Monday, 9 August 2010

How to prevent the culture shock of repatriation and feel as if you’ve never left

Source: Getty

We came across this interesting blog post on the Telegraph last week about “The reverse culture shock of a trip back home.” Often, when we touch upon the topic of moving and living abroad, we think about the importance of adapting to the local culture and settling into the new environment. Hardly any thought is given to what happens when expats decide to pack their bags and make the return journey home.

Our Expat Experience report found that a third of all expats who live away for more than 10 years have not been home for more than two years. For those who choose to live abroad for such a long time, many are surprised and even shocked to find that life has seemingly moved on without them.

Suddenly, you find new additions to the family that you have never seen before, friends back home seem to be settling down and starting up their own families, your favourite local restaurant or bar has closed down and replaced by some nondescript mall.

Repatriates return home to find that the world was their oyster, but the future right now is a clam.

Here, Expat Explorer would like to share some tips and advice for repats to minimise the effects of reverse culture shock and make re-adjusting easier:

1. It is important for expats to mentally prepare themselves for repatriation before heading home. Returning expats usually go through several stages of culture shock as they readjust. By anticipating these stages, expats can develop more effective coping strategies

2. Like any relationships, seeking closure is important. Take some time to reflect upon your life abroad and the achievements you’ve gained before you return home to prepare yourself for the resulting sense of loss

3. While you’re abroad, stay in touch with friends back home through Facebook or arrange Skype sessions once in a while and visit your family at least once a year to keep in the loop

4. If it is difficult for you to go home every year, then stay in touch with fellow expats who are also thinking of heading back home so you can share your experiences with someone going through the same things as you

5. Before you leave, set a goal or vision of what you want to achieve when you get home. This can keep you occupied when you arrive back home and help overcome repatriation shock quicker.

We’d love to hear from fellow expats (or repats) on suggestions on how to overcome repatriation shock and what’s worked well for you. Feel free to share your thoughts with us.


  1. Great article.
    Another aspect of re-entry shock is moving back to the 'home country' but to another city (not the home town). Making new friends in a new city even if it is the home country is still a daunting task, and depending on the country the home town vs. new town can have a lot of cultural challenges/differences.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jennifer and glad you found the article of interest!

  3. It is not just the changes at home that are "shocking" it's the changes in you that can be hard to reconcile. Finding where you fit when you repatriate can be like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. There are no easy solutions, but understanding that everyone suffers from it does help. Talking with a fellow repatriate who "gets" it can also be a huge help. The only cure? Time. For me it's been more than a year to feel my old self again.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There's no doubt that time is an important factor for repatriates to find their sense of belonging again having been away for such a long time.

    Hopefully people who decide to exptriate themselves out can bear some of the tips in mind to make the repatriation process much easier when they do decide to return home.

  5. The prospect of returning 'home' in 5 months sends a shiver down my spine. I am trying to mentally prepare for it and the more articles I read on repatriation (and tips for coping with it) the better. Now I need a plan!

  6. I've been in China for about 8 years now (since 2004) and have only been back to Canada for one three week trip in 2008. I'm leaving in about 5 weeks for my second visit (2 weeks this time) and taking along my wife (her first trip to Canada) and our 17 month old son. I am going to gain soooo much weight!

    I just started a series of posts on my blog about culture shock (the regular kind) and will be sure to incorporate the trip back into those posts.

    If any one is interested, will take you to the China posts.

    1. Thanks for your comment Mike! I’ve added My Lived-in Life to the blogroll and look forward to reading more from you!

  7. Back in UK after being abroad for 15 years! Only 7 weeks back and I regret moving back.


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