happen. One time I went to a birthday party of a new colleague and was immediately rejected by the group, resulting in a rather uncomfortable and isolated evening. In these moments it is hard not to think of home, where longtime friends and family reside, but you shouldn’t start obsessing about it either. Surely, it’s natural to regret missing those milestone birthdays, hometown weddings and Christmas dinner with your own crowd, but don’t let that put a damper on your new exciting life.

There is no aspirin for homesickness, the only cure is socializing — be it by grabbing a beer with colleagues after work, looking for a partner on dating websites, or attending group activities with other expats who are rocking’ in the same boat. Whatever you decide to do to be social, it will affect your mindset on your new life immensely and provide you with a certain comfort. Soon you will realize, that culture shock is nothing but a phase.

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