It’s that time of year again when many Expat families are moving on, and a lot of those will be returning home. Tied in largely to the school year which ends in many places in the world in June/July and starts again in September. A time when my inbox fills with requests from people wanting to know how they can avoid the pitfalls of returning home, and return not only happy but well.
Are you returning home soon? Do you want to return happy and well?
Unlike relocating, support for repatriation is limited and there is less understanding of the issues, and yet people tend to find it more challenging. In one survey by Newcomers, more than double (66%) of people found it harder to return than to relocate in the first place (33%).
If you’re returning home soon, and want to avoid being in the 66%, take a look at these top 10 ideas, generated by expats on my ‘Returning Home’ workshops.
1. Remind yourself what worked for you when you relocated
You have already successfully managed one transition. Think about what strategies you used to make it a success. You can use those same tools again for your return.
2. Find a friend and make new connections, either face to face or virtually
Did you change quite significantly whilst you were overseas? Are different things important to you now? Has what you are interested in changed too?
Whilst it’s great to see your old friends and reconnect with them. It can be difficult to slot back into old relationships. Try and make new connections. For groups that enable you to pursue a new interest try Meetup; or for a network of expats that understand what it’s like to have lived abroad and return, try I am Triangle.
3. Find out local information
This is really useful tip as helps you to be part of topics of conversation. Once you get home, go for a drive around your local area. Notice what’s new and what’s the same. You can use this information to strike up a conversation with neighbours, school mums and colleagues.
4. Start a new activity
Your brain has been in overdrive whilst you were abroad processing lots of new things, the ‘simpler’ life of being back at home can lead to boredom. Consider starting a night course, taking up a sport or trying a new hobby. Trying something new also helps you stop making comparisons between home and your previous location.
5. Expect it to be challenging
The main reason people find returning home challenging is that they don’t expect it to be difficult. After all, they are just returning home to everything that is familiar. However, repatriation, just like relocating is a transition. There will be highs and lows and it’s important to give yourself time to get used to the change.
6. Be prepared to not ‘fit in’
This is referred to by some as the ‘triangle effect’. You start as a square, overseas you live as a circle and when you return you are a triangle – and no longer quite ‘fit’. Be prepared for the fact that you may feel you don’t quite belong. This can be the trade off for having experienced the benefits of expat life.
7. Develop new routines & rituals
Think about what you really enjoyed in your expat life and what you gained. Whether it was always prioritizing time for brunch with family at the weekend, or getting fitter, and plan how you will transfer this and make it happen into your new ‘home’ life.
8. Be curious and ask questions
Apply the same open-mindedness and tolerance as you did when you went abroad. Don’t expect too much from family and friends. They haven’t just had a life-changing experience. They may not be ready to hear all about yours!
9. Do what’s right for you!
It’s your return home. Only you know what will work for you. You have all the answers. You just might need to look a bit harder inside yourself to find them.
10. Treat moving back as another transition, rather than going home
Research shows it can be easier to readjust to a familiar, but not the identical environment. Pretend that you are moving to a new location rather than back home. View this as the next chapter in your life. A move forward rather than a return to what you did before.
If you have recently returned home and have a strategy that worked for you that isn’t listed here, please share it in the comments. I’d love to be able to pass it on to others.
Kathryn Eade is a facilitator, coach and expert in change resilience. Though based in the UK she supports expats in different places around the world. She has lived and worked in Venezuela, Zimbabwe and most recently with her family in Canada. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryneade/
If you are interested in attending a ‘Returning Home’ workshop, or think you may benefit from coaching to explore how you can return well, and maximise on your overseas experience please feel free to get in contact.