How to repatriate successfully

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What to expect when you move back home

Not every person who has lived overseas ends up repatriating, but many do – especially if the reason you moved abroad in the first place was because of an overseas work placement. You’d think coming back ‘home’ would be easy.

But the person who returns home after living abroad is often not the same person who went. And the ‘home’ you return to is often not the same as when you left.

Here are a few common challenges of repatriation:

Lack of understanding

If someone hasn’t lived abroad then they don’t have the same perspective as you and their lives will have carried on along one path, whereas you will have changed. Even if you haven’t even tried to change, or don’t know that you have changed, the truth is you will have changed simply by the fact of living abroad!

So one of the biggest challenges in repatriation is adjusting to your new life outlook. It can be like trying to fit a square peg back into a round hole.

Your friends’ reaction

The truth is that some people don’t want to hear about your living abroad experiences. Yes, you know what a fulfilling and life-changing experience you’ve had but some people just aren’t interested. And even if they do show interest, they don’t really get where you’re coming from – not if they haven’t lived abroad themselves.

Of course, there will be some people who will be envious of your experiences and this can be a positive and a negative thing.  Whilst one group of people will want to hear all about it and show genuine enthusiasm tinged with a ‘I’d love to do that!” others might seem almost resentful of your experiences and leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

This obviously impacts how you’re going to fit back into your friendship circles. It’s not a question of simply slotting back to how it was before– you will have to make some effort. Try to keep your old friendships, even if the relationship had changed, but also seek new friendships more relevant to the person you are now. Try to find people who, like you, have experience of living abroad and therefore you can bond over similar life experiences.

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Some people might also think moving abroad is an incredibly brave thing to have done. But to you it won’t have seemed brave at all! Of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses but the truth is it was something you were nervous of but you did it anyway.

You will have noticed that once you’ve expanded your comfort zone it’s a lot easier to do the second and the third time. Moving abroad gives you confidence. This is another example of the potential distance between you and your friends back home. You are less fearful of new experiences and have a ‘can do’ attitude. Turn this into a positive. Inspire your friends and family to step out of their own comfort zones and start to fulfil some of their own dreams.

Family gatherings

Once you’ve returned home, everyone (hopefully!) will be really pleased to have you back. You’d think you’d start to see your family more often, wouldn’t you? But one of the really interesting things that can happen is that there will be some people you actually saw more often when you were living abroad! Mainly, this probably comes about because you made a point of seeing them every time you visited home. So even though you’re home you do need to organise seeing people, in much the same sense as when you were living abroad.

Change of climate

If the country you have come from is vastly different from your home country, you might experience some challenges in adjusting to the climate.

Coming from a hot, sunny country back to the UK can be hard – especially if you’re returning in the autumn or winter. In time, you will adjust. But you might want to be prepared for the physical reaction you are going to have to the change in climate. The dark mornings and evenings of winter may have a negative effect on your mental health, and children may have a tendency not to sleep when the summer evenings stay light until 10pm!

What do you miss?

Undoubtedly you’ll find yourself missing things from where you’ve just come from – things before you left you didn’t even know existed. I’m sure you missed stuff from home when you moved abroad too. You may miss the late night shopping available in the States, or the very early starts in Germany. Real sushi in Japan or fresh-from-the-tree fruit which tastes nothing like the pre-packaged items at home. Cup holders in the car, air conditioning, home help… all these things that you became accustomed to and now you will have to become unaccustomed to them!

How to bridge the gap

You will return home a changed person.

You will return home a changed person. Be aware of these changes but do still try to take an interest in the lives of your family and friends. Be aware of the gap they might feel between you and them and take a real interest in them so they feel included, even if they don’t want to hear about your experiences.

Just as when you moved abroad, be proactive in your new life back home and take the time to appreciate all the things you missed when you were away.

Finally, it might help to join groups or organisations, like my Facebook Expat Parents Support Group where you’ll find people with shared experiences.


Expatability Chat Podcast

If you’d prefer to listen to me talk about this topic, here are some of my podcast episodes about repatriation

Repatriation Blues

Reverse Culture Shock and The Ex-Expat Club

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