I am friends with expats. I mean a couple are Brits but they are from ‘The North’, and I think London is as foreign to the Starks as it is the Kiwis so I class them as expats anyway.
No matter how shiny your London existence homesickness will be a part of life. It might not be a constant, for the lucky it might only hit once every couple of years. But hit you it will, the good old homesickness sucker punch.
Feeling homesick doesn’t mean that you don’t like living in London, and it sure as hell isn’t a reason to go home. The loneliness, the feeling of distance and missing your ‘other’ life is just a boring symptom of living away from home. There you are being all brave and living your life when your brain has to go all FUCK YOU IT’S HOMESICKNESS TIME. It’s something to plan for and have a strategy for getting through.
For me the most important factor of homesickness isn’t actually anything to do with me, it’s all about my friends. If you don’t talk about homesickness, if you pretend your social media life is reality then we are all doomed. Without the honest conversations it’s not just homesickness, it’s feeling like you are the only one to ever experience such a thing. Not talking about homesickness keeps you isolated with no practical way to get out of it. Friends are important ok?
If you see a friend getting sucker punched, jump in the ring with them. Help them fight homesickness and vanquish it for a while. And then, once you have seen them conquer it will be so much easier for you to get through it next time.
So with no more ramble and very little ado, here are my vaguely sensible tips for helping your friends vanquish homesickness.
Don’t try to fix it, just tell them this sucks
Look by the time they have flown to London, grappled with changing at Bank station and figured out the difference between Waitrose and Tesco (quails eggs in the ‘essentials’ range) your friend knows all the rational reasons behind homesickness. Telling them to get over it, or that they are being silly because London is all kinds of amazing just won’t work. Just be there for them, tell them it sucks but that it will be over soon is sometimes the most important thing in the world.
Celebrate the Kiwiness (or Ozzieness or Americanish)
Sometimes you just need a touch of home, that little bit of comfort to kick you out of the homesickness hole. A homesick friend is totally worth begging, borrowing and for a very close friend even stealing treats that remind them of home. Find a cafe with lollie cake (Sacred is always a good bet), gorge together on BBQ Shapes and if you get really desperate down some feijoa vodka. Anything you can do to temporarily shorten the distance between home and here will work wonders.
Wear your heart on your sleeve
Breakout the greenstone, put on the coat you stole from your sister and anything else that screams of home. My personal favourite? My jumper with 18,324km on the front – the exact distance between me and the cause of my homesickness. Your friend might not see the point of bringing out all the kiwi paraphernalia, but when they get a knowing nod from a stranger on the tube it will all become clear.
I might be starting to sound like a broken record on this one, but London makes you work hard to be happy. We all know that first step can feel like too much effort sometimes, that’s why friends are so important. Make the insane booking and then drag them along. Force them into the National Gallery to stand in a room full of Van Gogh. Bribe them with coffee and on the way go and see some street art in Shoreditch. Help your friend fall in love with London again, because right now they might not be able to do it themselves.
Let them wallow
Tea, Netflix and all the chocolate in the world can solve most problems. Join your friend in a blanket fort and don’t leave until you run out of Nicholas Cage movies or you have to go to work…whichever comes first.
Destroy the green green grass
Send your friend an email with the subject line ‘why New Zealand is literally the worst place on earth’. Write all the big things, all the little things; all the bad TV, ex boyfriends and terrible internet connection. This only works for Kiwi expats, for everyone else it would just seem like a bit of weird xenophobia.
Send them something inspiring, if it’s relevant or not
Often homesickness will be triggered by something else, a shitty job, breakup, or eighteenth day of rain. It means that sometimes the best way to get over it is by sending inspiration for those other problems of life. And anytime you can remind them they are brave and amazing for living in London … do it.
Do something uniquely London
There are some things that are so London it hurts. Seek out the weirdest restaurant slash performance art you can and take your friend. Some point between the actors with horror movie masks and a long-balled stranger playing the guitar on a shipping container while fully naked … Who can remember homesickness when faced with that nightmare?
This post is a collaboration with Zazzle, who sent me that fucking epic 18,324km sweatshirt, thanks guys.