Moving to Turkey is much more complicated than simply packing up your home and heading to Turkey to buy property in Kalkan or Bodrum villas. While the experience of moving abroad is exciting and eye-opening, it can also be challenging.
Homesickness is a common affliction affecting newcomers to Turkey. Its symptoms include:
- Nostalgia: a preoccupation with thoughts of home and constantly comparing it to your new location.
- Depression: feeling helpless and sad. Experiencing difficulties at work or school, and withdrawing from social situations.
- Anxiety: feeling stressed, having obsessive thoughts and find it hard to concentrate.
- Abnormal behaviours: Changes in diet, social interaction, headaches.
As you can see, homesickness can affect us in the most surprising of ways. Read on to discover a few coping strategies to carry you through your period of adjustment and out the other side.
1. Find out what’s causing it
Despite its name, homesickness might not have anything to do with your actual home. It comes from a very human desire for connection, love and security. Some research even shows that homesickness is a kind of grief, similar to mourning a break up or death. One you understand what’s behind it, you might have a better ideal of how to deal with it.
2. Surround yourself with familiar things
Having much-loved things from “home” around you can provide an anchor to your identity, easing feelings of homesickness. Photos of family, or items related your cultural identity will help you feel connected. However, don’t make your surroundings a shrine to your homeland - start assimilating a few new objects you find along the way. It doesn’t have to be “things” - you could listen to some Turkish music or watch a Turkish soap opera.
3. Do things you liked to do at home
Studies show that doing things you feel nostalgic about can help with homesick. It’s the sense of ritual and tradition that foster feelings of connectedness. Try eating your favourite foods, joining a club you belonged to at home, taking up an old hobby in a new place. You could even take your new Turkish friends along with you - strengthening the connection between the familiar and the new environment.
4. Talk about your feelings
There’s an enduring myth that talking about being homesick can make it worse. But research shows that the opposite is true: talking about your feelings can help alleviate homesickness, and not acknowledging them at all can make you feel worse. Reach out to a friend or a family member.
5. Keep a diary
Writing it all down will help you make sense of everything going on in your new environment. Studies show this kind of self reflection can be very helpful in a new environment. In your writing, try and focus on the positive. If you do track the negative feelings and experiences, take time to think and write about why you feel as you do. The diary will be a useful way to look back at your progress and see how far you’ve come.
6. Go for a walk
Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals. Endorphins help fight anxiety, stress and depression - common symptoms of homesickness. Where possible, exercise with other people, turning your workout into a social occasion.
7. Speak with family and friends back home - but not too much
Talking with loved ones in your home country might help you feel supported and connected - but try and stick with a schedule, and set limits for how long and how often you’ll talk. This way you won’t let nostalgia keep you from experiencing your new life.
8. Limit social media
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, and social media makes it worse. When you’re feeling homesick, looking at the pictures of friends having fun or happy status updates can make you feel isolated and miserable. Limit time on Facebook or Twitter to a short period each day or each week so you don’t find yourself dwelling on your friends back home.
9. Eat healthy food
Negative feelings sometimes manifest in bad eating habits, like sugar or fried food. This will only make you feel worse. Fortunately in Turkey it’s easy to find freshly cooked, wholesome food and amazing produce. Going to markets and restaurants is a good way to get out and explore, too.
10. Make one or two good friends from home
While making friends in your new home is a great way to get involved in local culture, sometimes only someone from your own country will understand how you’re feeling. Connect with another expat or two from your own country - but try not to fall into the expat trap of hanging out exclusively with people from back home.
11. Get involved
Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but getting involved is the best way to stay active and develop a strong social network in Turkey. Join a club, a sport or a book group. Volunteer - and never turn down an invitation. You’ll soon learn to appreciate the unique aspects of your new surroundings.
12. Learn the lingo
Not knowing the local language can be a huge barrier to belonging. Before you've even thought about buying property for sale in Ovacik or Calis, learn some basic phrases, and when you’ve arrived take some language classes. You’ll start to feel more confident and in control of your new life once you are able to communicate with people around you. And of course, learning the language opens the doors to new friendships, too.
13. Give it time
You might feel disappointed when, after two weeks, or six weeks or two months you still aren’t in love with your new environment. You might know others who have adapted faster. Well, be patient. Know that with a bit of perseverance, a time will come when you’ll feel at home, and the early, awkward settling in period will all be a distant memory.
14. Make a bucket list
Fire up Google and start researching local attractions in your city. Find a few places you’d like to explore: cafes, day-hikes, local waterfalls, and write them all down. Challenge yourself to visit one each week, for example. It’ll give you something to do and keep you focussed on upcoming adventures. Visiting all these cool places will also remind you why you moved to Turkey in the first place.
15. Stick to a routine
Routine gives structure and purpose to your day. Without it, you can feel anchorless and without direction - exacerbating those feelings of homesickness. Having a job helps, of course, but if you’ve moved to Turkey to retire or don’t have a job yet, make sure you get up at the same time each day and sketch out a schedule for yourself. Even if that schedule just involves taking strolls and visiting the local market, you’ll still benefit from the sense of purpose.
16. Do one thing every day that scares you
Stepping out of your comfort zone forces you to face your fears head on. By confronting your fears you will start to feel in control of them and you’ll soon start to feel like your new environment is a safe and happy place - rather than a foreign and unaccommodating one.
17. Don’t feel guilty for indulging in a bit of “home”
When moving abroad many people put pressure on themselves to get involved and assimilate into their new culture. Of course, this is the most helpful way to adapt and acclimatise, but you don’t have to completely distance yourself. It’s totally fine to head to an expat bar every now and again, buy overpriced food from your home, or meet friends from your own country. A taste of home can be a huge comfort and a reminder of where you’re from. After all, you’re not Turkish and never will be - so why pretend otherwise?
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