Most of us would like to go somewhere exotic and new. But when you are asked to travel abroad, you can find yourself wishing you went back home.
You could bit by bit adjust to your new culture and surrounding, but I would argue that you can never get fully acclimatized if you do. Sometimes, the best approach is to dive into the deep end of the pool, and indulge yourself in what is interesting and new about where you are.
Here are five tips which I found through my own experiences to be particularly useful for how to avoid homesickness and enjoy where you are staying.
1. Do the tourist stuff first
If you are heading to a tourist hotspot like Paris, most of the locals will generally stay away from the tourist areas and tourists. In Hawaii, locals have been so hostile towards tourists that the state had to launch a campaign to urge them to be polite and not drive them away.
So before you settle down in your new country and become another tourist-hating local, do the tourist stuff first. Most tourist attractions are a good way to learn about the history and culture, and you probably won't have the time to visit such spots when you are working. So see the hots spots during the short stretch between your initial arrival and when you start working.
2. Be careful with Skype and social media
Thanks to the Internet, you are never totally disconnected from your friends and family back home. And setting some time down to chat with them every now and then can help avoid homesickness.
But while they are great tools, you can overdo it. If you spend too much time seeing what your friends are doing on Facebook or Skype, then you are just going to be even more homesick when you are not talking to them. Try to keep focused on the new world around you, and not the old world back home.
And be aware that sometimes, using social media overseas can be dangerous.
This advice is particularly relevant for Americans traveling abroad. Pretty much anywhere else is friendlier to walkers than the United States, which is why you find so many running machines in senior care homes like GYC. Take advantage.
Walking is a great way to know your neighborhood and the local culture. Shopkeepers will be happy to give you advice if you are friendly, and you can run into people who you would not have met otherwise. One of my more interesting experiences was being stopped by an elderly gentlemen who was curious to know more about me because I was a foreigner.
And of course, it is great exercise.
You may need that exercise depending on what the food is like. Food is the centerpiece of so many cultures, and there are always new dishes you can try regardless of where you stay.
If you find a lot of the food to be strange, that is understandable. But under no circumstances should you be that foolish expat who lives off of McDonald's three meals a day. Try to adapt to local fare, and you should eventually get use to and maybe even enjoy it.
5. Find Social Networks
You can read all the guides you want, but the best help you can find for living abroad is other, local expatriates.
So seek them out. Internations.org is a great website for meeting expats online, and your work or school may know other communities. Reach to expat communities is a great way of making friends who know both your culture and the local, helping you to adjust while keeping a familiar world in your sights.