When moving abroad, it can take time to settle into your new home. Far away from friends, family, and familiar surroundings, you may occasionally feel isolated or overwhelmed. This page was developed with input from Crosscare Youth Counselling Services, based on a study Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project (formerly Crosscare Migrant Project) undertook a study of 500 recent emigrants to ask about their experiences of living abroad. Through this study, we identified the key issues facing Irish emigrants abroad and some of the best ways of looking after yourself. The quotations featured below are some of the direct responses from this research.
Homesickness is common among emigrants. Homesickness can be triggered by many different factors.
Common Triggers of Homesickness:
- Family events such as birthdays, anniversaries, engagement parties, or the birth of children
- Inability to travel home when loved ones are sick or have passed away
- Missing events with friends such as big matches or birthdays that you would love to attend
- Public or religious holidays where friends and family would usually get together
- When you are in touch with family or friends back home either by phone or social media
Homesickness can also be brought on when you are adjusting to a new place or culture. This is manifested through feelings of loneliness or isolation which are a normal part of adjusting to new surroundings and people.
Coping Mechanisms for Homesickness
Contact with Friends or Family
Planning regular contact with family and friends and keeping updated on life back home can help. Remember stress is a normal evolutionary human response to change. If you find you are struggling with anxiety, sadness, and worry, try to share these natural feelings of loss of the familiar with a trusted family member or friend who can listen. It is wise to share and support yourself. It is best for you and for those who love you.
Many people recommend platforms such as video calls useful as opposed to Facebook or Instagram, as they are more personal than interacting through posts and pictures:
“Delete Facebook, download Whatsapp and create group chats with close friends at home, Skype/call family once a week.”
Dealing with homesickness is a unique personal process. Sometimes reflecting on your emigration experience and exploring the new opportunities as part of this can help. Keeping a journal or diary helps many process and writing can be a great way of externalising your feelings while you are in the process of developing social ties in your new home.
“Ride it out; remind myself I can always visit or go back and think about good my life and job are here.”
Some find that keeping busy can help. For example, travelling, trying new things, and joining clubs or social groups can be great ways to make connections in your new home.
“Keep busy, travel at weekends, join clubs, and socialise as much as possible.”
While stress from planning, moving, and re-settling is normal, it still can take a toll. Going outside and getting some form of physical exercise each day can help boost your mood and can be an enjoyable way of meeting new people too. Joining a sports club, taking up a hobby that involves physical exercise, or simply getting outside for 30 minutes of light exercise can help to keep you healthy and relieve stress. Yoga is excellent for mood regulations – there are many free online meditations which can help to calm and ease body and mind.
Looking after your nutrition is also an important aspect of staying healthy. When moving abroad, it can take time to adjust to new foods or even cooking for yourself all of the time. You can find loads of healthy and simple recipes online, sharing and swapping with friends, or even asking family back home for some of your favourite home cooked recipes. Try to keep your diet balanced and healthy based on your own health needs.
“Exercise and keep active, one of the best ways to keep mentally healthy.”
Meet New People
Meeting new people can be a great way of settling in to your new surroundings.
“Talk! Get out amongst people. Try things you have never done. Go to every event you are invited to. Have fun!”
Family and friends can be a great source of support if you are feeling homesick, but if you continue to feel isolated or alone, it can be helpful to speak to someone outside of your personal network. Talking to a trained professional can give you a safe time and place to talk to someone without judgment, and can help you in those moments when you might be feeling overwhelmed. Below are some supports that are available to Irish citizens abroad.
Samaritans Freephone: Irish Abroad
There are a number of Samaritan 24-hour freephone helplines available to Irish people abroad. Provided in partnership with the Government of Ireland through the Emigrant Support Programme, these offer access to culturally sensitive emotional supports to Irish people abroad who are in distress. Contact your local Irish embassy or consulate or see below for details.
- Australia: 1800 570699 (freephone)
- Canada: +1 833 951 2484 (freephone)
- Mainland China: (freephone) 4006612223
- Hong Kong: China Telecom (freephone) 1080 04400835, China Netcom (freephone) 1080 07440765, Hong Kong (freephone) +852 30017063
- United Arab Emirates: 800 04444409 (freephone)
- Poland: 800 012 274 (freephone)
Helplink Mental Health is a registered charity that provides a free counselling service online nationwide and internationally for Irish citizens living abroad and returning home. This service is available seven days a week and out-of-hours. To contact Helplink, email email@example.com or call +353 (0)91 759887.
Emigrant Support Groups and Organisations
Many global Irish groups offer various wellness supports to Irish citizens abroad. To find supports near you, check out our Irish Diaspora Directory.
This information is meant to give you some ideas about how to prevent, prepare for, and cope with emotionally challenging experiences involved in emigrating. It is not intended as a substitute for the direct help that you may need from another person or professional. If you are worried about your or another person’s mental health, please contact your GP or another health professional wherever you are living. There is also useful information on the Irish Health Services Executive (HSE) mental health website at yourmentalhealth.ie.