Moving to a new country is a big change. You might feel like you have landed in a strange new place and find it hard to get used to your new surroundings. People, food, smells, language — they may all be different! You might be missing home, especially if it is your first time living away from your family.
Homesickness is normal
It is normal to feel homesick while you get used to living in a new country – no matter how old you are or where you come from. The good news is that it does not usually last long.
Reducing homesickness is key to fitting into a new society and feeling at home. While it might be hard at first, gradually letting go of old routines and things you are used to and making new connections will help you to feel more at home in New Zealand.
What homesickness means
Homesickness is the mix of emotions that people experience when they leave their familiar home and find themselves in a new and unfamiliar environment. It is often a deep longing for home and can be associated with feeling upset or depressed. You may feel your usual way of life has been disrupted.
If you are feeling homesick you might:
- think a lot about how your life used to be
- miss your family and friends
- feel depressed or anxious
- avoid opportunities to mix with others
- be unable to focus on work or study.
Homesickness is very common - about half to three quarters of people have felt homesick at least once in their life. For 1 in 10 people, homesickness may last for a long time.
While you might feel embarrassed or find it hard to accept that you are homesick, often the best way to get over it is to acknowledge how you feel and talk about it with someone you trust.
Having a schedule and talking to family back home helped Philippines-born Mylene Mera settle into New Zealand.
Signs of homesickness
Homesickness has a range of physical, mental, behavioural and emotional symptoms or signs. You might have all of these symptoms or only some of them.
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep
- Stomach complaints, like diarrhoea
- Extreme tiredness
- Low energy
- Missing home a lot
- Thoughts about home that you cannot stop
- Negative or bad thoughts about your new environment
- Forgetting small things
- Lack of interest in anything
- Avoiding exertion or exercise
- Avoiding responsibility
- Seeking attention
- Feeling unhappy or depressed
- Feeling insecure or not in control
- Feeling nervous
- Felling lonely
While the symptoms of homesickness generally go away over time, it is still normal to miss home every now and then. This may happen more in quieter parts of the day, like when you wake up or go to bed or when you are doing things like reading or listening to music.
Ways to cope with homesickness
There are a few ways you can help yourself to feel better if you are feeling homesick.
Write a list
Write down a list of reasons why you moved. Include your hopes, expectations and goals.
A list can remind you about what you wanted to achieve by moving. Writing down your feelings can help you to organise your thoughts and feel better about your new environment.
Remember home is still there
It might help to remember that home is still there. If you find it too hard to cope with homesickness you can probably go back, even if it is just for a visit. But think carefully if you plan to return home to live - we tend to remember just the good things about home and forget about the bad.
Talk with your family back home
Call your family and friends back home if you can - but not too often. While hearing their voices might comfort you, calling too often might mean you are missing opportunities to get to know people around you.
Keep an open mind
Being in a new country means there are many new opportunities. As you meet new people and do new things your life will change and get better. It might not happen at first so be patient and keep an open mind.
Connect with your new environment
Find out about your new environment and explore what makes it special. Developing a connection with a place can help you feel more grounded and in control.
Depression and homesickness
It can be hard to know the difference between feelings of homesickness and depression, especially if you are experiencing both at the same time. The main signs and symptoms of depression include:
- feeling sad, tired and restless
- not wanting to do anything
- not enjoying things you used to
- feeling anxious
- no energy
- problems sleeping and concentrating
- thinking about self-harm or suicide.
As with homesickness, it is normal to feel sad sometimes. But if those feelings do not go away — even after your situation improves — you might need to seek help.
In New Zealand, our health system places great importance on mental health. If you have symptoms of depression for more than 2 weeks, or if you are feeling at risk of self-harm, help is available by phone, text, email and online.
Contact Depression Helpline if you would like to discuss your situation with a trained counsellor. They can help you find the right support.
- Phone 0800 111 757
- Text 4202
- Fill in the online form
This helpline is open all day (24 hours), every day of the year if you are in New Zealand.
Contact Anxiety Helpline if you are feeling very anxious, having panic attacks or have phobias (very afraid of everyday things). A trained therapist who will give you support and help you understand your anxiety and experiences.
- Phone 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
This helpline is open all day, every day of the year.
The Lowdown is a website that helps young people recognise and understand depression and anxiety.
Visit The Lowdown to find:
- helpful information on anxiety and depression
- steps to build mental wellbeing
- behaviours to help you get back to normal after a setback and cope better next time you are feeling down.
You can also talk to a counsellor for free by phone, text or webchat. Support counsellors are available all day, every day of the year.
- Phone 0800 111 757
- Text 5626
Meet Morgane and Etienne
Unexpected hobbies and a social, outdoor lifestyle have helped Morgane Le Brun and Etienne Buscarlet feel at home in Rotorua.
Ways to reduce homesickness
You can reduce feelings of homesickness by getting to know your new environment and the people around you. It is important not to isolate yourself as this might only make you feel more lonely. Getting involved in your community can help you feel included and create opportunities for making new friends.
There may be other people from your home country living in your community who have had similar experiences to you while settling in, including homesickness. They will know how you are feeling and may be willing to share their experiences of how they coped.
Here are some ways to get to know people in your community.
- Join community groups
- Connect with fellow migrants
- Get to know your co-workers
- Play a sport
- Join a night class
Here are some ways to meet people in your community.
- Find your people | Meetup
- Community Directory | Office of Ethnic Affairs
- New Zealand Newcomers Network
- Migrant Connect | Citizens Advice Bureau
Learn about the stages of settling in
All new migrants go through different emotions at different times as they settle into a new country. Understanding the stages of settling in can help you understand what you are going through when you are feeling homesick.