What is often unstated, and unasked, is the emotional impact of moving to a country and culture far away from your own. Recently, on http://www.expatexchange.ie/, I saw the following cry for help:
"I have lived in Portlaoise for the last year and am wondering if there are any other expats around. I am from California and would like to know if there are other US citizens or people from other countries interested in chatting about life in Ireland. There is an expat group that meets monthly in Dublin, but the timing and distance makes it hard to get to the meet-ups...maybe if there are a few people interested we can start up some sort of group for the midlands. I've been really homesick lately and would like to hear from anyone else who is nervously facing down another Irish winter. "
Living abroad combines a sense of adventure with a sense of being a 'fish out of water'. Being an expatriate for any length of time is a roller-coaster of emotion: moving from the 'highs' of experiencing the excitement and joy of a completely different culture and adapting to it, to the 'lows' of sadness and even despair, because you may be far away from friends, family, loved ones and a culture and nation that you love.
And anyway, you can't get Bisquick over here. And suddenly, that becomes a huge problem! Or at least it seems like it... When that happens, the world seems grey and grim indeed. Colours aren't as bright, and the journey of moving to a new country can seem not only daunting, but soul destroying.
What to Do?
So what do you do when those 'lows' get too low? And it's important to recognise that you're low, and to take appropriate action: Lows can - and do - lead to depression. Over the years, I've experienced this darkness of despair, and know other expats who have felt the same way.
For what it's worth - and I'm no psychologist - here's what I've done in the past and present when Homesickness gets a little too much:
1. Go Home for a Visit - when I first moved here in '82, I didn't return to the United States for four whole years. I didn't go back for one simple reason: I was broke and couldn't afford it. And I missed my 'home' sorely. Back then, airfares were horrendously high. But now, things are different.
If you really miss home, and the world seems grey, for God's sake go back for a few days or a few weeks. A whole range of airlines now operate out of Ireland bound for the United States and North America: Aer Lingus, Continental, Delta, Air Canada... You can fly into Boston, Atlanta, Chicago... and from there, anywhere in the US. And prices are relatively cheap! So if you miss home, Go! Right now, not later! Go walk the streets where you lived. Go hug friends and family. Go to assure yourself that nothing has really changed back there, and that if it becomes truly hard, you really can change your mind and go home. You have that right! And I've found that by knowing I have a choice, living here is also my choice, and a choice that I make every day.
2. Talk About It - do you have a local friend or spouse that's empathetic to your needs and wants? If so, share your feelings of occasional loneliness and isolation with them. Find someone 'safe', and be truly honest with them. Tell them what you like about Ireland. But also tell them what you don't like, or are frustrated with. Being allowed the privilege of 'venting' truly helps.