How long does homesickness last?

Lake Temescal

For how long will I be homesick? When will I be happy again? When will I like this new place?

 

These are questions I asked myself when I had moved from Germany to the US. I was about to get married to my American soul mate. This was surely not the right time to be weighed down with homesickness. This should be an exhilarating period in my life!

I am sure you are asking these questions yourself.

I have been digging through some interesting research about homesickness. Two studies are standing out which help us to find an answer to this pressing question.

 

Research findings about duration and intensity of homesickness

Leading scientists in the field of homesickness, M. Van Tilburg, A. Vingerhoets and G. Van Heck, determined in their study with international students that a duration between 1 – 6 months of homesickness is normal and is seen as non-chronically. However, students, who were homesick for longer than 6 months, were conceived of as chronic homesick.

5 – 6 months? That is a long, long time to be miserable! I was deeply homesick for about 7 months before I started enjoying life in the US again. However, I think allowing homesickness to run its course for 6 months is too long! In your despair, you might make decisions, which you regret later.

I came very close to that! I was debating of moving back to Germany and blowing of my wedding!

Can you shorten the time period of homesickness? Can you actively do something so you feel better much sooner than after 6 months?

A study by N. Shahmohammadi et al. aimed at answering that very question. Homesick freshmen college students completed stress management training and as a result saw a “significant effect on alleviating homesickness”. Since a depressive mood is one of the outstanding characteristics of people suffering from homesickness, a major segment of the training was for the students to learn to recognize their negative thoughts and replacing them with rational/more optimistic thoughts.

Currently, I am developing a premium training class based on this study that aims at alleviating homesickness. At this point, however, I have the free research-based email class “Keeping homesickness in check”, where you will learn some of the core training segments. You can sign up on the sidebar or at the end of the post.

 

Even if you can actively work on shortening your time of homesickness, I would like for you to consider these following factors, which will determine as well for how long you will be homesick.

  • Personality
  • Distance from home
  • Difficulties in the new environment
  • Duration of move
  • Reason for the move
  • Experience in moving

 

Personality

So, what type of a person are you? Do you welcome change or do you embrace consistency? Are you more reluctant when it comes to new situations? Research shows that introverted people usually suffer more frequently from homesickness than extroverts.

A study by M. Van Tilburg­, A. Vingerhoets and G. Van Heck (1998) examined ‘The determinants of homesickness chronicity: coping and personality’. They found that “personality seems to be more important than coping style. Recovery from homesickness was mainly attributed to making new friends. It is argued that new friends promote the adaptation process, keeping feelings of homesickness and the tendency to daydream and fantasize about home at bay”.

Not sure what type of personality you have? Take the quiz here.

Now don’t despair if your personality shows more signs of an introvert. You might have to deal with homesickness for a longer period of time than an extrovert. Just be aware that you are more shy. Therefore you should push your comfort zone limits a little bit each day. Make extra efforts to get out of the house and meet people.

For me here in my new home, the turning point came when I invited several colleagues for brunch to my house. I got to know them better and I made my first friendships here in the Bay area. Friends make you feel at home and ease your homesickness!

 

Distance from home

The greater the distance from home = the greater the severity and length of homesickness?

This equation doesn’t have to be true! College students or anybody else who is living close to home can still feel homesick. They are just missing being at home. It is certain aspects of simply being away from home that causes them to feel homesick.

However, generally speaking, if you have moved far away from home, maybe even to a different country, you will probably deal with homesickness for a while. Just the idea that you cannot go home for a short visit and that you might need to spend a considerable amount of money to go home can intensify your feeling of homesickness.

When I moved to the US from Germany, I was quite homesick for about 6 – 8 months. I missed my country and hometown terribly. A trip back to Germany made me realize that I had started to idealize my country and culture. The trip opened my eyes to see Germany for what it really is. I was able to take off my ‘rose-colored glasses’ and see my home from a more neutral perspective.

 

Difficulties in the new environment

Is your new home very different from your old home? Are you able to keep up your routines? Does the new environment force you to adapt a new life-style?

Freshmen going off to college have to deal with lots of change.

Moving to another town will turn everyone’s life upside down.

Just image what a move to another country is like? Not easy for expats! Now you cannot rely on familiarity with your surroundings. You might need to learn a new language, customs and culture. That can be quite challenging and will take lots of energy to master.

It might take you two years to truly establish close friendships and to build ties to your new home. I think that’s how long it took me here in the Bay area. However, it does not mean that you have to be homesick during all that time. Try to keep your perspective on life! Realize what makes you happy and work on that. Read here more about 5 steps to unravel your own perspective and overcome homesickness.

 

Duration of move

I think that made me feel so homesick when I left Germany! A move that is forever! FOREVER! No way back!

But you never know! Be optimistic! You might start liking your new home more than your old.

My husband, our two children and me moved back to Germany after 5 years. Then something incredible happened: I missed my home and friends abroad! That emotion came so unexpectedly! It’s called reversed homesickness. Be prepared!

Research says that generally the duration of a move is correlated to the duration of homesickness. When you know you will be gone for only a few months, you possibly will not feel homesick at all. A longer stay will evoke more pangs of homesickness.

 

Reason for the move

Was the move your choice? Did you move alone or with family?

It is much easier to endure the emotions of missing home when you initiated the move, selected your new hometown and are not living alone. Generally, homesickness will last not as long when you are living in the place of your choice. And when you are living with a loved one. Before moving, make sure that you plan your whole experience with your companion or spouse. College students should select their college on their own.

 

Experience in moving

Are you an expert when it comes to moving? Do you know how to settle into a new place and embrace your new life? Are you familiar with the right coping strategies?

I don’t mean ‘finding a new house or apartment, buying a car and start working in the new office’. Yes, those are also difficult tasks to master in a new city or country.

What I have in mind are tools that help you cope with your new situation. ReadDealing with homesickness – 19 tips to overcome it

 

If you are able to implement some of these strategies, then you will shorten the time you suffer from homesickness. Try to push your comfort zone limit!

 

Adapting and integrating to a new environment and home can’t be rushed and there is no immediate fix. But remember, you can actively reduce the time period of homesickness with the training program, which helped the college students in the study.

 

Sign up below for the free training program based on research. There you will learn the core training segment to “Keep homesickness in check”.

How long did your homesickness last? Leave a note!

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4 Responses to How long does homesickness last?

  1. Ute December 11, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Dear Heike, you are right in so many ways. Sometimes I feel like you can read my mind. With every move during the last 10 years, I tried a little harder to be fast and efficient to make that new house a home. But it did not make the process of feeling at home any easier. Moving is like putting a plant in a new container. It takes time and patience to develop new roots. The good thing about moving to a new city is that it really stretches our frame of mind, while we try to find our spot in the new community. Thanks for helping me to clear up that confused mess in my mind.

    • Heike January 3, 2014 at 11:56 am #

      Dear Ute, I am so glad that my article was of help to you. I really like your comparison: “Moving is like putting a plant in a new container.” It is so true that it takes quite a while to develop these new roots. I wish you good luck in forming new roots in your new home!

  2. Gail Jones November 30, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    I can so relate to what homesickness feels like. You are literally sick. I lived in my home for 46 years nearly all of my life took place there. Now I’m in a new city it does not so much feel strange just not home. My husband bought this home without me seeing it and I didn’t like it but have done what I can to turn a house into a home. I have been here going on three months and wonder when this suffering will go away. My home is sitting empty. I do visit but it’s just not the same. With the holidays coming up it may be even more painful then it may not. What I did was to get a job ASAP and it did help me. I felt so happy that people starting calling me by my name something I had not heard here at all. Somebody knew me !!! I keep pushing ahead to make this transition a bit more easier. I don’t know about others but it one day good one day bad.

  3. Cathy May 17, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    I moved from Indiana to Las Vegas to be with my son, his girlfriend and my grandbaby. I’ve only been here about 3 weeks and I’m already thinking about moving back to Indiana. I was born and raised there for 58 years. I really hate it here and it’s even harder because I’m an introvert with low self esteem.

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