17 Jun 2015

Ten solutions for repatriate blues

  Are you returning to your homeland, thinking of returning or have returned? This will help you. There are many reasons for returning to your homeland. An immigrant may have been disappointed in their life in their adopted country. They or their partner may be so unhappy, homesick or isolated that they feel they need to return. An expat or spouse may feel the need to return or have to return. Whichever the reasons for returning to your homeland, the return is not always the way you think it will be.


  In Debra Bruno's  Wall Street Journal article, Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With the Dark Side of Coming Home, she delightfully summarises experiences of people and children coming home. My favourite is the following: "Expats need to know that the toughest assignment of all might be coming home. “Send me home?” asks Ms. Pascoe. “It’s easier to go to Bangkok than to repatriate in Vancouver.” You can also listen to Debra's podcast interview with The Bittersweet Life. 

  The Repatriation Process blog from Internations explains more on the danger over-telling your anecdotes from your time overseas.
“I clashed a lot with my best friend and my mom after my repatriation from over five years in Singapore,” Wendy (46) from Baltimore recalls. “They quickly got tired of hearing about my time abroad and were rather focused on how they themselves had moved on while I was gone. My mom, for example, was mainly interested in talking about my youngest niece – her latest grand-child – and how she was doing in kindergarten. And my best friend occasionally almost resented me for bringing up Singapore in our chats.”

  What can you do to make it easier? Read on.

Ten solutions to beat the repatriate blues.

  1. Expect change. You have had new experiences which will have had an influence on  how you now see your homeland.
  2. Your family and friends may have moved on. They have become used to you not being accessible all the time.
  3. Be prepared for apathy. Sorry returnees, your homeland family and friends will not want to hear all your stories at once. They may even be reluctant to hear any of your experiences. Use your experiences of overseas sparingly.
  4. Look for the familiar. What did you miss when you were away? For example, your favourite comfort food. Indulge in your access to it. It may not be as rewarding as you thought it would be, but it can help with your transition.
  5. Seek people who are feeling similar to you. Friendships are based on similarities. Most of my friends when I was first an immigrant was other immigrants. Similarly by finding returning expats or migrants, they can walk the transition journey with you. 
  6. Get some help.  Professor Sebastian Reiche in his blog suggested"Having a mentor who can help you with administrative and logistical issues while also looking out for possible job opportunities back home is crucial in assisting your return. The mentor can be a family member or a good friend."
  7. Plan ahead - be prepared with not just the practicalities but with a positive attitude. It will help you mentally and in answering all the, 'What are you going to do now?' questions.
  8. Be prepared for blandness.

    While away, you have been constantly stimulated by new experiences and senses. In your homeland, it may be good, but is isn't new. You may feel unsettled as you readjust to reverse culture shock.
  9. Be prepared for reverse culture shock. (Your brain has to reshape, as in my blog or video on brain shock) The Overseas Exile blog wrote,“Many repatriates report grief on returning to their home country. In many ways, reverse culture shock is harder than regular culture shock. It catches you off guard and you may find that things you used to ignore or take for granted are now a source of annoyance. Some repatriates throw in the towel and actually return to the country they left. It's a normal experience and it's something to brace yourself for.”
  10. Give yourself time. The time you need to settle back into your homeland is likely to be dependent on how long you have been away. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

More solutions are offered in my book. An excerpted chapter is here.

Be the first to comment. Is there anything you would like to add? What has your experience been?

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