Feeling homesick in a foreign country? Moving abroad in no way means that you need to forget where you came from! In fact, staying in touch with your roots can make you feel more at home when abroad. So, here are some ways to bring a touch of home to your expat lifestyle.
7 ways to feel more at home when you’re abroad
1. The expat mindset
If you want to feel more comfortable when living abroad, it all starts with one major element: the expat mindset. The expat mindset (my own term) basically means that you embrace the new culture, are open to changes, and are prepared to learn to adapt. For the majority of people, moving abroad is not easy. You have to re-learn simple things like how to use public transportation, where the good restaurants are, or even where food is in the grocery store. When you perceive these elements as part of the journey, they become less challenging. And once you get to know how everything works and adapt to those changes, the more at home you’ll end up feeling. It is indeed true that the more familiar something becomes, the more like home it feels.
2. Celebrate holidays from your home country
When I moved to Germany from the US, one of the things that helped me to feel at home was to celebrate Thanksgiving. Although it’s becoming more popular, the majority of my friends here hadn’t celebrated it before. I really missed this time with family and thought, why not celebrate it with friends instead? I always make traditional American food like pumpkin pie and stuffing. For anyone who joins, I suggest that they bring traditional food from their home country. So even though it’s not Thanksgiving like it was in America, the concept of being thankful for good friends is still fully present. With friends from around the globe, it never hurts to celebrate more holidays with great food!
3. Get to know the language and culture
Language and culture are inherently intertwined, and Germany is no exception. My biggest advice for anyone moving to Germany and wondering how they can be more comfortable here is to learn German. Even though the language is new, you will certainly feel more at home when you can communicate with everyone. Plus, when you speak the language, a lot of aspects of daily life will become far less challenging. When you know the language, you’ll also understand the culture, which makes it easier to adapt to. Embrace those differences, and the foreign country that you live in will soon feel like a new home.
4. Make friends your family
If your family is far away like mine, you have to create a new set of family with friends instead. I always tend to gravitate towards other expats, because they’ve gone through similar experiences as me. They’ve struggled to learn new languages, get how hard it can be to miss family, and also understand the importance of finding people who fully support you. Having people you can rely on when problems arise makes a new country that much easier to handle. When you have that support, it relaxes you and you feel that much more comfortable living abroad.
5. Bring a few keepsakes
Before you move, I’d definitely recommend packing a few things that remind you of home. For me it was two blankets that my grandma handsewed for me. I still use them as my bed covers to this day and it always makes me feel safer when I sleep. Just because you move abroad, doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to throw your old life out the window. Instead, focus on how you can bring the two together where you live. When you bring sentimental items with you, the memories are much more present and you can still have a piece of home with you wherever you go.
6. Find your favourite local places
Food is a huge part of my life. I love cooking and eating out with friends to try new food, and I’ve always done so on a pretty regular basis. When I first moved to Hamburg (who to be honest doesn’t have the most captivating food scene), I really struggled to enjoy eating out here the way I used to. So, I decided to make it my mission to find the good food here. Surprisingly, there are quite a few places if you know where to look. After some time, I’ve become the sort of restaurant dictionary for friends that are looking for good restaurants here, which gives me the feeling that I’ve become more of a local. I made Hamburg into my home because I’ve found the places I enjoy spending time at. For me it’s restaurants, but you can do this with any sort of activity, whether it be discovering the best parks, bars, or specific areas of a city.
7. Host visitors from your family and friends
If you’re truly missing your loved ones back home, invite them to come and visit you. I was ecstatic when my aunt and uncle came to visit me in Hamburg, not only to see them, but also because I realised how I had created a new home here and wanted to share with them how great it was. During their visit, I noticed how accustomed I was to the Hamburg way of life and it made me proud to live here.
If your goal is to live abroad long term, you will eventually need to adapt and integrate in order to feel at home there. But this doesn’t mean you need to let go of who you were before. My advice is to combine the best of both worlds so that both places can feel like home.