Homesickness: Sadness caused by longing for one’s home or family during a period of absence. Also: an instance of this. In early use sometimes regarded as a medical condition. Oxford English Dictionary

As a newcomer to Pittsburgh, I am homesick. Despite moving here almost three years ago for my husband’s job, everything still feels new. We have never lived anywhere but southeast Michigan all our lives so it’s a shock that I have yet to get over. It lingers in the back corners of my mind but then I might be plunged into it whenever I hear certain music or read a news article or book–and there have been several books about Detroit lately due to its notorious example of urban failure.

As a good librarian, I’ve been researching homesickness for information that might help with what I’m feeling (loss, loneliness, unfamiliarity) and practical tips on how to cope (difficult for an introvert like myself who dislikes change). Surprisingly, this has proven to be difficult.

Most magazine articles I find about homesickness are all geared toward the college student or young child at camp or away from home for the first time. It’s much easier to adjust when you’re younger–it’s also a lot easier to make friends. But what do you do when you’re a homesick adult?

And there are often chapters in books about moving that talk about making your children feel more comfortable during a move but again, nothing for or about adults. Perhaps our culture assumes that adults don’t struggle with feelings of homesickness?

But this isn’t true. I can only find one entire book devoted to this topic: Homesickness: An American History by Susan J. Matt. It traces the history of migrations and, using diaries and letters, explains that throughout history humans have always felt homesick. Well, duh! But, back then, when you left home, it most likely was forever. I’m lucky Michigan is only five hours away.


Sometimes I feel guilty feeling like this, especially when I remember that my own father left Cuba during the revolution in 1957 when he was eighteen years old and has never returned. Imagine moving from tropical Cuba to bitterly cold Detroit  in January, not knowing English and enrolled at a large university long before they even had resources or services for foreign students.

How about you? Are you from somewhere else and struggling with homesickness? 



Filed under Uncategorized

15 responses to “Homesick

  1. Not now, but when I was younger I moved from Scotland to London for a few years for work reasons, and was staggered and nearly overwhelmed by the feelings of homesickness. Only an hour’s flight away, same language, the opportunity to live in one of the most exciting cities anywhere – but it felt like an entirely different world in which I was an alien misfit. The feelings lessened after a while, once I made a couple of friends and developed a bit of a social life, but never really went away. The day I moved back genuinely was the happiest of my life.

  2. My mom always said that moving was harder on adults than children – kids are more flexible and make new friends more easily. Now as an adult I think she’s right. And great list of books on Detroit! Odd how trendy it is now.

  3. Steph

    I lived in Tucson for three years and while I had a great time, I still missed Pittsburgh a lot and the things I took for granted here. I assumed every town had a classical music radio station, and that’s not true. Even now, six years after I moved back, I never want to leave because I know I’ll miss WQED so badly again! (that’s kind of neurotic, but true)

  4. chaparroc

    I was born and grew up in California and although now I’ve spent more of my life here in Pittsburgh than there, I still miss it. But I would also miss Pittsburgh if I moved back (not a bad idea considering the weather) so then one has to deal with two homesicknesses. I hope it isn’t a fatal disease as I’d be dead twice…

    • Homesick for two places would probably mean you a) got used to your new place and/or b) lived so long in both places you felt an affinity for both. I guess the real question would be, were you homesick for both at the same time?! :)

  5. Tara

    I can relate to this completely, Maria. Having only ever lived on the West Coast (Oregon and Oakland, CA) I was not prepared for the culture shock and homesickness I experienced when I moved to Pittsburgh. It is something that I still struggle with, although after four years it’s gotten quite a bit better. I find that the best remedy is finding other ex-pats from your home city so you can reminisce about the things you miss :-)

  6. Pingback: Nostalgia: The Pain of Leaving Home

  7. Liz

    Hi. I’m planning to move to — of all places — southeast Michigan in two months. I’m trying to do some mental work ahead of time because in the past I have REALLY struggled with homesickness when I’ve moved. I think it takes a long time — 3 years probably isn’t enough. I’m worried about the sadness that I know is coming. I feel for you. Thanks for sharing this post. We’re all in this together!

  8. Pingback: Pittsburgh, a Newcomer’s Perspective | Eleventh Stack

  9. Pingback: Finding the Good in Winter | Eleventh Stack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s