Home » On The Road » London 2012 » A Simple Cure for Homesickness

A Simple Cure for Homesickness

Gal­lic Rooster, Sticker, Nantes, August 2012

I didn’t know what being home­sick felt like until 2004. This was a for­eign con­cept to me: I was trav­el­ing the world and I didn’t miss France the slight­est. To be hon­est, I didn’t miss my fam­ily either—I was too focused on liv­ing the expe­ri­ence abroad, on try­ing to find the mean­ing of life. Eh, what do you expect—I was self­ish, the way kids barely out of their teens can be.

It all changed in 2004. My first year in Canada with a tourist sta­tus was tough. After the hon­ey­moon stage, I was lonely and bored in Ottawa and the per­spec­tive of hav­ing to make life-changing deci­sions was sud­denly over­whelm­ing. Should I stay in Canada? Should I start the immi­gra­tion process? Should I still reg­is­ter at uni­ver­sity in France in case things didn’t work out in Canada? Did I even want to live in Canada? Would I be granted per­ma­nent res­i­dence sta­tus ever? Could I get a job in Canada with my pretty much use­less French degrees?

Many sleep­less nights were spent toss­ing and turn­ing in bed, think­ing about my future. That’s my problem—I think too much, always have.

After a few months of think­ing and not get­ting any­thing done but hav­ing my tourist visa extended until fall, I started hav­ing ran­dom anx­i­ety attacks. The first time, I was alone at home at night and I felt I was going to die right there. My heart was beat­ing fast, I was sweat­ing and I couldn’t think straight. I felt depressed. I was cry­ing for no rea­son. Life wasn’t fun any­more. I wanted to be home.

And right there, for the first time of my life, I thought of France as “home” and I sud­denly missed my fam­ily. I was home­sick. I just hadn’t rec­og­nized the symp­toms because they were new to me.

That fall, I trav­eled to France. It felt right, and it felt good. Sure, tons of things annoyed me (and I was prob­a­bly very annoy­ing with my new­found Cana­dian wis­dom, the way new immi­grants can be when they con­stantly com­pare two coun­tries) but being in a famil­iar envi­ron­ment was com­fort­able. In France, I didn’t have to strug­gle for words, I knew how the coun­try worked, I was con­fi­dent when talk­ing to people.

Life was easy… or so it seemed. After a month in France, I was dying to leave again. I applied for a Work­ing Hol­i­day Visa and headed back to Canada.

Even­tu­ally, things worked out fine. I did grad­u­ate from uni­ver­sity in France, I did stay in Canada and I did sur­vive the immi­gra­tion process.

I have never being as home­sick as I had been back in 2004, but occa­sion­ally I do miss France. Or rather, I miss some aspects of it.

I’m usu­ally happy to visit France. I enjoy trav­el­ing and I love see­ing my family.

The first few days there, I imme­di­ately feel very French as I recon­nect with my roots—it feels like slip­ping into an old pair of jeans. I catch myself think­ing that it would be really nice if Feng and I could rent a place in one of Nantes’ funky neigh­bor­hoods. We could walk to the bak­ery every day to buy bread and pastries—in fact, we could walk every­where, like true Euro­peans. We would cook French food, I would enjoy an end­less sup­ply of French books and there won’t be so many com­mer­cials on TV. My fam­ily would be at most a few hun­dreds kilo­me­tres away and I wouldn’t have to cal­cu­late the jet­lag when call­ing my par­ents. There would be no bliz­zards, no humidex. There would be no Fox News scar­ing peo­ple and less health and safety guide­lines to follow.

I dream of a hedo­nis­tic French life, the way Amer­i­cans some­time pic­ture it.

And usu­ally, a few days into the trip, I start miss­ing my life in Canada.

Sure, we could rent a place in France… except find­ing an apart­ment can be a real headache—landlords are picky and the hous­ing bub­ble still hasn’t burst. Besides, old apart­ments are lovely but I clearly remem­ber how damp they can be in the winter.

Life is expen­sive in France. I know, this is always debated among immi­grants, but I do find the cost of liv­ing is lower in Canada. It’s not like we are rich here, but we are not penny-pinching either.

Find­ing a job in France is very hard, and the unem­ploy­ment rate is high. Frankly, I don’t even know what I could do for a liv­ing there. Surely, I could find some translating/editing jobs but they don’t pay as much as in Canada and there may be less demand—France isn’t a bilin­gual coun­try after all. As for Feng, his options would be really lim­ited con­sid­er­ing we would have to work out a visa for him, and that he doesn’t speak French.

And as much as I love my fam­ily, let’s be real­is­tic: chances are, we wouldn’t live in the same city and wouldn’t see each other that much anyway.

Yes, after a week or so in France, I am no longer home­sick. I feel com­fort­able with my deci­sion to live in Canada, and I don’t regret it as I remem­ber all the lit­tle things that drive me crazy in France, from shitty cus­tomer ser­vice to the lack of multiculturalism.

Cur­ing home­sick­ness isn’t that hard, it turns out. All you have to do is to visit “home” once in a while.

Con­sommé, Graf­fiti in Nantes, August 2012

Employ­ment Agency, Nantes, August 2012

Fly­ing Back to Canada, Heathrow, Lon­don, August 2012

Feng and I, Heathrow, Lon­don, August 2012

8 comments

  1. The really weird thing is when you start miss­ing your right now home, I never think I’ll miss Paris when I’m in Canada but I do most of the time !

  2. You can’t even imag­ine how I can relate to this arti­cle, I really enjoyed read­ing it. It makes me feel bet­ter actually.

    After 2 years and a half with­out going back to France, I start feel­ing real bad. I really, really didn’t miss France at all at the begin­ning (I must be very self­ish too :) ), espe­cially since, just like you, I’ve been liv­ing here with my soul mate. But it’s been a few month it became very hard. I’m tired and often sad, with no rea­son. Sev­eral of my dear­est cousins got mar­ried and just had babies, I was not there. I miss my par­ents, grand par­ents, cousins, sis­ter, friends, and I don’t even start on the pâtis­serie sub­ject. It’s not like I used to the family-social type, but impor­tant things seem to hap­pen very far and I’m just by myself here.

    On the bright side, I just got the per­ma­nent res­i­dency (‘only’ 20 months, hur­rey!!) and we’re plan­ning a trip back, begin­ning on next year. I.JUST.CANT.WAIT. :)
    (I’ll count the days before french polite­ness in the metro makes me scream and come back here totally upset)

    • Wow, I hadn’t real­ized you hadn’t gone back in that long. That’s tough. I think I was almost two years with­out com­ing back a while ago, and I was really home­sick at the end (and annoyed at France when I went there, of course…!).

      I felt really depressed at times as well. I feel for you :-(

      But I am so happy to hear that you are now a per­ma­nent res­i­dent! That’s pretty awe­some. So you are here to stay, for good, and soon to be a cit­i­zen. Yep, these three years go back super fast! That’s great news, I’m very happy for you two :-)

  3. Home is where the heart is…

    (Yeah, I’m finally back!)

  4. khatereh zandiyeh

    Hello, I read your com­ments regard­ing to liv­ing in Canada and a ques­tion came to my mind that why you didn’t choose Aus­tralia to live? did you search about liv­ing in Aus­tralia before choos­ing Canada to live? I am going to move to another coun­try and I am from Iran. I am a lady who love her fam­ily and I have doubt­ful which coun­try is bet­ter to live and work? please guide me if you have any idea?

    Thanks
    Khatereh

    • I trav­eled to Aus­tralia twice, I enjoy the coun­try but 1) I feel closer to Canada’s cul­ture 2) Aus­tralia is VERY far from Europe and most other coun­tries 3) Their immi­gra­tion poli­cies are quite restricted.

      To each his own I guess!

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