I saw an interesting topic on a forum and I thought that I would blog about it today – “Coping with homesickness”
The first few months of arrival wasn’t easy for me.
There were lots of things that are different between Rome and Singapore – the climate, the culture, the bureaucracy, and of course the language among others.
During the first few months, I remember crying a lot and feeling miserable – the cold winter didn’t help that much either. I surprised myself even, when Cart brought home a pack of vegetable couscous and for some reason it reminded me of biryani – something that I ate often when I was in Singapore. And I cried, much to Cartcart’s horror.
Eventually I’ve adapted to living here. Which I should, since it’s been seven years that I’ve been living in Rome. But if I could tell 2009 Marina what I know now, I would have told her several things to make the transition easier.
1. Install social media
Technology in 2009 wasn’t the same as what we have today, but apps like Facebook and Whatsapp makes it easier to communicate with your family and friends. We even have a Telegram group for my family chat. Singapore and Italy has an 8 hour different timezone and sometimes it’s hard for me to catch anyone on the phone on Skype but it’s better than nothing.
2. Explore your neighbourhood.
2009 Marina was very afraid to venture out of the house. She was worried that people would treat her badly because she doesn’t know the language well. Nonsense! Just try to leave the house every day and go out and explore and expand your map. It’s good to know where important places like supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms and whatnot. And the more you explore, the more confident you feel.
Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to even get yourself lost, riding a bus you’ve never taken before and taking a random subway. Worst case scenario is if you can’t find yourself back, there is always Google Maps.
For me, once I’ve taken my riding license in Rome, it opened a whole new world of freedom. I could travel around faster and more efficiently.
3. Find something you enjoy doing
An easy way to socialise with other people is to find something that interests you. If you like exercising for instance, you may want to search for nice gym to go to near you. If you like photography, you may want to participate in an Instagram meet, there are even ‘centro sociale‘ in Rome, which functions like a community centre where you could learn and meet other people. Cart and I learnt how to make bread and I did a bit of yoga here.
I probably made the most friends through Ingress – a GPS based game which ideally you need to play as a group.
4. Immerse yourself in the culture
2009 Marina spent a lot of time trying to find as much things that reminds her of her homeland – trying to find as much Asian foodstuff, searching for other expatriates from South East Asia … which is all fine.
Personally for me, after several years trying to find acceptable SE Asian food, I get fed up because many a times it’s way too expensive and doesn’t taste the same. So I save my appetite for when I go back to Singapore and buy all the things I need to carry over to Rome.
It makes more sense to buy local. They are more abundant and cheaper. There are plenty of interesting places to experience and discover in Rome. Apart from visiting historical sites, there are always events that might interest you.
Not forgetting where you come from is important, but I think, it is also important to also embrace your new home too.
If I could somehow tell 2009 Marina, I’d tell her to just chill, have fun exploring around and not to worry too much about the language barrier. It’ll come eventually. The faster it is that you explore and interact, the easier it is to pick up the language.
The important thing is to just keep yourself busy with things that makes you feel excited about. It’s when you don’t occupy yourself, is when you have all these nostalgia. And having too much of it isn’t good. You start to compare and then get disgruntled.
One of the things that I did that I’m quite excited about of is creating my weekly cartoon strips – I first drew the characters them around the time when I started this blog in 2006, but I thought it would be a nice way to try to improve my Italian so I started my strips a few years ago and I actually have a few people who appreciate my cartoons which gives me the inspiration and drive to continue.
All in all, when you have something to look forward to, eventually you don’t think about your homesickness.