It seems counter-intuitive, but the truth is that coming home can be more difficult than leaving!
Just as every assignee will have a unique experience living abroad, every assignee will have a unique experience coming home. A lot of people think the repatriation process is (or should be) easy, but in fact, many assignees returning home find that reintegrating is even more difficult and stressful than moving abroad.
According to the latest Expat Explorer survey, while the majority (81%) of expats returning home experienced at least one issue as a result, the main impact was an emotional rather than practical one. More than half (53%) of all repatriating expats said they missed their life abroad, rising to 61% of those aged under 35. Half of female expats (47%) and two-fifths of male expats (39%) felt they no longer 'fitted in' when they returned to their home country.
In this Forbes article, "The Art Of Repatriation: 3 Strategies to Make Your Move Home A Success," Margot Andersen describes her challenge with repatriation:
“One of the things that very quickly became obvious was the lack of planning and just how much I had underestimated the impact transition – especially professionally. Coupled with that is often just how much your own sense of identity changes, given the enormous personal and professional impact living overseas has.”
The article continues on to advise returning expats to:
1.) Consider: make sure you understand your reasons for returning and consider where you are going, along with those that may be coming with you!
2.) Connect: reconnect with friends and family, stay connected to those you are leaving behind, and seek out new relationships with people who can relate and can support.
3.) Create: treat your returning location like you had with your host location originally. See it in a new light, it has changed as have you. Plan local trips and venture out as you venture back to your home country.
It can be a daunting, even challenging, but an equally exciting move for anyone to undertake. To support employees, mobility programs should have a formalized repatriation process that:
- Clearly defines the timeline and logistics for the return home. This will lessen the stress on the assignee.
- Helps put the completed assignment into perspective for the assignee. How will it influence their personal and professional lives moving forward?
- Provides context for the return home to a once-familiar home environment and helps the family members adjust, too.
- And, determines how to use the assignee’s new experiences to the best of their advantage, both professionally and personally.
Kari Cinker, a global mobility counselor here at Plus Relocation, provides some helpful tips here in one of our Relo Tip Tuesday videos.
It's now nearly 13 years ago that I returned 'home' from the UK after seven amazing years. Whilst navigating this journey has had it's challenges, it has also proved to be a great foundation for the opportunities and work I do today.