There’s a saying that we only appreciate something when we no longer have it.

For all the benefits that time abroad can bring, an underestimated one is an appreciation for your home country.

This seems counterintuitive, many people leave their home country for a better life. How can you appreciate it this way?

Appreciation for your home country and remaining in the foreign country aren’t necessary opposites—they can coexist. Going abroad offers a broadening of the mind that lets you see what works for your lifestyle whether they originate in the foreign country or your place of origin.

Appreciation through similarity and difference

There are two main ways that lead you to appreciate aspects of your home country:

i) Your home country is positive in the characteristic and the foreign country is also positive in the characteristic leading to an appreciation based on similarity

ii) Your home country is positive in the characteristic and the foreign country is negative in the characteristic leading to an appreciation based on difference

While appreciation for your home country happens in both ways, the second is more common. It often takes a deficiency (whether perceived or real) in the foreign country to highlight the positive aspect of your home country that you took for granted when there.

Appreciation for your home country often only happens from an ‘outside-in’ perspective.

Imagine you’re in a house which you’ve never left. Life is satisfactory and every basic need is provided. You never go hungry, you have a shelter over your head and enough activities to keep you occupied. You hear about the outside world and receive enough information about it but have never ventured past your front door. You’ve only seen your house from one angle (it’s interior).

Yet no matter how well fed, cosy and engaged you are, you’ll never truly understand nor appreciate what you have if you see it from only this angle. You need another perspective to act as a comparison point. By stepping out of the house and looking at it from another viewpoint, you broaden your perception of the world and develop points of reference that deepen your understanding.

Home Country Perspective

This is what leads to the adage that we only appreciate something or someone when they’re gone.

Sometimes the beauty of appreciation is its spontaneity. You never quite know what unique aspect of your home country or foreign country you end up admiring.

Take for example one of the characteristics based on similarity I came across when I lived in Japan having moved from my home nation the UK.

One day I came across a clip about Japan’s House of Councillors, the upper body in the country’s national legislature called the Diet. It struck me that this body operated in the same way as the House of Lords, the second chamber of the UK Parliament. Both act as a check and balance to the executive government of elected officials led by the Prime Ministers of each respective country. I realised both as examples of bicameral legislature—splitting the assembly that makes laws for the country into two different parts to hold each other accountable.

As the British system was the first ever example of bicameral legislature, I felt an appreciation for its influence on democracy worldwide, even in a country with a differing culture such as Japan.

As for an example of an appreciation of my home country based on difference, it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) after my first monthly health insurance bill arrived in Tokyo. Having to pay a noticeable chunk of your salary separate from tax at convenience stores every month towards potential healthcare costs might not seem like a big deal in many countries. But when that contribution only covers 70% of healthcare fees and your country’s covers everything for less, it becomes a noticeable hindrance.

Expats from many other nations relished Japan’s improvement on their own country’s healthcare system which is still world class, but as a British person, it didn’t quite live up to my own country’s one. I could only truly appreciate the NHS when I didn’t have access to it.

Of course the other scenario of relishing a positive characteristic that the foreign country does better than your own country is also a possibility. This is part of the thrill of travel and relocation. There are always trade-offs. Every country has its strengths and weaknesses, pleasant surprises and unanticipated letdowns. Being abroad teaches you what’s good for you: what you like and dislike, cherish or hate, miss or dispense with. Only you and you alone can know what you subjectively value—one person’s love of a homeland aspect might be a compatriot’s nightmare they’re happy to flee from.

Let’s look at some specific aspects that can be appreciated when abroad.

Ways of appreciating your home country

Culture and traditions

As any expat knows, it doesn’t take long for differences between cultures to stand out. Culture shock is real and the struggle to adapt can jar many a traveller or relocator abroad.

So a time where the difference between your culture and the foreign culture is most apparent is often a time you’ll appreciate your home country.

Appreciation that goes too far into yearning can result in homesickness. This is something that can be overcome where you remove distress and keep a healthy appreciation for your home country in mind.

Appreciation need not only occur from difference—you can appreciate the similarities between cultures too. 

For instance, if punctuality is highly valued in your home country and the foreign country you’re in also prizes being on time, then you may cherish the habits that your country’s culture instilled in you that help you avoid being out of place in the new country.


Language is an aspect that inevitably becomes appreciated. If your native language isn’t spoken or widespread in the foreign country you’re now in, you’ll likely appreciate the ease at which you could communicate with no issue back in your home country. Even if it is widely spoken (such as English in the Scandinavian countries), you’ll appreciate how your native tongue plays a huge role in connecting different internationals who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to talk to one another.

Appreciation for your home country’s language also occurs when learning another language. As the means from which you’ve expressed yourself verbally from a very young age, your native language’s characteristics are engrained—you don’t question whether they’re easy or difficult.

When you learn another language, you compare the target language to your own and any difficult or unusual characteristics are revealed. Learning 4 cases in German as an English speaker doesn’t seem so bad once you realise Hungarian has 17. You end up grateful that your native tongue doesn’t have that difficult grammatical rule this target one does.

Of course language difficulty is relative and depends on the linguistic proximity of your base language to the target one. But you can always find a way to appreciate your mother tongue.

Home Country Language


Travelling or living in a foreign country can give you access to new and exciting culinary experiences.

But it may also leave you craving for the national dishes and comfort foods of home.

Even if you move to a country renowned for its gastronomy, you may still have the odd day where you yearn for the local delicacies of your place of origin.

Many countries are proud of their gastronomic culture and have reduced demand for international cuisines. This can mean that you struggle to find alternative cuisines when eating out and your home country’s food may be one of them.

Even if you do find your local cuisine in town, it may not live up to the authentic standards you were used to back in your home country.

Many expats go out of there way to cook food from their home country even if it’s challenging to find the ingredients where they are. They simply can’t go too long without the tastes of home.

However you get your home nation’s food, when you do eat a good version of it abroad, you appreciate it that much more.

Infrastructure and amenities

Living abroad can help you appreciate the infrastructure and amenities that you had in your home country. This tends to be more the case if you’ve moved from a developed country to a developing one.

People in developed countries tend to take the access to public transportation, quality of roads, healthcare services and even readily available water and electricity for granted back in their home country. It’s only when such fundamentals are altered or even not available that you begin to appreciate them.

Appreciation is not exclusive to a one-way direction of wealthier country to less wealthy country. An American friend who visited Europe mentioned how he misses the widespread public transport available across much of the continent. As a person with epilepsy, he can’t drive and relies on transportation by others to get around his state in the US. A public transportation system would be invaluable to him. Even though the US is the richest country in the world, its infrastructure trade off isn’t always beneficial to all its citizens compared to less wealthy countries.

Whatever direction you’re moving in, chances are you’ll find an amenity or infrastructural feature that is more convenient back in your home country to appreciate.

Weather and climate

It should come as no surprise that weather and climate are featured on a list of appreciation points. Many expats lament the bad weather of a country they’ve moved to (as a British citizen I hear it all the time).

On the opposite side, despite going to a country with better weather overall (again, something I’m used to as a British citizen), there can still be times you miss aspects of your home country’s climate. When I was younger, I used to groan about some of the dark and dingy winters in the UK but after a period of time in tropical countries, I appreciated the balance of four seasons as opposed to nonstop heat and humidity.

Of course there are those who only see the weather of the country they’ve moved to as a net positive. But whether you realise it or not, the climate of your home country played a part in the development of your country’s culture through the effects it has on geography and resources. Consider it as having had a hand in shaping who you are—there is always something to appreciate.

Since it played a part forming the geography of your homeland, it also influenced its natural beauty.

Natural beauty

All countries in the world have some kind of beauty within.

You may be mesmerised by the picturesque beauty of a landscape or environment in the foreign country. The impact it has on you can make you reminisce about the natural beauty in your home country. Or it could make you realise the difference between the two nations.

Unlike a beauty pageant, the aesthetics of natural environments isn’t a competition. Many people have places they treasure in their home country that don’t have to place in a landscape photography competition to be special.

An appreciation for the beauty outside is a powerful tool for mindfulness. Find the beauty wherever you are in the world.

Home Country Natural Beauty


Living abroad doesn’t mean forgetting where you came from. We can appreciate aspects of our home country without caving into homesickness.

There are two predominant ways of appreciating your homeland—an appreciation through similarity with the foreign country and an appreciation through difference. Experiencing life in another country gives you an outside perspective of life in your own country that you couldn’t have if you stayed there.

Almost anything in a country can be appreciated but some of the most common aspects you can tap into are your home country’s culture and traditions, language, food, infrastructure, weather and natural beauty.

Research shows the power that gratitude brings us if we take time to harness those emotions. The key to appreciating your country in another one is to use those aspects, values and strengths that you picked up in your home country and integrate them into your life in the foreign one. That way you get the best of both worlds without forgetting your place of origin.