To call or not to call …? What helps when you are homesick?

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Park

Ever wondered why you feel worse and more homesick after you called or skyped home? Be aware of the illusion of connection and the possible negative effect of calling too often.


Calling not enough

When I moved to the US around 20 years ago and I felt terribly homesick, there was no email, no Skype, cellphone or Facebook. My only choice of communicating with my family and friends back home was snail mail. I wrote letters on very thin airmail paper, put them in the airmail envelope, bought international stamps and finally sent them off to Germany. My loved ones would receive them after 7-10 days.

Every day I rushed to my mailbox hoping to get a letter. On the rare occasion, I would pick up the phone and call home. Each minute was costing over $3!!! So the phone was definitely not an economical means of communication twenty years ago. I missed my family quite a bit.


Calling too often

Times have changed. Technology has allowed us to stay in contact with every person around the globe for very little money or even for free. I am taking advantage of Skype these days and talk to family and friends on a regular basis. I enjoy staying connected and finding out what everyone is up to do.

However, this constant contact might not be right for everyone.

A few weeks ago, when I talked to a woman who had just recently moved from France to the Bay Area, she made me realize that there can be a downside to this connectivity. She expressed to me that she was missing her home in France. And she felt that each time she skyped with someone back home she would miss him or her even more.

It is possible that these new technologies actually heighten feelings of displacement.

Susan J. Matt writes about this phenomenon in her New York Times’ article “The New Globalist Is Homesick”. She states, “It is possible that these new technologies actually heighten feelings of displacement.”

In the case of the French woman, she was able to increase her contact with family. However, at the same time, it made her realize what she was missing at home and thus magnified her feeling of homesickness.

As Susan J. Matt puts it: “Technology also seduces us into thinking that migration is painless”. But the number of homesick people has not declined since the onset of these technological achievements.

If you would like to read this article, please click here.


Finding a balance to feel less homesick

So, what is right for you? How often should you call? How long should you talk?

I would say, it depends. It depends on:

  • how homesick you feel
  • the length of the calls
  • the number of times you call
  • whom you call

Try to find a balance between being in contact 24/7 and long periods of silence with your family and friends back home. Experiment with the number of times you call and write down how you feel afterwards.

When you are homesick, there is no reason to suffer in silence. Reach out to your loved ones; to the people you are missing. Hearing their voices might make you feel better.

Nevertheless, don’t be on the phone with them hours upon hours. You are missing out on the opportunities that your new home presents to you. This is especially true for college students. Don’t miss out on the fun opportunities and meeting new friends! Get involved!

It is important to make new strong social connections. A study with college students by Chris Thurber has shown “perceived absence of social support was a strong predictor of homesickness”.


More food for thought

  • Write a letter instead of sending emails or calling. The reason is that when you are putting your thoughts down on paper, you think more about what you are writing and what impact it might have on your folks back home. When emailing, you just click “send” and maybe regret it the next minute. Usually, writing a letter takes time. You can put down everything on the paper that bothers you, but sometimes you might realize that your problem isn’t really that bad. Instead of worrying anyone in vain, you are able to throw your letter away or keep it with your diary.
  • Calling home really helps to get everything out. You whine for some time and feel sad. But afterwards you feel much better. It might also give you a much better perspective on your problems and make you realize that the problem is not as severe as it seems.
  • Now here is the opposite of a whine post or call. Speak about what you love in your new home, about things that are different, weird or make you laugh. This is a good way to combat homesickness. Try it!


What works for you? Let us know by leaving us a comment!

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