No matter how much someone likes travel, there really is no place like home.

Home means comfort, safety and love. It’s a place you know you belong and a place where you fit in.Β Unfortunately when you live in Japan, home literally is thousands of miles away.

I wrote about the first time I felt homesickness when I was in Sri Lanka during my ten month sabbatical. I was in an extremely different country to any that I had visited before and I was away from home for 19 days, the longest time I had ever spent away from my family and friends.

When you travel, homesickness comes out of nowhere. One minute you are having the time of your life and the next it feels like a bullet has shot through your heart. It’s fast, painful and extremely confusing.

The good thing about home-sickness when travelling is that it usually goes away as fast as it came. When you travel there are new people to meet, new places to visit and it’s very easy to forget about that pain in your heart.

Last night I sat on my floor sofa, in my new house in Ibaraki Japan. Living in a house has been quite confusing. It feels like I live in a traditional English terraced house and sometimes I forget where I am. I sat on my sofa and daydreamed. Usually I daydream about the places that I want to go and the things I want to experience in life, but this time was different.

I dreamt of the rolling hills of Wales stretching out before me, never-ending. I dreamt of the wind rushing through my hair at the Albert Dock in Liverpool as I ran alongside the Mersey. I dreamt of sitting in my parents house, with my niece on my lap, helping her form her first words.

I dreamt of normality. Of the life I used to live.

It’s quite ironic that when I lived in England I would daydream about travelling and living in a foreign country. Now I’ve made my dream a reality I daydream about the life I used to live. Life is cruel.

The hardest thing about homesickness as an expat is that it doesn’t come thick and fast like homesickness when you are travelling. It slowly seeps into your life. You start to compare the country you live in to your home country, remember things through rose-tinted glasses and forget about the hardships. You start to think that life is better back home, when is it really?

Before you know it this slow type of homesickness causes you to lose it. Big style. Last night I was in tears thinking about the life I could be living. Today even with the benefit of a clear mind and hindsight I still feel a lingering sadness. I think this bout of homesickness will be hard to recover from.

But I know it’s all just an illusion. Life isn’t perfect back home, it’s just different. I am now living my life, making my life be what I want it to be. I’m a fighter and I will fight through this homesickness.

After my recovery I’ll fall in love for the second time with the country I now call home, Japan.

And we all adore the feeling of falling in love, don’t we?


Enjoying Sakura beer under the cherry blossoms inmy new home of Ushiku
Enjoying Sakura beer under the cherry blossoms inmy new home of Ushiku

Are you an expat? Have you ever felt homesickness when living abroad? Did anything specific trigger it? What helped you recover from homesickness?


26 thoughts on “Feeling homesick as an Expat in Japan

  1. Hello, I recently found your blog but I’ve never commented. Then the earthquakes happened and I found myself wondering if you were okay. Weird, right. And then today, I came online and decided to come to your blog and I saw the new post and I was so happy. You have done something that up until a few months ago I had only dreamt of but didn’t think it was a reality. I plan to visit Japan this year however I do want to eventually move to Japan permanently. I think about it everyday because I think I’ve become bored with life, but not in a sad way, just in a way that I’ve always wanted to travel, and I have, but I haven’t gone to the places I dreamed of when i was a girl. Japan has always been in the top three of my traveling lists but I allowed normal life to keep me home. Anyway, I am glad you’re safe, and hopefully your homesickness will pass soon enough.

    By the way, your above picture is gorgeous. That is a scene I wouldn’t mind waking up to everyday. I just need to get over my fear of earthquakes πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I live really far from the earthquakes so I’m fine. Thanks for thinking about me though.
      Japan is a great country but living here can be challenging. Try to learn as much Japanese as you can before you come and it will help you infinitely. Let me know if you need any advice or tips πŸ™‚

  2. I certainly know the homesick feeling. I’m not an expat but after a few weeks away I start to get those moments. I think of home and what I’m missing by being on the other side of the world. And I crave fellow travellers’ company. I’ve been accused of racism for that (are the locals not good enough for you??) but it’s really just a desire to have a chat about the stupid stuff of home. I tend to take a break when it’s at its worst – go find a quiet spot with some stunning scenery and remind myself why this life is awesome!

    1. Oh no I don’t think it’s racism at all. Sometimes you just need someone you can easily connect with and to talk to someone who you have things in common with. I’ve just got back from an amazing trip to Hiroshima so I currently think life is awesome!

  3. Oh dear, I feel you. Living in an exotic destination is a dream that not many can realise, and I think we are so fortunate that we need to change that fear of new and that need of comfort. Maybe Sri Lanka is becoming your new comfort zone:) Loved your article

    1. Sri Lanka is such a special country. I loved how talkative and friendly the people were, that’s something I miss whilst living in Japan!

  4. Ah yes, absolutely. I know exactly how you feel. I’m on my second stint of living in the UK (from Australia) and I am homesick a lot these days. For me the lifestyles and opportunities could not be more different in these two places. So if I am feeling down I like to focus on the things that I love about the UK that are different to home. It also helps to know exactly when you are going home next, even just for a short visit. Hope you feel the welsh wind in your hair soon

    1. I’m surprised you think the lifestyles and opportunities are different in Oz and UK. What do you thinks different? When I travelled to Oz I felt homesick because of how much it reminded me of home. Everything was similar, but different. Yes there are many things in Japan that I love, I’ll start focusing on them πŸ™‚

  5. I haven’t experience it yet although maybe one day I will. Still amazing to read so emotional post πŸ˜€

  6. I completely get this! I am at the 1.5 year point in my 2 years in Korea and I have these moments, too.

    For me, it’s sometimes really hard to look at social media and see things/people from home. I try to keep super busy easy and focusing on my blog helps a lot.

    We just have to always remember this is an amazing opportunity and we’re seeing the world!!

  7. So true, the feeling of being homesick can creep up at any unexpected moment. I did feel homesick while living in France, but when I took the time to dig deeper, I realized it was because I was feeling misunderstood and not necessarily because I missed anything in particular. Recognizing what caused the feeling of being homesick helped tremendously in the recovery!

    1. I think that could be one of the reasons why I feel homesick Rosemary. The language barrier in Japan means that I can’t be my usual talkative self with people, and I don’t like that. I eel like I repress part of my personality when living here.

  8. I’ve been so lucky because I have never experienced homesickness, either when travelling or in my 9 years as an expat. I have seen friends struggle with it though, so I know how debilitating it can be. Like you, I lived in Japan and know how alienating it can be there, but as you say there are always plenty of people around and so many things to do. And home is always going to be there, right.

    How long have you been an expat? After a few years you realise that nothing ever changes much between visits home and so you worry less that things are happening without you!

    Keep fighting πŸ™‚

    1. I’ve only been an expat for 14 months. Before this I travelled non stop for 10 months. Yeah I guess nothing much changes at home, Now all of my firends and family are starting to have babies and I get upset that I can’t see them grow up! Where did you live in Japan?

  9. I can relate to this feeling of homesickness since I moved around a lot as a child. I really craved for stability and wanted to put down roots somewhere. But now I am “homesick” for the city I studied abroad in (Edinburgh) because I want to go back 😒😒Hang in there — maybe do something that reminds you of your home and family.

    1. Hi Yilin. I think wherever you are it’s good to feel security and stability. Edinburgh is a great city, I hope you make it back!

  10. How true this is! I haven’t been an expat but have felt homesick since moving away from my hometown. It’s hard to handle but so long as you keep moving and learning new things and meeting new people, it certainly does go away! I also feel you change from your previously self and adapt to your surroundings so your new home takes you in as one of its own!

  11. I’m not used to feeling homesick; I don’t have a family and I think it’s family that people really get homesick for. Although there was one time I had been traveling in Europe for four weeks and I started crying because a violinist in Romania started playing “Ashokan Farewell”, which is a very American song, and I suddenly felt homesick for the US. It sounds like you have a positive attitude about the whole thing, so I’m sure that will help you get through the tough times!

    1. Hi Stella, yes it’s true that having a family can make you feel more homesick. Sometimes it feels like you are missing out on their lives. I also get homesick for countries I’ve travelled in. I was at a German beer festival in Hiroshima and I just felt so homesick for Germany, even though I’ve only travelled there. Good luck with your travels πŸ™‚

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