You are thousands of miles away from home, far away from everything you ever knew. Everything reminds you of home and you long to see something familiar—even if that something is one of the things you ran away from, such as snow.
What is this you’re feeling? From my experience, when living abroad for extended periods of time, it becomes inevitable that one experiences one form or another of homesickness. While on previous experiences abroad I suffered from very little homesickness, in the last few months in Hong Kong, I’ve been missing my hometown, longing to see my friends and family and most surprisingly, some familiar Canadian snow. This for me had been something I had never expected to feel.
What has arguably been the most effective way (for me) of dealing with my homesickness has been to “bring Canada to Hong Kong.” Here are a few ways I’ve been able to do this:
Having Canadian friends in the city and also working with two other Canadians makes it much easier to deal with homesickness since there are people who can better understand and relate to the things you miss—such as “everything” bagels with garlic cream cheese from Timmies, or cheering for your local hockey team. Being able to share jokes and stories helps you become aware of the fact that you’re not alone and you really aren’t that far away from home. You often aren’t far away from other Canadians realistically, no matter where you are.
The Internet literally allows us to bring the world to our desktops. Being able to stay in touch through email or Skype is makes sharing photos, chatting or seeing the familiar faces of friends and family easy.
Before I left for my internship, a friend of mine gave me some pictures to take with me. I stuck them to a wall at home and smile each time I see them. For me, this is a daily reminder of some of the past adventures that I’ve had and it encourages me to continue experiencing new things.
I just recently had some friends from home visit and I was surprised by how much they opened my eyes. Eight months into my life here and I had already forgotten the initial culture shock I had experienced when I first arrived.
Why are the streets so crowded at all times of the day?
Why are there so many malls?
Why is stinky tofu so stinky?
How much is that in Canadian dollars?
I was able to see all these questions on their faces, the same things that had run through my mind not that long ago. In hindsight, they ended up giving me a new sense of appreciation for my environment. Somehow seeing my friends in this new environment, I’ve realized how much Hong Kong has become like home to me now.
In the end, I think most people will experience homesickness to varying degrees and will use different methods to cope. Whatever you choose to do it’s important that you strike a good balance between remembering the good times from the past, enjoying the present and looking positively toward the future. While you are missing your home country now, it is also inevitable that you will miss this new home once you’ve left.