The Season of Expat Homesickness

It’s so dark. Why is it always raining? Everything is different shades of gray. 

Wintertime in Denmark can bring up these feelings of gloominess, for expats and Danes alike. The only cure seems to be hygge, with candles galore and Christmas decorations strewn around the house. For the Dane, this is tradition. For the expat, this may bring some solace. But, why do we see expats struggling during these winter months? 

It all comes down to the usual answer, but more pertinent than ever: Homesickness. 

The winter months are abundant with holidays: Christmas, Chanukkah, Thanksgiving, and more. Such holidays are associated with homecoming and family; it's the time to see those you have not seen all year, all while eating copious amounts of homemade food. To those hosting, it's almost expected that those far away take the time and effort to come to these annual gatherings. This is where the unique conundrum comes in for the expat. 

If you don’t show up to the annual gathering, you’re bombarded by family texts asking where you are or why you’re not coming. Some members may send their condolences with “thinking of you!” Among these texts, there are pictures in the family chat or on social media of the food. A giant turkey. Cookies from grandma’s famous recipe. Alcohol that can only be found in that specific town. There could be a sense of missing out, exclusion from the family while they’re celebrating, or longing to taste that food you’ve had every year. 

Alternatively, if you do show up, you’re trying to make the most of your time with family with the limited time off you were able to conjure up. Depending how far away home is, this is something to take into consideration for your vacation days and budget. You may experience the inevitable stress of family when you arrive. Or, what one would least expect, you still experience that homesickness. You’ve missed out on so much time being away from home, that it seems that everyone else grew up and progressed. It’s not the same home as you remember, or as how you left it. 

For an expat, it seems like a lose-lose situation; no matter what decision is made, there always seems to be some stressor that needs to be overcome. On top of that, there is the foreignness of Denmark. There are mixed reactions to the very early preparations for Christmas, ranging from “so cozy!” to “it’s not even October yet!!” 

What can be done for people like us? 

That’s where expats flourish in their uniqueness. We find ways to navigate our own hygge during these times. Some of us go home. Some of us stay and create our own traditions. Some of us decide to treat it as some time off. 

Although there’s no “one-size-fits-all” manual on how to overcome homesickness during the holiday season in Denmark, and that our individual stories are unique, there are a few “tips” that support the agency to embrace homesickness. 


Here are 3 of the tips most valued by our clients:


Even if you know it’s normal to feel homesick from time to time, it’s a powerful tool to say it out loud. Saying it out loud to yourself can ease the overwhelmingness you might feel when the emotion of homesickness flushes through you. “It’s normal, and this too shall pass.” We are not defined by our emotions, and thus feeling them with a kind embrace will ease them, not prolong them.


Part of letting yourself know that “it’s normal” is reminding your brain that it’s alright to feel blue at a time where everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Expose yourself to the same kind of kindness you would offer a good friend. Knowing that you are part of a community of expats that all experience homesickness from time to time can help.


Let people know! We can have a tendency to believe that showing our emotions are weak and should be dealt with on our own. However, research supports that the best antidote to overwhelming feelings– be it homesickness, anxiety or depression –is the experience of connection with others, and that when we share our vulnerability, our internal emotional pressure decreases.

At Expat Hero we are specialized in the psychological aspects of expat life and are trained psychotherapists with a special focus on supporting expats, globally mobile families and intercultural couples thrive in life. 

If you feel continuously overwhelmed, make sure to seek help. In Denmark, you can ask your doctor for a referral to see a psychologist. Or, if you have a health insurance company, many of them have early care programs where you can choose a therapist of your choice.

If you want to know about Expat Hero you can find us here:


Phone: +45 4011 0459


Instagram: @expathero_dk 


Written by Nanna Hauch and Nikki Hueng, Expat Hero, Nov. 2022