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Culture shock & homesickness: 4 things to expect in Australia

It's important to know where to get help

Young international student laying on her bed wearing a white and black knit
Young international student laying on her bed wearing a white and black knit

Moving to a new country is one of those experiences you never forget - from booking your flights to packing your bags and taking those first steps in your new home! During those first few days of being in Australia, you may still feel like a tourist - everything you see is still so fresh and exciting.

But, after a few weeks, things might start to settle – you develop a routine, learn your local bus route and find your favourite café. But you may also notice yourself longing for the familiarity of home. This can be when things feel challenging, and you might find you have moments of sadness.

Feeling unsettled is natural, and something we all deal with at some stage. But knowing what to do about it will mean you can start feeling yourself again, sooner.

At nib, we aim to be your health partner, so whether it’s about looking after your mental health or helping you navigate the hospital system, we’re here to support you. We’ve put together a list of potential issues to look out for when arriving in Australia, as well as ways to access support.

Remember: there are plenty of services and people around you to help Australia feel like home and allow you to thrive.

1. Homesickness

Homesickness can be described as a longing for the people and things you’ve left behind in your home country. You may feel anxious, teary, and craving familiarity.

This is a very common problem. You can help manage it by talking to people around you; staying in touch with family and friends allows you to express to others what you are experiencing. It might be a good idea to schedule regular phone calls, particularly in those first few months when you’re really new and still meeting many of your to-be friends.

Eating well and staying active will help your body adjust to changes as well, and keep you feeling mentally strong. Consider grocery shopping at a cheap fresh produce market and taking regular walks around your nearest park.

2. Culture shock

Culture shock is when you feel like you don’t fit within the social norms of a new place, or it could simply be that you just don’t understand them. You may find the way people speak and interact new and difficult to understand, or miss the traditions and rituals of home.

A good way to overcome culture shock is to find a regular activity you enjoy doing. This will help you settle into a place quicker by giving you something to look forward to. You may even meet like-minded people and learn a new skill! Consider activities such as doing a creative course, volunteering or joining a sports team.

Young international student in bed by himself looking at his phone

3. Isolation

It can feel strange moving to a city where you may only know a handful of people. This can be uncomfortable at first, and it is normal to have times when you experience loneliness and isolation.

To help resolve this, try joining a social club at your educational institution and look to connect with people from your culture or those who speak your language. You can find out what clubs are available by checking your education provider’s website, or by seeking help from the international student office.

4. Your mental health

Homesickness, culture shock and isolation are all related to your mental health. It’s important to take notice of how you feel generally and be prepared to manage your emotions. By looking after your mental health, you will find yourself better able to succeed at your work and studies.

Poor mental health can sometimes appear as any of the following symptoms:

  • Tiredness or being unable to sleep

  • Nervousness

  • Hopelessness

  • Feeling restless and fidgeting

  • Struggling with day-to-day tasks

  • Feelings of worthlessness

If any of these do occur, there are health services in Australia that can support you to feel yourself again. Consider reaching out to your education provider’s counselling service or finding a local psychologist.

Moving countries means meeting new people, experiencing new ways of living, and immersing yourself in new ideas. These help you grow as a person and present exciting opportunities for your career, as well as the chance to make lifelong friendships. While there are challenges in any adventure, having the right support networks and services will make the transition into your new home much smoother.