Repatriation: ‘Going Home’ May Not Be What You Expect

Going Home to your home country after residing in another one sounds great. The attitude of most expats who are ‘Going Home’ is what could be simpler. You have friends and family in the area, you know the culture, you speak the language, you have existing connections, so you know what to expect, right? Returning home isn’t as easy as it sounds or as people imagine.  Change always has a yin and yang effect. While you don’t want to focus on the negative aspects of change, they also shouldn’t be ignored.

Going Home means leaving behind the new life that you and your family members have built. You have a routine, friends, colleagues and activities which you have developed. Now you will be saying good-bye to this life. Even with technology friendships don’t remain the same with distance. Children are resilient but moving can be a huge adjustment for them, especially if the current location actually feels more like ‘home’ to them than the country to which they will be returning.  Your children may have moved to their current residence at a young enough age or resided there most of their life to date that they don’t share your attitude about your home country.  For children and adults alike there is usually a sense of loss.

Going Home means an adjustment. Even if you see of all of the positive factors, there will still be an adjustment phase with all the emotions associated with major life changes. It is important to remember that everyone will go through this phase at their own pace.

Going Home to your former neighborhood and friends can be a challenge because your interests have evolved. We all change with time and experience. However, expats tend to change more dramatically than the people who remained back home. The reason being the diversity, intensity, and scope of their experiences causes greater transformation of individuals. Expats have become more worldly, open-minded, and less bias. Returning home you are not as aware with the recent local events and/or ‘inside’ jokes that your family and friends share.

Going Home similar to moving abroad can be handled with some thought and preparation. These tips can facilitate your transition HOME.

  •  Remember family members will experience the adjustment phrase at different times, for different durations and at different intensities
  •  Have family discussions about relocating and address concerns
  •  Realize that the not every member of the family will be thrilled about the move
  •  Monitor your children’s adaption – they might need professional help such as counselor
  •  Plan to remain in contact with the friends you had made – some will disappear but others may become lifelong friends
  •  Retain some of the new traditions you learned, bring them back home and share them with family and friends
  •  Recognize that you may feel like an outsider in your own community for a time
  •  Look for an international community or organization – you will have shared interests with some of the members
  •  Without boasting, share your stories and experiences with people who are interested
  •  Capitalize on your international experience at work, in school or other activities – you bring firsthand knowledge to situations
  •  Invite folks from the other country to visit
  • Plan to return to visit friends and colleagues in your former country

Moving can be exciting but it can also be stressful. Individuals react to and experience relocation quite differently so taking some proactive actions will make the transitions smoother.

Author: Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly