How do you know when it’s time to go home?
Making the decision to return home after time on international assignment is difficult. Whether you have lived abroad for a number of years or are nearing the end of a shorter assignment, there is a lot to think about. But how do you know if it is time to go home? I’ve teamed up with Allianz Care to discuss the repatriation process and provide some tips for your move.
There are many reasons why you may be considering a return to your home country. Some of the most prevalent motives include:
End of assignment:
This is one of the most common reasons for repatriation to occur. If your visa to work in a particular country is linked to your role, you may not have much choice but to return home.
Missing family and friends:
This is a motivating factor for many expats who have been abroad for a long period to return home. No matter how settled they may be in their home away from home, the support of family and good friends is difficult to replicate. This is particularly true if you decide to start a family while abroad. You may want your children to grow up near grandparents or other relations.
Living as an expat may have been easy while working on assignment in your native language but what happens then? If you are not fluent in the local language it might be challenging to move from your existing role to another role in your expat destination.
If you have access to universal healthcare in your home country, then health concerns might be a reason to return home. It is important to research carefully if you are returning home for this reason because you may not automatically qualify for healthcare immediately.
Finally, if you and your family believe your career prospects are better in your home country this might spark a desire to return home.
Sometimes, a return home is unexpected and due to unforeseen circumstances. These repatriations can occur suddenly and are much harder to deal with as the stress involved makes everything so much harder.
One situation that nobody could have foreseen is the current coronavirus pandemic, COVID19, which has meant many expats have had to make very difficult decisions very quickly: to return home at very short notice or to stay in their host country under lockdown.
As we can see, expatriates do not always return home for positive reasons. Another of the difficulties faced by employees working abroad is ‘expat burnout’. The causes may be varied:
- Challenges at work
- Difficulties at home
- Relationship problems
But the result is the same – you are tired of the expat experience and want to return home. Before acting on expat burnout, take some time to:
Analyse the source of the problem: can you take some time off work? Get out of your usual routine? A short holiday or retreat may help you recharge or provide you with perspective you need.
Explore your city: if getting away is not possible. Take some time out to explore where you live. Do something you enjoy, visit a museum or gallery or go to a sports game. See if these experiences help you build a better connection to the place you live.
Once you have made the decision to return to your native country you may feel like settling in will be easy. You are back to friends, family and familiar surroundings. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple. Repatriation is a process and should be treated as such. It is rarely a good idea to make the decision to move home rashly. Take some time to understand some of the challenges you may encounter:
Reverse culture shock
Many businesses offer pre-assignment training to expats before they leave however it is less common to provide repatriation training even though the shock can be similar. After an initial settling in period, you may have become used to life in your new home. Reverse culture shock is when your routine on international assignment no longer fits in with social norms at home. Additionally, although you expect your home country to be as it was when you left, in reality many things are likely to have changed. Particularly if you have been away for some years.
Changes in the lives of family and friends
While you may be returning home in a similar situation to before you left, the same may not be true of your friends and family. Those closest to you may have formed new relationships, ended relationships or had children while you were away. So it may not be as easy to fall back into your old routine with them. If you are moving home, try to allow for this, in time you will develop a ‘new normal’ for your relationship with them.
Returning to your previous role
EY’s Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey shows that almost 1 in 2 employees return to the role they had before going on assignment. This may be a particularly difficult situation to find yourself in after spending time working at a global level. Many repatriated employees vote with their feet, 16% of employees leave within 2 years of returning from international experience.
Overcoming repatriation problems
There are a number of things you can do to make the process of repatriating easier:
- Speak to HR: some employers are beginning to offer repatriation training.
- Leverage your mentor: if you have an experienced expat mentor, ask them about the process of repatriation and how they overcame associated difficulties.
- Executive coaching: if you don’t have access to either of these, consider some professional coaching through the process. Start sessions online before you return then move to in-person sessions when arrive home.
- Develop plans: make plans for your return both professionally and personally. Having goals in both areas of your life should make returning home easier.
- Time: in our fast-paced world, it is easy to get impatient with how long things take but remember you are human, and it is normal to feel challenged by change.
During this time of decision making, don’t forget your health and well-being. If your international health insurance is up for renewal soon, we would be happy to help find the best solution for you.
Sponsored article from Allianz Care