In 2006 a publication from the Institute for Public Policy Research estimated that around 5.5 million British-born people were living outside of the United Kingdom. Due to their being no legal requirement for UK citizens to register their move overseas, these figures probably aren’t entirely accurate, but whatever the figure is in 2014 and however happy you are abroad, homesickness happens to all of us.
As a British person who spent a brief period living in Australia before settling in the United States, I’ve found the best way to tackle homesickness is keeping in touch with my roots. A feat made easier by the existence of the internet. Imagining you watch Downton Abbey in your spare time, how do you think people coped back then with being abroad? Letters, word of mouth, newspapers and the occasional visit? It’s a maddening thought. I couldn’t live without technology to keep me in touch with home.
Keeping in touch with friends and family
Social media ensures I communicate directly with friends and family from back home. Facebook status updates, browsing through the latest pictures on their Instagram accounts, laughing at their tweets, and emailing to let them know about my life. And when mere communication isn’t enough and I want to connect further, I find out what interests them today and learn all about it.
Staying in touch with culture
Keeping in touch with the culture you’ve left behind is harder than anticipated. Often you find when you’re living abroad that the locals misunderstand your sense of humour, don’t appreciate the TV shows you grew up watching, or see the significance of certain attributes that make you British. Tea for example; our nation’s favourite hot beverage is enjoyed the world over, but the obsession is considerably less in other countries. Confusion over why I spend so much time searching for and craving PG Tips teabags is a constant topic of conversation. (Although it has recently been revealed by singer Liane La Havas that the singer Prince is a fan of the brand.)
Products are just so different abroad. In the US Cadbury’s chocolate is sold, but you pay more than double for the privilege, basic headache tablets are branded differently, and if you ask for a bag of chips, you get crisps, not the ‘chunky fries’ Brits know to be chips. Adjustment happens naturally, but it doesn’t stop you squealing with excitement when you find something obscurely British like Marmite in the States.
The odd things
The oddest things set off homesickness too. When I lived in Australia finding people, British or Australian, who understood my sense of humour, made me want for home. The heavens can open up without warning during a picnic in the park, and the feel of the rain and the smells remind me of Britain’s unpredictable weather.
Thank goodness for social media is all I’ll say. For all it’s faults, it does do those of us living abroad a service.