Growing homesickness among expats

Moving away from one’s home and family is always difficult; even when it’s one’s own decision. While there is so much to look forward to, you can’t help but feel sad about all you have to leave behind. Thanks to air travel, not to mention the convenience of the internet, distances don’t feel that great anymore.

All the video calls and photo sharing help keep the homesickness at bay, while we make plans to see our friends and family again. That is: until there is a pandemic, life stands still and the uncertainty of being able to see your loved ones grows by each passing month.

Me and my family moved to the Netherlands from China in the summer of 2019. While I am Indian, my husband is Dutch. Together we decided that the Netherlands would be the best place for us to raise our child and two dogs. There was also the added benefit of being close to at least one of our families.

I am not a person who gets easily homesick, as I have spent the better part of my youth travelling and hence am used to being away from home; besides, I was already living separated from my family during my stay in China anyways. We made plans for my family to come visit us in the Netherlands for my little one’s second birthday. I spent months planning what was going to be their first visit to the Netherlands. We were all so excited and could hardly wait to see each other again. Even when the news of the corona virus broke in China, I didn’t let it dampen my spirits. Who would have thought it would go so wrong so fast?

Mere weeks before my family’s scheduled departure, the Indian government issued travel bans. All their flights were cancelled and along with them my hopes and dreams. What was going to be a perfect fun-filled birthday celebration with family at my daughter’s favorite theme park, the Efteling, was now a somber affair with just the three of us at home. Forget about seeing my family, we couldn’t even visit my husband’s family just a couple of hours away. I started to feel lonelier here than I had ever felt in China, when I had no family nearby.

My friends haven’t seen their family in almost a year, even though they live much closer, in Switzerland. Their parents couldn’t even visit their grandson for his first birthday. A lot of Indians in the Netherlands are used to return home for the festivals, so this year’s celebrations have been nothing short of depressing.

An American told me how badly she misses her family back in the States; now more than ever, as she is about to undergo surgery and they can’t visit her to provide any sort of support. Another expat told me how terribly she misses her family, which is spread across eight countries, none of which she is allowed to travel to, or they here.

I used to call my mom once in a week or every ten days; now we are calling every other day, even if we have little to talk about. My parents terribly miss watching their granddaughter grow up. We all kept our chins up throughout spring and summer while we missed the tulip fields and visits to the beach, telling ourselves that there is always next year. However, it’s getting harder to keep courage as the end to this terrible ordeal doesn’t seem to be in sight. My husband and I haven’t seen our grandparents in over a year, who are well into their nineties. We can’t help but wonder, will we get to see them before it’s too late?

If anything, the corona virus has taught us all how precious our time with our loved ones is and that we should never take it for granted. I guess all I want for Christmas this year is a corona virus-free world, and my new year’s resolution is never to take another moment with my loved ones for granted, because we never know when we get to see them again.

Written by Priyanka Sharma