Moving abroad

Ask Expat Aunt: Help! I miss my friends and family back home

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Expatica's Aunt offers tips on how to ease the ache of not having loved ones close by, and how to deal with homesickness when living abroad.

Moving to a foreign country with a different language, culture and values system brings great challenges, and, hopefully, great rewards too. Make the best of living abroad by posting your questions to Expatica's experts, including the Expat Aunts and Uncles. Here, Mindful Mimi, deals with homesickness.

Living abroad

Sarah moved to a small town in the Jura last October. Having previously lived in Birmingham she misses city life and social interaction with a vast group of people. Harry lives in southern France and while he loves the area, he wishes he had someone to play badminton with. Alex took up a promotion and now lives in Zurich. She comes from a close knit family and her concern is that she is far away should something happen back home.

Does any of this sound familiar? Moving abroad can be a challenging experience but with great rewards, too.

In a 2009 Expatica survey, 49 percent of respondents stated that one of the greatest challenges on living in a foreign country was how much they missed their friends and family back home.

If you feel the same, the first question to ask yourself is: ‘What exactly do I miss?’ It may be the company of others, people to do things with, or even a sense of belonging.

The next question is: ‘What is it I want from my life in my new country?’

Once you understand what your needs are, you are better able to start addressing them. Take some uninterrupted time to ponder the following questions:

  • What do I miss most about my family?
  • What do I miss most about my friends?
  • What could I do to make the distance seem shorter?
  • How do I want to live here?
  • What more can I do for myself?
  • How important is this move for me?
  • How do I make this a successful experience?
  • What could I ask my family and friends to do for me?


If you come up against barriers, ask yourself what steps you can take to overcome these. Make a list (people who write things down are more likely to act on their list) and plan the steps you wish to take.

Focus on what it is that persuaded you to make the move in the first place. It often helps to have a visual representation of this close to hand (a picture of an appealing landscape, a person out walking, wine tasting or maybe money).

Examine the options that exist to make new friends, for example, online sites cater to expats all over the world and detail activities you can join in. Check out Expatica's community pages, for example, or see which meetup groups are in your area. Many European cities also have their own expat sites. Invite your neighbours over, get involved with the village committees, if you live in the countryside help with the summer fete, or start a reading or walking group.

Many communications companies offer inexpensive packages that include calls to all European destinations at no additional cost. Skype enables free calls to other Skype users. Webcams let you see loved ones as often as you wish. So you're never too far away to touch base with your home country.

See your move as a brilliant opportunity to expand your circle of friends and the chance to offer your nearest and dearest somewhere marvellous to come and visit. You'll hopefully start to feel a little less homesick as you embrace the positive aspects of your adopted country.

Expat Aunt Janice Barnett / Expatica

Mindful Mimi is Expatica Luxembourg's Expat Aunt, who understands what it’s like to be an expat here. Write to her to seek advice and tips on how to make the best of life in Luxembourg, by going to Ask the Expert and selecting Expat Aunt & Uncle or clicking straight through to her expert profile.

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