20 April 2013

If You're Feeling Homesick

I started to write a long story explaining how this letter came to be, and then decided that none of those details really mattered. Suffice it to say that I had reached my "cultural difference" tolerance quota for the day, burned a pot of rice (a dish that I've made correctly at least a hundred times), cried alot, and found comfort through the friend of a friend.
When living in a new country you sometimes have to relearn simple skills that you've previously mastered in a new way.  You'll also probably suck at some of them, at least until you get a bit more practice. There are days that I adore living in France, and days when I feel like I just can't do anything right here. 
I even burn the rice. 
So without further ado here is the letter she sent me (published with permission). I hope it comforts someone else as well.

"Aww I really feel for your friend. It is really hard - new husband, new language, new money, new culture etc. I would tell her that the first year of marriage is hard enough but pair that with being in a different country, away from family and friends well that's even harder. I don't know about your friend but I wasn't allowed to work when I first moved over - but I would say, if she is tell her to get a job. It helps, it really does. I did find working hard too (but I was straight out of university and into an office job m-f 9-5 which was also a huge difference - but got used to it fairly quickly). She'll develop her own friends easier if she's working or doing something to get out there.

I would tell her husband to be patient and to help her as much as he can - her life has just changed completely! And while it's all for amazing reasons the amount of changes is huge and she needs time to adjust. She needs a safe environment to confide her feelings - even if she needs to cry on his shoulder for no reason.

Skype/telephone/messenger/google chat/facebook....are all brilliant for connecting back home. I didn't really have that much in my first year but I do now.

Please tell her, she will adjust to her new life. It will take time though - these are not little changes.

I was just talking to a friend from Australia and she also said it's a huge adjustment. So the things she's feeling and having a hard time with - a lot of us in similar situations have felt.

I must admit I have a resurgence of some of these feelings since having my daughter. I feel really guilty for the fact my mom and dad don't get to see her. When we video she says something like 'I wish I could just hold her' or 'I just want to pinch those little cheeks' and I feel bad that she can't and it's unfair that she can't.

It might help her if she can join in with any ex-patriate activities (I am assuming she's American). The consulates do meet ups and activities for ex-pats. I have a friend who is American (though I wish I knew her when I first moved) and it's nice just to talk to someone who understands these things or knows what you are talking about from home. For me, Thanksgiving is a big thing. I make sure I do a big thanksgiving each year. It's hard for me as I know people don't understand the holiday other than it's a big gathering where they get loads of food! But I like doing it - for me (and now I will for my daughter). I invite my American friend around and it's nice for us to enjoy an American holiday together.

I suppose the best (and possibly least helpful) bit of information is - it will get better. It does = it's hard to believe at the time. It takes awhile but it does. She will one day settle in with out even thinking about it (believe me been revisiting this one since having a baby). Its not to say that homesickness doesn't go away but it eases as she builds her home and relationships there. There will be certain times when she'll feel particularly homesick, but if she can't afford flights there is internet. It makes things so much easier.


I hope I could bring some comfort to your friend. I wish her all the best with her new life! "


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