10 Things That Will Make a Homesick Brit Sob – and How To Cope

Finding a pound in your wallet may bring a tear to your eye. (Photo via AP)

Longing for your native land and its people is one of the biggest strains of resettling abroad. And homesickness can strike hours, days, months or even years after you first hop aboard a plane without a return ticket. Here are just a few things that might make you mourn for good old Blighty.   

1. Strangers with British accents
You might find yourself wanting to accost these people, with little to say other than, “You appear to be British. Me too! How about that, then?” To avoid awkwardness, it’s best to have a follow up observation prepared like, “Americans, eh. Mad aren’t they?”

Tip: On the off chance these sorts of interactions don’t evolve into cozy friendships, satisfy your Brit craving by joining expat groups.

2. Big events back home
RSVPing in the negative will make you feel sad. But, alas, missing weddings and even funerals is an unavoidable part of expat life.

Tip: Try to keep a slush fund for emergency trips home. Because that great aunt you barely knew will only get cremated once.

3. British money
Until I moved to the U.S., finding forgotten cash in drawers never made me emotional. Now, though, the glint of a pound coin or the smell of crisp fiver chokes me right up.

Tip: Spend or donate your pounds and pennies before departing for the U.S.

4. Christmas
Most American public holidays don’t match with those back home so they won’t make you homesick. Christmas, however, can be a lonely slog if you’re not able to make it back to the UK.

Tip: Volunteer to work at a homeless shelter or try to score an invite to an American’s house.

5. Dealing with British call centers
My occasional telephone interactions with comparatively bureaucracy-light British companies make me all nostalgic. These days, I barely notice customer service blunders that would once have had me screaming at the poor Geordie on the other end of the line.

Tip: Never ring call centers just for a chat. They don’t like that.

6. Being turned down for credit
Even if your score was in the stratosphere back home, it’ll hold no weight here. In the U.S., foreigners are all risky prospects with no relevant financial history. Being turned down for a credit card will make you long for the time when people respected your paperwork. 

Tip: Review your old credit card statements for a small, if pointless, ego boost.

7. The Olympics
I’m distraught to have missed out on all the British moaning that went on in the weeks and months leading up to 2012. Reading about it from afar just isn’t the same as actually being there, sneering alongside my fellow countrymen.

Tip: Watch the excellent mock documentary series Twenty Twelve.

8. Your shipping container arriving
Being reunited with your stuff is as distressing as it is joyous. Everything smells of your old house! Even the shriveled up grape that somehow fell into a box of cushions and bed linen will make you wistful.

Tip: There’s no way to avoid this unless you decide to ditch everything you own and start again stateside. In the long run, this might make you more miserable.

9. Extreme weather
My translucently pale skin and prickly demeanor simply cannot cope with the extreme heat of a New York summer. I fantasize about dreary days and wearing thermal underwear in July. Hearing Brits grumble about the rain and the cold back home is excruciating.

Tip: Avoid conversations about the weather from June until September.

10. Trying to make a new best friend
Finding a buddy who’s good for more than superficial chitchat is tricky. While you wait to find “the one” you’ll long for your pals back home. The problem is, most adults over twenty-five stopped taking applications for platonic soul-mates some time ago and finding the exceptions can take time. 

Treat friending like dating. Join groups and don’t be scared to make the first move.  

What do you do when you’re missing home?

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • http://twitter.com/GoodNghtIrene JrsyGrl

    OMG, you make it sound like it’s torture living in the US. Believe me things aren’t any easier for us Yanks when we’re in YOUR country either.

  • Kevin

    I don’t think she’s making it sound like torture at all. She’s just pointing out that it’s tough being away from home and that there are small things that may trigger homesickness. That’s all.

  • http://www.paulinewiles.com/blog Pauline Wiles

    I agree with Kevin. I love living in the US, but big occasions like the Queen’s jubilee, or the Olympic cycling going through the park where I used to run, make me melancholy.

  • getyourownshoe

    Have been in the US about a year and have experienced every single one of these! I thought I was going mad when I was smelling all my clothes that got shipped over in a container. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sane_Scientist

    Six months and counting and I too have experienced every one of these :) Things can only get better right?

  • Lynne

    The hardest thing for me is that you can’t joke around or discuss anything interesting with Americans because A- they have no sense of humour and B- they get offended very easily if you don’t see eye to eye on everything.

    • gn

      …and I suppose Brits all have bad teeth and don’t shower?

      Let’s get away from national stereotypes.

    • Georgie

      So true! Americans don’t have any sense of humour! That is why Friends, a 20 year old t.v. sitcom, is on everyday in the UK.

    • http://www.bees-on-the-net.com Bees on the Net

      Much of our sense of humour relies on culture. It’s often impossible to tell a British joke in America because they don’t understand the cultural nuances. Try watching some old comedy on YouTube like, the Two Ronnies – Four Candles sketch. You’ll find that you need a lot of background knowledge to truly ‘get it’.

      The other point is that America is more homogeneous, so inevitably one has to be more careful about offending people. A large part of British humour relies upon insulting. The general level of vocabulary is higher in Britain than America.

      This is understandable because so many people came to the US not knowing English, people speaking to them as they learned English are bound to limit the complexity of the words they use.

  • gn

    The only things I really missed (apart from the obvious — friends and family) — is pubs, warm beer, and being able to get about more easily without a car.

    The last one obviously depends on what place in the UK you came from and what place in the US you went to, but it is generally true.

    • Georgie

      Ask the bartender to put your beer in the microwave.

  • Lynne

    Actually, I shower everyday and have beautiful teeth but thanks for proving my point :)

    • gn

      In case you didn’t realize, I myself am a Brit.

  • Jess

    I get so homesick that this year I flew home for both the Queens Jubilee (4 day bank holiday and everyone’s off work?! I’m coming home!) and again for the Olympics. I wasn’t missing either of those stuck down here in Florida.

    The British accent thing was funny. I have spoken to many a Brit who thinks I am a bit weird as I strike up conversation with them. I forget us Brits don’t tend to talk to strangers.

  • JL

    After 4 years can’t say I have missed anything from the UK apart from the obvious “FAMILY”. I made a new best friend quite easily. Once went to a British pub in the US and it only confirmed why we left!!!

  • Georgie

    10. And this is different in the UK?

  • WF

    Sadly, number 10 rung truest with me. Making chitchat with people is nice for public civility and can be good if you’re a regular at store or coffee shop. Brits should do that a bit more, in moderation naturally. However, I’ve worked with Brits abroad (I’m American) and find they value friendship more. And being in Britain many times, I have always felt that while the British can seem cold (but not always, and I hate how people brood about that), I know that were I to live there, I would have some good friends within a couple months. So many Americans don’t understand that friendship can’t be metaphorically put into some kind of fast food like production line.

  • http://www.bees-on-the-net.com Bees on the Net

    Thank goodness for Radio4 on-line. I listen to it most of the time. I wish the BBC would expedite the introduction of the iPlayer to the US. I would happily buy a TV license if it meant I could watch ‘the best TV in the world’ with impunity. (instead of having to finagle it.)

  • Lulu

    I agree – it’s the little things that can trigger those pangs of homesickness: a BBC English accent… a Werther’s Original… I’ve just started my own blog about being a British expat in the Middle East. Do stop by and have a look if you get a moment – http://www.homesickandheatstruck.com