Home is a fluid concept to expats. While you may feel perfectly at home where you’ve moved, it’s normal to miss and long for the people and comforts of home. When it’s impossible for you to fly home for a few days, you can still bridge the distance between your expat home and the home you left behind. Staying connected to home as an expat can give you a much-needed boost when you’re missing the people, customs, and flavors you grew up with.
Eat something from back home
When you’re abroad, it may be difficult to find the things you’re used to eating. Chances are, the local cuisine is made up of different foods, different spices, and different methods of cooking than you had back home. But trying to track down familiar foods abroad can be a fun project, which can sometimes connect you to other expats in the area who brought those flavors from overseas. You may want to look for ethnic restaurants that remind you of home. And when you find weird and unsatisfying versions of the foods you love, you can resort to cooking things from back home. You’d be surprised the obscure ingredients you can find in small convenience stores and weekly farmer’s markets.
Holidays are such a uniquely national thing. Even as someone who has lived abroad for several years, it’s hard for me to know what the customs are for different local holidays. But when my social media is blowing up with photos of people celebrating Thanksgiving or the 4th of July back home, I know exactly what I’m missing. This doesn’t have to get you down. Pop in your favorite holiday movie, cook an elaborate dinner, or buy some sparklers and go barbecue at a park. Sometimes expat bars and restaurants have special menus or events to celebrate abroad. Nothing has to stop you from celebrating holidays away from home.
Nurture your long-distance friendships
Sometimes we want to immerse ourselves so deeply in our new home that we neglect the important relationships we left behind. But technology makes it easy to stay in the lives of friends and family. Schedule video chats, send each other mail, make plans to meet up somewhere. You might be surprised to find that maintaining good relationships overseas is not much harder than doing it when you’re living a regular life in the same city. The challenges may be slightly different, but with a little effort, it’ll feel like you never left.
Meet other expats
Being around other people who don’t speak your native language can get old. Sometimes you want to talk about current events or your favorite sports team with someone to whom these topics aren’t foreign. Meet up groups make it easy for you to connect with expats from your home country, so you can speak your language, share your favorite beer, and complain about the government. You won’t even have to explain what “shoot the breeze” means.
Celebrate home locally
Maybe it’s just me, but I have a deeper appreciation for home when I’m thousands of miles away from it. So find the most beautiful photo you have of your hometown and have it framed. Attend parties and festivals celebrating to your culture. These are sometimes put on by foreign embassies in town or local expat communities. They may be few and far between (unless you’re Hispanic and live in the Czech Republic – then they’re like every fucking weekend), but they give you a chance to share your culture with people in your new home and experience a small slice of it even when you’re away.
Pick up a hobby that reminds you of home
Whether it’s salsa dancing or origami, every country and culture has its own pastimes. Being an expat doesn’t mean immediately picking up all new hobbies and interests. A good way to incorporate more of your home in your day to day life is to do something you used to do back home or grew up around. So join a dance club or a sport team or knit the way your mother taught you when you were little. A hobby is a good way to stay in touch with your identity when your identity is kind of all over the place.
For as long as I’ve lived away from home, I’ve never gone even a year without visiting. If you want to feel connected to home as an expat, there’s really no better substitute for being around familiar faces, places, and experiences. Though it’s expensive, visiting home is always a good way to get your fix of home until next time.