24 Feb 2013 | Christine Fischer

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Anyone can get homesick. It is a normal response to missing familiar surroundings. You can feel homesick on your first day of school, on your first day of work, or even if you're on vacation. You can certainly feel homesick when you're an expat, an immigrant or asylum seeker. However, it is a feeling that can be managed.


See, hear, speak and learn


Firstly, it is important to recognise that you feel homesick. It is important to know that nostalgia for home can also be accompanied by physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal complaints, headache, fatigue, poor sleep, decreased appetite, and even crying. In the autumn, for example, I am sometimes sad, and I realise the sadness may have been prompted from eating an apple donut from a hometown apple orchard that a friend FedExed me. When we move it is natural to miss those things we cherish. It is a loss, albeit a small one, that we should recognise.

Secondly, it is important to talk about being homesick. You can do this with a friend, neighbour, family member, mental health professional or an employee of a community centre. For instance this is an excellent time to call friends who are in the same nostalgic boat so to speak. Maybe call a friend with whom you've studied Dutch or a neighbour who has had similar experiences.


Old and new

Thirdly, if possible, surround yourself with things that remind you of home, including photos, music or food. For example, I celebrate not only the Dutch holidays but also my own holidays like Thanksgiving. Each year I endeavour at that time to have special food in the house: a large turkey with bread stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

Fourth, get to know your new home. Go around and explore the possibilities in the area, such as courses, services, clubs, or shops. The better you know the neighbourhood, the more you will feel at home in your new location. If you find it uncomfortable to do this alone, you can do it with others. Making friends is a great help in reducing homesickness. I walk regularly with friends through Den Haag. There are so many exciting and new things to see. Even better, bring a camera and take pictures of your new community. Sharing with others where you live now will make it feel more like home.

However, above all, you must have realistic expectations. Getting rid of homesickness takes time. Feeling at home is not without obstacles. Even after 12 years of living in Holland I still struggle to understand the flow of Dutch traffic. Additionally, if you know someone who is homesick, why not try making that person feel at home by sharing in his or her culture. And above all, stay friendly and polite. A smile brightens even the greyest day.

Have a multicultural story to tell? Share it with Christine Fischer, our diversity trainer. She's looking to interview people to speak about their identities and culture for her blog Fischer's Fireside Chats.

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