I’m sure many expats, international students, globetrotters, and nomadic souls will agree with me when I say that you can view several places as your home at the same time. When you move to a new place, whether you live there for months or years, you will inevitably develop an attachment to it and the people you meet there. The mere mention of this second home later in life — a picture or a song you listened to whilst living there — will be all it takes to bring memories flooding back and that pang of nostalgia that we all know so well will hit you.
It may sound strange to even talk about homesickness with regard to somewhere that is not our “real” home, but you can indeed feel a true homesickness for this “second” home. In many ways, this emotion is much the same as the homesickness you feel for your original home. However, it might be accompanied by a peculiar feeling when you realize that you are suddenly missing another place in exactly the same way.
Here are five tell-tale signs that you have been hit by homesickness for your “home away from home”.
1) You often consider jumping on the next flight back.
If you weren’t constrained by your budget, you would probably end up going from one place to the next constantly, and back again, just so you don’t end up missing any of them. Whenever the homesickness for your second, or even third or fourth, home starts to set in, you begin to think about when will be the earliest time you can return. Not only do you want to see all your friends again, but you also want to revisit the old haunts you created so many brilliant memories in.
2) You spend a large amount of time looking at photos and keepsakes.
Photos are a great way to remind you of all the brilliant times you have had. If you’re feeling homesick for a place where you have lived for a while, you will probably find yourself looking up old photos or digging up other mementos from there. Whether it’s the stereotypical tourist shot you took when you arrived in your new home, the tacky souvenir you bought in your first few days, or the group photos from an evening with your friends, or the farewell gift you received from your colleagues, you will inevitably look at them often and wish you could go back.
3) You miss the culture and language of your second home.
Everywhere has its own culture and language or dialect. After you leave the place you called home for however long, you will inevitably miss the cultural norms you slowly started taking for granted as you settled in there. You may have begun to learn the local language, too. Now you might be left with nobody to speak it with, making you long for the days when you could just step out the door and hear it on a daily basis.
After leaving this place, you will seek out ways to stay connected with the things you learned to love about it. Maybe it will be a novel in the language so you can remember the culture while practicing your language skills. If films or music are more your thing, you will surely end up watching and listing to media you discovered abroad or perhaps even trying to find new songs or TV shows to make it feel like you are still connected to the place that stole your heart. Perhaps you will even attend expat events in order to meet expatriates from this place and thus to keep in touch with its language and culture.
4) You miss the food you could get only there.
When thinking about culture, we mustn’t forget about food. After a certain amount of time living somewhere, you will almost certainly learn to love its dishes no matter how strange they may have seemed to you when you first arrived. Like your home town, your adopted home will have its own traditional food, which either just isn’t the same elsewhere or is downright impossible to find.
If you start to feel the pangs of homesickness for your second home, perhaps you will try to make these delicacies. This could work out really well — or it might leave you feeling disappointed and more homesick than ever. But you should take the risk regardless; it will be a culinary adventure at the very least.
5) You may feel crazy, but it all makes sense.
Whilst you might sound a bit crazy explaining that you are homesick for a place you don’t actually come from to someone who has never lived abroad, there are plenty of others around the world who understand your situation perfectly. I have met people who have lived in too many places to count and are homesick for each one all at the same time.
Once you settle in a place and grow to truly appreciate the local culture, it becomes a part of you and your character in a way that will never go away. Without the little quirks that exist only in that place you will feel a slight emptiness. But you know that you would do it all again in a heartbeat — after all, the amazing experiences you had there have made you who you are today.
Stephanie Crosby is a student at the University of Bath, studying German, Italian, and European Studies. Currently on her year abroad, she has lived in Italy, appreciating the excellent local food and wine for six months, and is now living in Munich trying to learn to love beer and finding the time to travel to as many places as possible. She is currently an intern in the Content and Communications Team at InterNations, before returning to Bath to finish her degree.
(Image credit: iStockphoto)