‘I Wish I Were at Home!’ : Stop homesickness before it stops you

by Nicole Karsch-Meibom
Contributing writer

You always wanted to come to Germany, but now that you’re here, you’re no longer happy. You feel lonely and estranged in a foreign country because your friends and family are thousands of kilometers away. Everything is different. You hardly want to leave the house.

Stop! This is homesickness and you can do something to combat it!
Homesickness is when you long for home — for your family and friends — while you’re absent from them. It is usually associated with grief, depression and adjustment disorders, all of which can affect people psychologically and emotionally.

Medical research has shown that homesickness could ultimately lead to psychological damage.

While nobody wants to admit it, the feeling of homesickness is actually widespread.
Although scientific research on the topic is still meager, many people living abroad have experienced this on their own.

Mark Heeter, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Public Affairs officer, said he remembers feeling lonely and homesick when he first arrived.

“It was on my first weekend here in Germany. I had just come over from the states as a young Soldier and I wanted to go out. But I wasn’t even able to read any signs or dare to venture outside,” he said. “That made me realize very
clearly that I needed to learn the language. So, I got started. With that, I was soon able to do things like go to the bakery on my own. Eventually, I even started making friends with some German people. So, today, I almost feel homesick when I am in the USA.”

Experienced traveler and writer Hyde Flippo (“About German,”  www.aboutgerman.net) had similar advice.

“I think if people are busy and involved in the new culture, they don’t have time to be homesick,” he said.

Flippo, a long-term expert on living abroad, created several webpages to help expats feel at home. An important aspect, he points out, is
the “Trailing Spouse Syndrome.”

“Normally, the working partner has an easier time adjusting to the new culture because of the work environment, familiar tasks and a daily routine. The kids have friends at school and their own daily routine. The ‘trailing spouse’ (usually the wife), on the other hand, may feel isolated and adrift after the expat honeymoon period,” he said. “Forewarned is forearmed. Everyone in the family should be aware of the possibility of the ‘trailing spouse syndrome’ and work to avoid it.” 

While homesickness can even lead to inertia, it can be successfully fought with the opposite: get active, get involved.

“The way to overcome homesickness is to meet new friends and get acclimated to your surroundings,” said Relocation Readiness Program Manager Roderick Amodia.
While some need to get outside the gate, others might need to stay within a familiar environment on post in the beginning.

“There are various places and programs throughout the base,” Amodia said, “like the Teen Center at Vogelweh where young people can gather around and play video games, instruments or just watch movies.”

For adults, Amodia offered another special program.

“Culture College 101 is a two day course. The first day is an overview of the KMC, Army Community Service, and learning a few German phrases. The second day includes a tour of downtown Kaisers-lautern on a local bus, where participants go sightseeing and eat lunch at a German restaurant, Amodia said. “That’s a great way to get to acclimate to your community,” he said.

For more information on these programs, call 493-4203 or 0631-3406-4203.
More of Flippo’s advice can be found online at http://www.german-way.com/expat_topics2.html.

For a health guide against homesickness, go online and check out http://www.