The return of an assignee from a long-term assignment can be a time of uncertainty for both the returning expat and the company. After years abroad, the returning expat (and family) faces a new environment both at work and in their personal life, which in turn may affect their work performance. Internal changes such as new leadership or new technology, no matter how small, can result in a significant change to the employee who has been overseas for several years. At the same time, the company is wondering how to integrate this employee back into their workforce and capitalize on the experiences they had while on assignment.
The repatriation process often affects an expat’s sense of identity, belonging and home. Fitting back in can be a challenge when you have changed in so many ways. You are not the same person. Your new experiences have altered your sense of who you are and your worldview. Many people refer to this as "reverse culture shock" and feel that it is even more challenging than anything they felt in their host location.
Dr. Bruce La Brack from the School of International Studies at University of the Pacific provides his insights into the challenges of repatriation: 10 top challenges for returnees at home.
Here are a few suggestions for how to deal with reverse culture shock:
1.) Learn more about it - read articles and hear stories of other expats to create awareness
2.) Stay in contact with people from your host country
3.) Reconnect with old friends
4.) Be patient while you get back into the rhythm of life back at home
5.) Find people who want to hear about your journey and experiences - maybe even find expats in your home location from your host location
Last week, we identified an important, but often overlooked problem of being a long-term expat: how a foreign posting can affect your sense of identity, belonging and home. It prompted many of you to share your own enlightening and often surprising experiences of moving around the globe. "The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real" In fact, so many of you identified with our writer’s dilemma that we thought we would both share your experiences and highlight your best tips when it comes to fitting in once you return “home” after a long stint abroad.