“Ugh, I hate Germany! I can’t wait to go back to the states.” Can you count on only your fingers how many times you have heard someone say this phrase while being stationed in Germany? I hear it daily online, on post when running errands, and at work. Spouses, children, and soldiers all face homesickness while living in other locations. It is a normal reaction to moving after having established a routine and life elsewhere. Often, moving from a state that had the opposite weather, a stable job, friends, and family may cause a feeling being homesick while being stationed in Germany. I have been living in Germany for over a year and I have just recently started feeling homesick. I have found myself reminiscing on the architecture of plantation homes, the taste of southern food, and memories of Georgia. Although my symptoms occurred later than many, I too was faced with trying to confront my sadness. I write this article as a result, which includes ways to overcome and cope with homesickness in hopes of helping others.
My first suggestion when developing homesickness is for you to identify what triggers it. For me it was a rainy weekend spent creating a bucket list for all fifty states. I started feeling gloomy because of the weather and I realized that I had missed out on so many travels. Once you understand what triggers your depression or anger you can work around the trigger. Although I still intend to finish my bucket list, I put it on hold until I could complete it on a sunny day after coming home from traveling. This will remind me of the great opportunities to travel that living in Germany provides. When you know what triggers the homesick feelings, try to do something you love or be around something that makes you happy.
Once you have identified what triggers the emotions, possibly the most important tip I realized is for you to get out of the house. Find things that you are fond of in Germany. This will take your mind off of the things that you miss back home. One thing that I love about Germany, for example, are the castles and gardens. No castle or garden in the states can compare to Germany’s marvelous castles and elaborate gardens. For others, it may be the beer and food or perhaps the festivals. It’s important that we involve ourselves in the German culture to find something unique to this area. Just like in the states, you will love certain things about a state and despise things about that state as well. Try to keep your mindset positive by avoiding or working around the things you dislike about Germany.
This leads me to my next point; find something in Germany that reminds you of home. Be careful not to get too attached to whatever it may be because this can be unhealthy. The thing that reminds me of home here is a person. It is a friend that I made a few months ago. She reminds me of my friends back home with their southern hospitality. It doesn’t have to be a material item or a person; it can also be an activity. For others, it may be work, a restaurant, or a sport activity. That is where the unhealthy aspect comes in, because too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Another important tip is to seek social support. Having others who understand what you are feeling is vital for you to have a healthy mindset. Seek social support from MFLAC, friends, or your spouse. Find people who relate to you, but also have passions and aspire to do great things. You do not want to surround yourself by people who mope around missing the states, but refuse to get out of the house and do something about it. Pursuing support is a wonderful way to cope with homesickness.
My final suggestion is to make it a habit to speak to people back home. Avoid speaking to negative people as well or to people that will make you feel guilty or will taunt you with what you’re missing out on back home. I usually Skype with one of my best friends and she gives me updates on what is new in the states. She also keeps me grounded when I get stressed about not being able to start my career in Germany. She reminds me of what an amazing opportunity it is to live in Europe and she readdresses that my career can be on pause for another year or two for the memories that I will make while living here.
Find a balance of things that remind you of home and things that you love about Germany. Get out of the house and understand what a unique opportunity you have. Try to understand that everyone in the world gives up certain pleasures for other advantages. The pleasure of living in Germany may be being able to live with your family, having four day weekends, getting to travel, or having a stable job. Many in the states will never get to see Europe because they instead choose a job that requires them to work 9-5, five days a week. Others will be without their husband for two years because they wanted to continue their career while their spouse was stationed overseas. You make sacrifices in order to have other opportunities. There is a ying and yang effect to wherever the army takes you, but with these tips can overcome and cope with your homesickness in a healthy manner.