June 14, 2023
Repatriating: Top tips to make moving home easier
It’s inevitable. After 2- 3 years, most overseas work assignments come to an end and you move on to the last phase of the relocation cycle – repatriation.
Repatriating is a simple term for moving home after an overseas assignment, and it can be more difficult than you expect.
While the repatriation process may not be entirely under your control, there is a lot you can do to improve your outcomes. Read on for some top tips to help you navigate the personal and professional challenges of repatriation.
Tips for repatriating after an overseas assignment
Tip 1: Before you begin your assignment, start planning your repatriation
Before your assignment begins, ask your employer how your international assignment fits into your career progression.
Let your employer know if you are interested in additional overseas postings.
Tip 2: While on assignment, make good use of Home Leave
You may be tempted to use your annual leave benefit to travel to bucket-list destinations, but this can be a mistake. Most home leave policies are restricted to what their name implies. If you maintain personal and professional connections back home, it will help ease your repatriation when the time comes.
Tip 3: Invite friends to visit while you are still living overseas
When you return home, don’t expect your friends and family to be as excited about the topic of your overseas assignment as you are. As one expat described,
“You have this amazing, life-changing adventure, and you want to talk about it. But after a few minutes of talking about expat life, your friends start to glaze over and change the subject.”
Invite friends and family to visit you while you are still living abroad. Later, they will be happy to reminisce about your assignment country if they were able to experience it with you.
Tip 4: Don’t let the waiting get you down
The months leading up to your departure can be a challenging time, especially if you have to keep the timing of your repatriation confidential until the details are finalised. Your checklist may include school search, home search, finding a moving company (we can help!), and saying goodbye to the country you have grown to love…all under a cloak of secrecy.
Once you are allowed to announce your departure, make time to celebrate!
- Have a going away party with your new friends
- Plan a trip to a place you want to visit before you leave
- Announce your anticipated return date to your friends and family back home
Tip 5: Once you return home, accept that reverse culture shock is normal
Expats may experience “reverse culture shock” and have a range of reactions – some of them negative – when they repatriate:
- Your home country may seem unfamiliar or less interesting when viewed through new eyes
- Your children may have to adjust to different schools, activities and friend groups
- You may have grown apart from your old friends while you were gone
- You may feel homesick for your assignment country and miss the excitement of expat life
- If your assignment ended early due to professional, personal, or geopolitical reasons, you may have a feeling of loss
These are common reactions to this significant life change, and this reverse culture shock should fade over time. If you find it overwhelming, you may want to speak with your physician or a mental health professional.
Tip 6: Find a mentor when you return to the home office
If you are struggling after your return to the office, find a mentor who has also completed an overseas assignment. Ask their advice about how to:
- Thrive in a new role and/or reporting structure
- Effectively share the knowledge and expertise you acquired overseas
With help, you can use your newfound insights and skills to the betterment of your company – and your career.
Tip 7: Connect with like-minded people
After you move home, try to meet new friends who have also lived overseas. For example, expats on assignment in your area usually have a global viewpoint and may have an interesting perspective on your home country as well.
Newcomers clubs, sports, activity groups or language conversation groups are all good places to meet expats and other like-minded individuals.
Repatriating after an expat assignment: You can do it!
Repatriation is a necessary challenge that comes with the excitement of living overseas.
Reverse culture shock is a common occurrence, and it is normal to have a range of feelings – positive, negative or a combination of both – when you move home. Seek help from friends, other expats, mentors, or a mental health professional if needed. Over time, you should feel comfortable and happy again in your home environment.
And then – if you are like many expats – you may start to dream about having another exciting overseas assignment.
And the cycle begins again…