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Balance Matters: Cure for expat homesickness

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: When I first arrived in Thailand more than 20 years ago, I was filled with excitement and a sense of adventure. I was eager to learn the language and immerse myself in a new culture. I did just that. I explored every crevice of this amazing country and its dramatic landscapes by train, bus and
motorbike. I filled myself with every exotic plate of street food available, learned to communicate on a pretty reasonable level and worked alongside my host community.

But after the honeymoon phase was over, thoughts of my friends and my family back in the UK slowly but increasingly occupied my mind. “Why?” I asked myself. After all, wasn’t I the one who wanted to get away from the dark, cold, grey winter nights, dreary soap operas and reality TV, the obligation of visiting family members on the weekends, the loud mob youths and swearing customers in the pub? What was it that I was hankering for? What was causing these pangs of homesickness?

For me, it all began when my first son was born. I started to miss my friends and family back home in Blighty. I craved the support of my family in raising my son and desperately wanted them to be more involved in his upbringing.

I felt that we were missing out on important celebrations: birthdays, Christmas, weddings and the birth of my niece and nephews. So, I figured that I had two choices: stop complaining and go home; or stop complaining, take on the challenge and make it work here. I decided to make it work here.

I invested time in organizing baby groups, I met a new circle of friends – and I am grateful that most of them are still in the country. I set up a small business to keep myself busy (as if raising a child was not enough). I gave myself time to adjust.

Homesickness affects us when we move to a new location and experience new people, situations and demands to which we are not accustomed. Homesickness comes from our innate need for love,
protection and security. We don’t always get these feelings and qualities in a new environment, and are left feeling a sense of loss, almost like grief, with real physical and emotional symptoms. It’s quite normal and most people bounce back from it over time. Others find this loss quite intense and may need to seek support.

Here are a few tips for battling homesickness:

MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Get out and make new friends. Join a social group such as Internations, make friends on Chicky Net, or if you are feeling really homesick go and hang out with your kindred spirits at one of the numerous expat bars or pubs on the island.

Sports clubs such as Thanyapura or Royal Phuket Marina offer numerous classes and social events, which enable you to both get fit and make new friends. Join a local boxing club, the Ao Chalong Yacht Club or create a new club and promote it on Meetup or Linkedin.

Business associations like AMCHAM or The International Business Association of Phuket are great

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avenues for connecting with people for both work and social purposes.

Ladies can become involved in the Phuket International Women’s Club and I believe there is a Grumpy Old Men’s Society to boot. Check out volunteer opportunities. Become more involved in your children’s school.

By staying social and meeting new people with similar interests, we can ward off our feelings of loneliness. Sharing your feelings with people who understand or who are going through the same situation can be helpful.

POSITIVE SELF TALK

It takes a bit of time to get over homesickness. Recognize this and give it time. Push away negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful messages. Instead of saying “Phuket is not right for me. I need to go home,” you might try saying “Phuket has some challenges. I need some more time to adjust. These feelings are normal”. By embracing new ways of thinking, you are likely to decrease your feelings of homesickness.

STAY BUSY

Take the bull by the horns. Learn a new hobby. Learn to sail, golf or box. Volunteer to work at one of the island’s numerous charities. Getting your work completed, completing chores around the house, doing anything that keeps you productive and focused will help you ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness.

REALIZE THAT IT’S NORMAL

All of us have had times when we have felt lonely. Stay on top of it. Try and look forward to all the new opportunities Phuket has for you.

So, the takeaway is, yes, we all miss certain aspects of being away from home. We miss it because there are some things that we love and are attached to. What we can do is try and reduce the intensity to which we feel homesick. Learning new skills can help us deal with our emotions and other people.

Look forward to what is ahead of you. Focus on breathtaking new experiences. Remember that you only have one life, so make the most of it.

— Rita Dobson

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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