Saturday, March 24, 2012

Table Talk: Homesickness?

Susan J. Matt, a professor of history at Weber State University (Ogden, Utah), but writing an op-ed for the NYT (March 21, 2012), tells of how "The New Globalist Is Homesick":
In nearly a decade's research into the emotions and experiences of immigrants and migrants, I've discovered that many people who leave home in search of better prospects end up feeling displaced and depressed.

This might not seem especially surprising, for everyone has experienced homesickness, but a statistic provided by Professor Matt did catch my eye, namely, that "20 to 40 percent of all immigrants to the United States ultimately return to their native lands"! Migrants returning doesn't surprise me, but immigrants? Surprising. Even more surprising was the shift in attitudes about admitting to homesickness:
In the 19th century, Americans . . . admitted that mobility was emotionally taxing . . . . Stories of the devastating effects of homesickness were common . . . . Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity.

Think about that. Those tough men and women of the 19th century gave voice to their emotions. I'd always imagined them stoical, but we contemporary folk seem more closed-mouth about our feelings than they were . . . with respect to homesickness, anyway.

I'm also silent about feeling homesick, but that's because I don't feel any homesickness at all, despite my many years abroad -- indeed, probably because of them. I'm used to being away from home. My only adult case of homesickness occurred during my first year at Baylor University, way back in 1975 to 1976, when I was still adjusting to life in the 'big' city of Waco, Texas and powerfully missing the Arkansas Ozarks.

In Korea, by contrast, I feel no homesickness at all. Neither voluble nor stoical about any putative homesickness, I am perfectly satisfied, even happy here.

There must be something wrong with me . . .

Labels: , , ,


At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been working abroad in the academy for 20 years, never homesick. Until now. I have a 14 month old grand daughter, my first. I've just ended a 9-month research leave, in which I was able to visit her 4 times during her first year of life. I'm now terribly homesick, and I'm seeking an appropriate post as close to her as I can get.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for sharing. Perhaps I'll someday feel homesick again -- I've lived long enough not to take anything for granted.

I hope that you find your way home . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:18 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

I think there is something wrong with the article. "20 to 40 percent" is too wide a range for someone "really" doing "their" research. A +/- margin of 3 or 4 would be much more acceptable.

At 5:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wondered about that, too. I suspect that it might have something to do with the uncertain status of permanent immigrant versus temporary migrant.

Where's the dividing line? Is it self-reported? Or bureaucratically defined?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous John said...

I retired after working/living here for six years. Back in the states I got homesick for Korea. So, I spend a few months here every year now. Best of both worlds, although truth be told I kinda sorta like my Korea life best...

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Korea's been quite good to me -- not perfect, mind you, but quite good.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe you about not being homesick, but I suspect you miss the Ozarks. I have never been one to suffer from homesickness either, however I have never lived more than 2,000 miles from "home".


At 7:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I sometimes miss the planet earth, and especially the Ozarks, but I'm at home here, too, and I take a look at the Ozarks every day on the website of Tim Ernst, who posts a new photo daily.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home