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.