The South-Asian Survival Guide

Afifa Zaheer
4 min readAug 8, 2021


Kaethe Butcher

I had read about it in books, things like, “you will forever miss something about home”. I was delusional three years ago, “I am so overworked to think about what life was like back home,” I said every time someone posed a question when in reality a tear always forms in my eye when I see friends hugging each other around me. Because in that very moment, I am filled with an urge to fly back home, run up to my friends and wrap my arms around them. I yearn to just show up at their doorstep without prior warning and being welcomed with open arms.

You must have heard it, I know we all have at one point or another. “How do you feel to be away from your home country?”

This my friend, is a question that shatters the very strength that you have developed in the years you have been living abroad. The moment you hear this question, your mind travels back to everything that you have left behind — flashbacks. So, silence fills you up, nostalgia hovers over your mind and before you even know you are lost in the timelessness of memories.

Over the four years that I have been living in America, I have walked many paths, achieved the unknowns, from status to power and confidence, but like any other human being, I feel a void in my life. My days may be teeming with tasks but that does keep my mind positively occupied? Not always. Oddly enough, my mind has trained itself in a way where I am focused on completing the task at hand, that task is being completed with the knowledge I have gained at my job, but my thoughts are pulled towards something else. It is not always the best scenario. Many times I find myself agitated with things, people and situations, only because my mind is infatuated with something that I can barely reach. An idea that may or may not become a reality but its presence in my mind is stronger than anything.

Fighting with such urges requires a whole another level of courage, but it is possible with a pinch of support and honesty from people around you. And I know it is just as difficult to find friends when you are an adult. You’ll know a bunch of people from work but you will not necessarily be friends with them. Because they are caught up with the nuances of their own lives. For them, you are just another person they happened to talk to during the day.

Nevertheless, some things have helped me cope with the dilemma of missing home. Maybe somewhere, someone like me is going through the same feeling and reading about my experiences might help you in a way.

  1. Be Honest About Those Feelings: This may sound silly, but distancing yourself is becoming the new cool, however, to me, that is the most hollow thing to do. Communicating about your feelings and choosing to confront something that makes you uncomfortable is a sign of strength. And over four years, I have realized that people will not be able to evaluate your emotions. Your sadness may be prominent to them, but until and unless you tell them how you truly feel, explain the root and how you would like to address that tension, they will be of no help.
  2. Read a Book Written by a South-Asian Writer: I can’t stress enough how many times I found myself reading a book by a writer that comes from the same background as mine. And even though, the characters in those stories aren’t real, reading about them diminishes the feeling of not being understood. Every time I turn a page, it seems as if someone has been able to pen down my sadness. It validates the emotions and allows you to accept those emotions and move positively.
  3. Explore On Your Own: I never knew how liberating it can be to explore something so simple as a town on your own. No friend, no family member but just you and your perception about things around you. There are people in this world that share similar experiences. Reflecting on these stories of strangers is comes when you are walking out of your comfort zone and walking into a new space. A space where you may or may not find a friend. It is almost funny how I have come across like-minded people in places I least expected them to be, only because I made the impulse decision of going to a city on my own.
  4. Maybe Cry to Bed Sometimes: Society is never going to advocate crying because the universal meaning of this word only provides a negative connotation. But have you ever tried crying? Just release all the stress by letting yourself weep. By turning off the lights and curling under the sheets to feel safe. Sometimes there is no other way to feel better and relaxed than crying and letting out the sadness.



Afifa Zaheer

Writer | Poetess | Financial Consultant. A South-Asian Woman Mastering the Art of Metamorphosis as an Immigrant.