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


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I’m so home­sick lately for my home coun­try of Canada, moved to the US because I mar­ried an Amer­i­can, been here 4 years but I miss Canada so much and hon­estly wish it was sim­pler to move us all back.

  2. I really strug­gle with liv­ing in Canada, to clar­ify not finan­cially, I just do not want to live here for the rest of my life. I hate the moment I decided to move and wish I can go back. Unfor­tu­nately it is not that easy.

    • I’m really sorry to hear that. How long have you been here? Is there any­thing in par­tic­u­lar you dis­like? Most peo­ple go through stages where they love their coun­try, and then hate it. Some­time, Canada isn’t the right place for you, and there is noth­ing wrong with that. But you deserve to be happy, so a solu­tion has to be found… in Canada or elsewhere.

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