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Expat Homesickness

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Can an “expat” suffer from “Homesickness”?

Anyone pondering this question — whether Filipino, “expat,” or “other” — will have a unique answer.  Not only are the answers unique — the points of view from which they proceed are equally diverse.

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Being human, we all have some sense and desire for familiarity.  Finding ourselves in new or different surroundings for a considerable period often stimulates those senses and desires.  Our reactions can be quite diverse.

Some people are lightly affected.  Others take it tough to the point of extreme emotion.  It’s safe to assume that the reactions we call “homesickness” are as numerous and diverse as those who encounter it.  That is, everyone reacts differently to some degree, but generalized facets among the sufferers are present.  Of course, this is common knowledge.  Sooooo…., let’s put a twist on it!

This article won’t be about a Filipino’s homesickness when away from Paradise.  Nor will it be about the homesickness an “expat” may have for the “Motherland” while sitting in Paradise.  Add another category to diversity:  This article will touch on the experiences of homesickness for Paradise that one “expat” has upon returning to the Motherland.

I’m homesick for Paradise!

Where do I begin?  Everything seems so “foreign” here in the Motherland.  It’s certainly does not seem to be the same place where I grew up.  Perhaps the best place to start is the Motherland airport, deplaning from that long trans-Pacific flight.

Yeow!  The first thing I notice is the temperature change.  When we boarded that plane, even though it was around 9:00 PM Manila time, it was still about 32°C (89.6°F).  Now, as I shiver while changing terminals, it’s around 55°F (12.8°C).  That’s quite a change — worse than air conditioning.  What’s worse, this island guy doesn’t have a jacket or sweater.  It’s a good thing I remembered to wear long pants.

I’m homesick for the ever-present warmth of Paradise.

All around me is what seems to be a never-ending string of disgruntles passengers.  Complaints about this flight, complaint about that airline, complain, complain, and complain.  I don’t see a single smiling face or hear a pleasant greeting.  I’d settle for a “Hey Joe” right about now.  Unfortunately, what I seek is isolated to the suburban pockets of different “Little Manila” neighborhoods.  Where I’m at seems to be pure “Puti-ville”!

I’m homesick for my neighbors and friends in Paradise.

Now, we wait for our “red-eye” flight to mid-west Motherland, and it’s getting a little hungry out, so off to a snack bar, restaurant or whatever place we can find in the airport to “put on the feedbag.”  What’s this, no pancit?  No lumpia?  No lechon?  No adobo?  No bagnet?  No pinakbet?  No dinagdakan?  No sinang-lao?  Not even any dinengdeng?  Well, at least there’s some rice.  What’s this, Uncle Ben’s?  I’m not even going to ask about fruit or ice cream.

I’m homesick for the treats, food and delicacies of Paradise.

We arrived at our destination in mid-west Motherland, and our sons met us at the airport.  It was nice to see them again, and catch up on all that’s been happening since our departure last year.  After a short ride and depositing us and our luggage at our eldest son’s new home, both boys had to head back for work.  Busy time for both of them — we won’t see them for a good, sit-down chat until supper time.

I’m homesick for the family members — especially the lolos and lolas — we left behind in Paradise.

With time to spare after freshening up from our travels, we decided to borrow a car and head for the nearby military base.  Our retiree ID cards will be our passports back to more familiar turf.  At least I hope so.  It has been a long time since we’ve been to a military base and have spent time shopping in the exchange store and commissary.  It certainly didn’t take long to suffer our first of many attacks of “sticker shock.”  The prices are outrageous.  Isn’t anything in this store locally grown?  I’m getting fat just looking at all of this preserved food with extra-added ingredients.

I’m homesick for shopping at a palengke, tienda, or even an impromptu “farmers’ market” on the side of the road.

We continue to look around for an hour or two, and then hear the announcement on the overhead sound system that the store is closing in fifteen minutes.  No sooner do we redirect our attention at the selection of quick-frozen bangus and tilapia, and a store clerk comes up to us and tells us we have to head for the cashier — the store is closing.

I’m homesick for Philippine Time.

So, can an “expat” traveling back to the Motherland be homesick for Paradise?  I would say so.  I think I have proof, too.  It only took one day to develop, and I’ve a full-blown case of it — been suffering ever since.  I’m ready:

  • to head back for the warmth of Paradise, where
  • we can spend time among the smiling faces and the pleasant greetings and chit-chat, while
  • enjoying all the wonderful things to eat and drink that Paradise provides, with
  • our neighbors, relatives and friends (especially the lolos and lolas), after
  • obtaining these treats from the local palengke, and
  • take our time doing it all to the utmost of our enjoyment!

Did I mention that I miss our house?  I AM homesick!

Posted in ,

PaulK

Paul is a CPA and a retired tax accountant, having served companies and corporations of all sizes, as well as individuals, in public accounting practices. Prior to what he refers to as his "real job," he served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. It was during this career that he met and married his OFW spouse of 40+ years, Emy, while stationed in London, UK. (Though he pleaded for the assignment, Paul never received orders to the Philippines.) A "Phil-phile" from an early age, Paul remembers his first introduction to the Philippines in the primary grades of a parochial elementary school where, one week each year, children donated their pennies to purchase school supplies, food and other necessities for Filipino children in need. That love for Filipinos continues to this day. Calling Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte--in the far northwestern part of Luzon--home (just about as far away from Davao as one can be while still being on one of the major islands) Paul prefers a more relaxed provincial life style, and willingly shares a different view of the Philippines from "up north"!

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Paul Thompson
11 years ago

Hello Paul; The last time I was in CONUS was in 2000, albeit I did go to Guam for a week in 2005. But hey, Guam it’s kinda’ like here, except the ladies are a tad larger. I don’t think I could ever adjust to New England again, nor would I want too. The cure for your being homesick is to get your tail back home! I was homesick the other day, sitting at home and sick because of too many SMB’s with my friends here in paridise the night before. I could be homesick again this week, who knows?… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Hi Paul – Having lived in Guam for 2 years during the early ’80s, I would say that you are most kind in observing “tad” for some of those lovely ladies. Only SMB around here is the export version, so heavily treated with preservatives that many morticians may have a few cases set aside just in case they run out of their regular “fluid”! I wouldn’t mind trading versions of homesickness, but I’ve never been sick from SMB. I would stay home after imbibing massive quantities, but only to imbibe more. After all, it’s cultural tradition that the party isn’t… Read more »

brian
brian
11 years ago

Good story Paul, wait till you go out for dinner and you get the check ……you’ll think you paid for all the patrons !!!

Welcome home….where your wallet is held hostage !!

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  brian

Hi Brian – We’ve been lucky so far. Our sons have been picking up the checks each time we go out to eat. We provide the cuisine when we eat at home, so it somehow “evens out”! I nearly fainted when my eldest showed me a $150+ bill. For the first time in my life, I was happy that the service was so extremely slow – the manager couldn’t stop apologizing for the poor service. Well, he did stop once we demanded (and obtained) 50% off the bill. I haven’t carried a wallet for over a year. Now I remember… Read more »

maynard
maynard
11 years ago

Being from the New England states sure doesnt impress me anymore,the snow the cold the high cost of living.Ive been away from there since 1985 ,i moved to the southern states and i can t say i miss them either.All said and done is home is where your most contented.I personally would miss the phils if i was never to return, maybe because of the love for the people here. Personally i can live in any place, not many people can say that.Im happy in a nippa hut if need be.Paradise is all in the thinking of the person,some might… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  maynard

Hi Maynard – I’d be more than happy to be sitting in a nipa hut right now. Unfortunately, even though I had my fill of it within the first 24-hours, I still have things to do in the motherland.

Reading of the pilot problems at PAL doesn’t make things any easier to stomach, either. 🙁

I’ve a bit more respect now for Douglas MacArthur’s vow to return. I don’t want to make any similar statements – don’t want to jinx things.
😆

John Reyes
11 years ago

Hi, Paul: Are you still in the Motherland, or are you back in Paradise, at this moment? Yes, I know the feeling exactly as you have described it! If you were born and raised in the Philippines, or if you were foreign-born but have tasted life in Paradise and become Filipinized so thoroughly as to be able to proclaim without equivocation a preference for dinengdeng over pot roast, heck yes, you most certainly will feel an immediate longing to be back with the people, the culture and that idyllic place called Pasuquin that you have just left behind. The overswhelming… Read more »

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

John, I enjoyed reading what you wrote, not only what you wrote but how you wrote it. You construct an eloquent word painting. Have read it 3 times and will read it again! When I was a child in my parent’s family home my mother and father had put a large map of the world on my bedroom wall. I studied it much during the long cold Wisconsin winters, looking up the locations in the library’s National Geographic’s and more. After college I moved to Florida, a class mate had moved to Hawaii but at the time it was more… Read more »

John Reyes
11 years ago
Reply to  Jade

Hi, Jade: Thank you for the compliments. My recollection of the province of Laguna is one of cleanliness and orderliness. During a 2002 balikbayan trip to the Philippines, my wife and I went to Pagsanjan Falls. We hired a taxi from in front of our hotel on Pedro Gil in Makati. It was a pleasant journey all the way to Pagsanjan, and since it was my first visit ever to that province, I was excited to have finally seen the birthplace of Jose Rizal in Calamba. To this day, I remember remarking to my wife during the ride how pleasing… Read more »

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

John,
I know the route well. Many sections are even 4 lane, but the sidewalk vendors in the towns spreading out on to the highway reduce it the regular two lanes! I know in particular the section of the provincial highway you are referring to. From Los Banos along the south shore of lake Laguna de Bay toward Pagsanjan Falls is a 15 km section which has many horticulture vendors of flowers, herbs, small bushes and trees, bordered by the rice fields spreading out in both directions. Beautiful. Wished it would extend forever.
Jade

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

Hi John – You add tears to my eyes! There are nights (or should I say mornings) when I awaken from a “Paradise” dream and lament not being able to resume that dream. How cruel the subconscious mind can be. I’m still outside the gates of Paradise, awaiting that “freedom flight” back to where I feel so very much more at home. Funny thing: while in the service, I was never really homesick for any spot on the earth. I always looked forward to the next location where new adventures awaited me. Now, I realize that my home in Paradise… Read more »

kikas_head
11 years ago

Weird, when ever I go back to visit San Francisco, I love it! I have yet to have homesickness, but it could be due to the fact that I still have a lot of friends and family there as well as the fact that I was born and raised there. In addition, I have always loved my hometown. Leaving San Francisco had nothing to do with a dislike for the place or a desire for something new. While I am really happy here, home is home for me and I am always excited to go back. The only sticker shock… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  kikas_head

Hi Kikas_head – Well, being in mid-west Motherland is like double isolation. The only place one can find a fish taco is at Red Lobster – a new, expensive menu item. Fish and seafood? It’s either frozen or forget about it. Thank goodness for a weekly farmers’ market – I just can’t take that store-bought produce and fruit (all picked before ripening, frost-shipped, thawed and sprayed before sitting forever on the grocer’s shelf). Did have a stroke of luck – had to go to the Washington DC area for a few days. I did my part to relieve the Chesapeake… Read more »

roy
roy
11 years ago

Oh Paul, I know all the dish you mentioned except sinang-lao. What is that? BTW, I will do in few months exactly the opposite of what you just did. I wonder how it would be. Some pinoys who did balikbayan thing find prices there steep by US standards.

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  roy

Hi Roy – Sinang-lao (sometimes spelled as one word without the dash) is a soup made with beef innards and skin, flavored with beef bile and kamias. (Some call it an “Ilocano hotpot” dish.)

You’ll do well in your return trip, so long as you don’t focus on the prices but focus on all else. I’ve found that prices are always higher than I expect no matter where I go. Then again, I’ve become accustomed to Ilocano ways.
😆

GenSan Chris
11 years ago

Hi Paul,
From comming here on a permanent basis I have only been out of the Country one time and that was 2003 for 2 months! I was not too happy on my arrival their and it got worse all the while as I did not know many people and everyone was too busy to have fun! Luckily for me the Wife and other Philippinos made lots af good food as there are no real Fish and Chips left in England. I was very happy to return here and have no intention of leaving again.

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  GenSan Chris

Hi Chris – I know the unhappiness on arrival and growing more unhappy as time away from home goes by. I’m always on the lookout for Filipinos/as but many have left the area where we’re staying. 20 years ago, there were more than plenty, but a second migration occurred and it’s hard finding those who remained.

I have no desire to ever leave the Philippines, but desire and reality seldom cross paths in my life. It’s best not to think too far ahead!
😉

David S
David S
11 years ago

Thoughts on homesickness: In the U.S. where I live I rarely have a power outage. Living in the south, the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees except for a week or two during the dead of winter. Walmart is open 24 hours. Krogers stays open till midnight. When people come to a red light they actually stop and wait till it turns green. Car mufflers actually reduce noise and pollution. I can go to the public library and check out books, videos and CDs for free. Novels recently published are readily available. In the event I want to buy a… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  David S

Hi David – Well, you’ve definitely been traveling a higher road than I have! 😉 Had to put up with a power outage yesterday, resulting from a severe thunderstorm with lightning, hail and winds. I shiver whenever the temperature drops below 70 and I detest air conditioning. If I walked in my sleep, I’d use a Walmart or Krogers or any of the 24/7 businesses. I don’t need to, and I don’t really need them. I get what I need and some of what I want at the palengke or in the city (if desiring some “big city lights” coming… Read more »

Boss
Boss
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul

After I read David S’s post, I do dearly miss the visual beauty and cleanliness of where I came from and the wide open spaces, the parks free from masses of people and the noise. Going back to the motherland shortly to work and see old friends but most importantly, I’ll be heading straight to the local fish and chip shop ( run by a Greek, with Vietnamese sales girls and owned by an Italian ) where I will sink my teeth into the most luscious hamburger I have ever had. Then a spot of fishing in one of the… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Boss

Hi Boss – Well, where we live in the provinces, there isn’t a lack of beauty and cleanliness. The capital city – Laoag – has a number of national “Cleanest & Greenest” awards. No city would have a problem winning the award if its citizens picked up after themselves!

It’s bucolic and rustic, but it’s home. I have my fingers crossed for our return – don’t want the old saw of “You can never go home again” to come true. I know there will be a few changes, but hopefully, nothing noticeable.
😉

Paul Thompson
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul;
And thanks to David for listing most of the reasons that make living in the Philippines an adventure. He may be right, I just choose to forgo items on the his list and embrace the items on your list. But that does not make David wrong!

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Hi Paul – I agree: David put it all in perspective and he certainly isn’t wrong.

I used to love “convenient” things. I did hate being in England when the barkeep at my local pub would announce, “Time, Gentlemen” at 10:00 PM. Most inconvenient place on earth with “pub hours.”

Having transferred there from WestPac, I had serious “cultural adjustment” problems. 10:00 PM was the time I’d normally head down the road. By then, all the “fish” had filled the girls’ purses, and a guy could have a nice evening without the old, “Buy me drinkee!”
😆

Paul Thompson
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul; On one visit to London in 1969, I was staying with friends South of the Thames River, one night in the local I asked the Publican about that law. “The Pub can not sell drinks after 2200” I asked if I bought the drinks now could I drink them after closing? The answer was yes we could. My buddy and I each put $100.00 each on the bar, and bought drinks for the 7 patrons left at 2145. To include the owner, and we stayed until 2355. The comment was made by the locals, “Bloody smart them Yanks, Aren’t… Read more »

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Paul, When exwife and I were in London culminating our 8 week backpack and Eurail vacation in ’83 we ended up in the Chiswick section of east London for the final week to extend our vacation as long as possible. What to do? We went to various museums etc., it was all great fun. We even went to a pub museum! Our favorite was frequenting the local pubs in the evening. The early closing laws were still in effect at that time. They were only open from 5 to 10 pm. Every evening was like New Years Eve. So little… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Jade

Hi Jade – I suppose I’d be happy to visit London had I never been stationed there. I had two (not one, Paul T, but two) tours there. I worked in a headquarters building that “shared” Grosvenor Square with the US Embassy, and from my “work station,” I could see Big Ben daily.

You know, Jade, you can only look at Big Ben just so many times before it looks like just another clock!

😆

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Paul – Guess that’s one difference between the shores of the River Thames. Being on the “north shore,” the publicans all wanted to close up shop and go home. I shared quarters with a couple of other sailors out in Middlesex, taking the tube to work each day (Civilian-clothes duty!). If we wanted to party beyond 10, we’d have to ride the tube into London and party at a “Club” that was licenses to stay open and serve drinks until 2:00 AM. The only hurdle to jump was getting back to the house. Our choice was to either catch the… Read more »

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul

My experience with our European trip was exciting; new places new experiences, wow. Exwife’s experience was for her traumatic, small town gal… We never discussed the trip after to reminisce or whatever… My wife Daisy and both share the the yearning for adventure of seeing new places. I am blessed.
I work with many brits and they never seem to have the nostalgia for their home country. My own microcosm of the experience is still undiminished.

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  David S

David , I can’t disagree with you at all, it is all good. My disdain for all this regulated perfection is that it is BORING! Too predictable, all the same, same, same, too many chain stores be they fast food restaurants or so called department stores. (Although the competition between them leads to REAL bargain prices and REAL discounts – something not ever found in RP!) I enjoy the unpredictable, what’s to love in life if whatever you do in life is predictable wherever you are. Long live the crazy cacophony of life in the Philippines, may it always be… Read more »

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Jade

Hi Jade – David has a number of great reasons for enjoying the motherland. I’m still in shock, though. The local Pizza chains are having a price war – seeing how many small pizzas they can sell at $10 each. PhP 450 for a small pizza? Where do these people think they are,
Makati?
😆

Jade
Jade
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul,

Domino’s recently revamped their menu to ‘improve’ their heretofore excellent product.
In my opinion it was only a big media blitz to disguise their dumbing down of their previously excellent product. Kinda like CocaColas fiasco with their New Coke promo some years ago. I watch with baited oregano breath to observe the outcome!

Jade

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Jade

While here, Jade, I partake in a pie every now and then from a chain called “Donato’s.” Not bad at all – it hasn’t changed during the whole time it’s been around and serves as a rock of security in the sea awash with change!
😉

Jay
Jay
11 years ago

I feel the same way when leaving Hawaii, for the Mainland. Everything is the same as you described, except the price shock is in reverse compared to the Mainland.

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Hi Jay – Kauai used to be my “private get-away” until a few celebrities found it and hoards of followers started haunting the isle. Used to “hide” in a plantation house in a little barangay that stood in the middle of a Gay & Robinson cane field. It was the closest thing to “Ilocandia” that I could find outside of the Philippines. Now, too many puti, no G&R, no fun.

Price-wise, I always found kama`aina prices to be lower than mainland prices! 😉

JackF
JackF
11 years ago

I get it every time i come back here,,, thats why I’m moving to the Philippines. Its weird but Philippines feels more like home to me then home does. God, 2 months and I will be home 🙂

Paul
Paul
11 years ago
Reply to  JackF

Hi Jack – Yes, it appears this “return to base phenomenon” is more widespread than one might think. I’ve heard many stories of how returning to your origins often brings on a slight depression and a larger desire to leave again.

2 more months, and I’ll be there waiting to greet you! 😆

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