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British Expat Newsletter: July 2013

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In this issue

This month

Here’s our news about the latest additions to the BE website.

Many potential expats are attracted to the idea of living overseas by the glamour they associate with the lifestyle. Jamie Waddell has taken a humorous look at the reasons that led some British screen stars to forsake the shores of Blighty for more congenial climes.

Others are so taken with the notion of starting a better life abroad that they ignore the possible pitfalls. We pull off the rose-tinted glasses and look at the downside of expat life with the help of an infographic, courtesy of the team at Over’s of Camberley. (We look at one of those downsides – homesickness – in this month’s editorial.)

We travel to the darkest reaches of eastern Europe for our latest Pic of the Week – a sunset view of the lonely Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine.

And our latest Quick Quiz is all about Ecuador – named after the Equator, and the possible future home of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

Editorial: Homesickness

Do you ever suffer from homesickness?

One of the earliest works in Western literature, the Odyssey, has homesickness as a major theme. Odysseus, the brains behind the Trojan Horse, wept and rolled on the ground when thinking of his home. In fairness, the gods did send him home the long way round – instead of a matter of weeks, it took him ten years, on top of the ten he’d already spent fighting the Trojans.

Homesickness is also a staple of children’s literature, particularly novels set in boarding schools or orphanages, where the young heroes or heroines routinely cry themselves to sleep on their first night in the institution. Inevitably they form friendships and either start to discover the attractions of their new environment, or – if there aren’t any attractions – escape and find a better home, though not necessarily their original one.

It isn’t just children who succumb, though. Nor is it just a problem for sensitive literary types. In real life, homesickness can be a serious problem.

It was first given the name by 17th-century medical student Johannes Hofer, describing a condition commonly suffered by Swiss mercenaries serving abroad on the plains of France and Italy. He called it “nostalgia”, based on the Greek words νόστος (nóstos, or “homecoming”) and ἄλγος (álgos, or “pain”). Among the symptoms he associated with homesickness were: indigestion and stomach pains; fainting; high fever; and even death.

Far-fetched? Well, it may be going too far to attribute all these symptoms directly to homesickness. But it doesn’t require an over-active imagination to suppose that stress might cause the indigestion and stomach pains, or a loss of appetite and thus increased susceptibility to fainting. And a weakened immune system could indeed lead a person to succumb to an infectious disease, particularly in those less healthy times.

Sir Joseph Banks observed homesickness among the sailors on Captain Cook’s circumnavigation in HMS Endeavour (1768-71). And in the World Wars military psychologists made considerable efforts to recognise and deal with the condition among conscripts sent hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their homes.

Schools and armed forces are fairly well versed in dealing with new intakes and their feelings of dislocation. After all, they have to deal with them all the time. The trick seems to be to keep the newcomers as busy as possible and to build team spirit – easily done when there are several people all in the same boat.

Things may not be so easy for expats, who are relocating as individuals. Their employers may consider that it’s up to the expat to deal with any psychological upheavals caused by resettling. A short-sighted view, perhaps, if the post the expat’s filling is habitually filled by non-local staff, but that’s often the reality.

The infographic in our article on the downside of expat life mentions several psychological problems associated with homesickness, including stress, depression, loneliness, loss of social life and cultural dislocation. You don’t have to travel very far to suffer these feelings: nearly half of expats surveyed in France identified loneliness as the biggest problem they faced, and there are even cases where people have suffered homesickness just by moving a few streets away.

So what can you do to combat it?

Some suggest that finding new friends quickly is the best way of making the breakthrough. This may be easier in some circumstances than others, depending on whether there’s a language barrier to take into account and whether there are any other people with a similar background to your own.

If the local language isn’t English, then it’s a good idea to learn it if you can. This becomes even more important if there isn’t a large English-speaking community; the good news is that it becomes easier too, as to a certain extent you’re forced to learn by circumstances.

Another way of helping yourself is to maintain links with the friends and family you’ve left behind – much easier to do these days with the social media and email. This is a two-edged sword, though, as it may get in the way of moving forward and integrating into your new home if you over-indulge.

There are all sorts of stratagems you can use to help relieve the symptoms. But above all, don’t feel ashamed of them. After all, if a seasoned adventurer like Odysseus suffered from it, it’s surely OK for lesser mortals like us!

Have you ever suffered homesickness? How did you cope? Why not tell us on our discussion forum?

WWWordsmith: Forging a living from online writing

Writing is a great portable career, especially in these days of global connections – whether you’re doing paid writing for someone else, or self-publishing on websites or through eBooks. BE editor Kay McMahon and freelance writer Theo Koukouvitis have plenty of experience of both. So if you’ve ever considered writing for a living, or even for a bit of side income, here’s a great guide on how to get started. After all, we’ve all got at least one book in us, haven’t we?
ErgoGuides: WWWordsmith

Write for British Expat

Would you like to write for British Expat? Sorry, we don’t pay for articles but if you have a website we’ll link to it in the author’s blurb below any of your articles we publish. We use all sorts of content as long as it’s useful and/or interesting to our readership.

Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes – five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

Did you ever learn the piano as a kid? Perhaps you only got as far as “Chopsticks”, or one of those tunes you could pick out on the black notes. Here’s a chance to relive those memories! And if you fancy something a little more ambitious, they’ve got some popular tunes you can play too.

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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