Returning home is a key troublesome moment for a lot of expats. Adapting to former surroundings after having been away for a long time is sometimes a difficult experience. Close friends or family members may have moved away, and those who remain may have established relationships with others in the community and be more distant. As a result, the returning expatriate and family can feel isolated. In addition, reverse shock culture often sets in, and the impact may be greater than that of adjusting to the host country culture. How can you avoid this uncomfortable situation? Here are some tips.
This tip might sound obvious, but it is surprising how quickly people fall out of touch when they move abroad. In today’s fast-paced world, we are all so busy with our jobs, social lives and hobbies that finding time for maintaining relationships with our loved ones takes work. Fortunately, modern technology can save the day. With so many messaging apps now on offer, staying connected is easier than ever. You can make a Skype date, call your loved ones on WhatsApp or share fun articles or videos on Facebook. To stay consistent and not let your hectic schedules and conflicting time zones get in the way, schedule time in advance to check in on your friends. Keep in mind that your friends and relatives with whom you didn’t lose contact will be likely to lend you a supportive ear during the challenging phase of repatriation.
Prepare to go back to your country in the same way you got ready before moving to Luxembourg. Preparation can happen during your stay in the Grand Duchy. Stay tuned to the news of your country and instil values related to your culture in yourself and your family members. When it is time to go back, understand what your current needs are. If while in the Grand Duchy you develop a taste for living in the country, in a quiet environment full of nature, try to find the same location in your country instead of just moving back to where you lived before your time abroad.
Take also into account the needs of your spouse or partner. A repatriating spouse or partner often faces employment issues. He or she may have put a career on hold to enjoy the opportunity to live in another country. Upon returning home, however, he or she must quickly reengage the job market and find the appropriate employment.
Your children may also face repatriation challenges. Expatriate children typically attend private international schools with small classes and a high level of personal attention. Once back home, many go into the public-school system, which often has less of both. Old friends may have moved away or developed other interests. Extracurricular activities might have also changed. Activities that were available in Luxembourg may be very different from what is available at home.
“Re-entry shock is when you feel like you are wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes. Everything looks almost right”, wrote the author Robin Pascoe in her book “Homeward Bound”. So, expect the re-entry shock and allow yourself to be a foreigner in your country if you feel that everything looks ALMOST right. It may take a while for things to look the way it used to, and there is a high possibility that they may never feel the same again. Don’t forget that if you have changed during your stay abroad, your country has modified by the same degree you did.
There is a misconception that expat-living is a series of adventurous living, fancy dining and luxurious life with household help. Avoid hiding your expat life and share your experiences in Luxembourg in a simple and non-invasive way. Why not trying to cook for your friends and relatives dishes from the Grand Duchy such as Gromperekichelcher, Bouneschlupp or Judd mat Gaardebounen? You could decorate the house with some items brought from Luxembourg. Visitors invariably ask about these objects – what is this young lady in yellow? -, and you get to share a little about your experience in a non-confronting way. You can also make original gifts related to the Grand Duchy or try to speak some words in Luxembourgish. People are always curious to hear that strange language seeming to come from nowhere.
And, last but not least, to beat the repatriation blues, get support just as you did when you expatriated. Create positive and social interactions, find meaningful work and avoid toxic people. If you process your repatriation with care, you will empower yourself to move forward with confidence.
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