Expat Repatriation: “Expect the Unexpected” to Succeed
Repatriation can be as difficult and challenging, if not more, as expatriation. Although “coming back home” could be logically seen as easy, expats that have gone through repatriation have reported that moving back was actually more complicated than settling in in a different country and adjusting to a new culture.
The fact is that expatriates evolve a great deal while abroad and so does their friends and family at home. The reality they left at home is not the same and they have grown in a different way through their journey in a foreign environment. Their expectations of their country of origin may be far from reality, and this could be hard to digest.
On top of that, sponsor companies tend to give little or no support when their expat employees return home; thinking that the transicion should be smoother or neglecting any impact of moving back. Nevertheless, many expats and their families face reverse cultural shock when going back home and therefore would benefit from some sort of cultural adjustment training or one-on-one coaching to cope with the particular difficulties that this experience presents.
In addition, many of the expat financial benefits that are provided while in a different country are not offered when going back home. This could by itself constitute a stress element that makes the adjustment even more overwhelming. Some companies have been able to mitigate this effect by withdrawing these benefits in a gradual manner, hence easing the process of landing home for expat families.
As with expatriation, repatriation is particularly challenging for expat spouses as they have to deal in a more rough way with the cultural challenges of going back home: they don’t have the support network they had abroad, nobody seems to be interested in their experience in a foreign country, they find a disconnect between their old and new reality, among others. Again, they have to look for ways to reinvent themselves both in a personal and professional level in order to create a sense of belonging and to find their identity.
Although there is no one single recipe to feel at home when at home; looking for support networks, trying to keep in contact with friends made abroad but also trying to reconnect with friends and family at home might help. Also, creating a productive routine (i.e. practicing hobbies, participating in physical/sport and social activities, reflecting and meditating, looking for a job or a professional project), having a mentor or coach to exchange ideas and receive advice are useful ways to overcome the difficulties of repatriation.