There is a science behind why you crave comfort food when you feel sad or isolated. One research found that people with strong relationships preferred the taste of comfort food when they experienced feelings of social isolation. When you are feeling out of place, even the smell of a meaningful dish can elicit feelings of belonging, other research suggests. This might explain why you crave that special dish from home when you are feeling particularly homesick. Part of staying healthy while living abroad is tending to your emotional needs, and that can often include ensuring that you are engaging in techniques to fight off homesickness when it sets in. By crafting a taste, or even smell and feel, of the home you feel yourself missing, you can cure homesickness and continue to enjoy your life abroad.
What Exactly is Homesickness?
One study in the journal Pediatrics describes homesickness as “the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” The onset of homesickness can be caused by a variety of factors and can appear without notice, even when you feel like you are adjusted to a new place. This might manifest itself in various ways, such as a craving for a specific food, the longing to watch your favorite local TV channel, or even a special smell that reminds you of your family or partner. While it might make you a little emotional at first, this feeling is actually a great opportunity to force yourself to get out into the community and craft a schedule for yourself in a new culture.
Locate an International Food Store
In most major cities all across the world you should be able to find an international market or even a section of a normal supermarket that is dedicated to international foods. This is often where most American, British and Australian expats satiate their intense desire for local foods they cannot find elsewhere, but these markets often offer a wider variety of foods from all over Europe, Asia and even South America. Find your nearest store and stock up on ingredients that you can use to make your favorite food and drink.
Coordinate a Weekly Potluck
As part of a healthy homesickness adjustment routine,it is a good idea to reach out to your local support system whether at school, work or even within the community and form friendships in the new culture. This will help you immerse yourself in the new culture while also crafting lifelong friendships that will remind you why you are abroad in the first place. Engage in a hobby with these new friends, get out in the community and plan a weekly potluck where you can take turns making foods from your local cultures.
Learn New Things About Food & Drink
Weekly cooking nights are not only a great way to indulge in the tastes of your native cuisine and calm a bit of the nostalgia you feel, it is a great way to taste flavors from other cultures and be introduced to new methods of cooking as well. Make it a point to always learn new things at each potluck, such as how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, how to use different spices in new dishes or even how to handmake a certain type of food. If you want to take it a step further, you can make it a point to go on a cooking tour or even take classes that will allow you to find new, creative ways to cook the food you miss from home.
Bring a Taste of Home with You Abroad
If you know you are prone to homesickness or particularly love a certain food, be sure to bring a few packets, boxes or cans of it from home with you before you travel. Along with food, you might want to pack your favorite drink, candle, perfume, or even clothing item that will allow you to feel a sense of comfort when you reach for it in your new place abroad. It is important to remember that homesickness is a passing emotion and that by proactively engaging in techniques to soothe the nostalgia you feel, you will find yourself back to normal in no time and enjoying the sights, tastes, smells and experiences of your new home.