Repatriation. At the beginning of our posting, the idea of repatriation was blissful. Returning to the familiar. The lifestyle, career, home, people. The pull was tangible. Now the thought of returning home is anxiety inducing as we prepare to leave our new home and the lifestyle that is our normal. We have friends, work, routines and experiencing a new culture has altered our world view.
Recently I wrote a post “I am now a Triangle” outlining how I feel like I feel like a misfit in my native culture and in my adopted country. This got me to thinking about how we will make a smooth and successful return? Basically, I don’t believe we do. I think we will once more ride the rollercoaster of change and work things out as we go. Reflecting upon our initial move to Indonesia, similar feelings were brought to the fore and we managed.
“Think of shapes: Imagine you are a circle, living in Circle Country. Then you move to Square Society. You will never become a Square, but that culture starts to embed itself in you. When the time comes to return to your Circle Country (home), you have become a Triangle (http://naomihattaway.com/2013/09/i-am-a-triangle-and-other-thoughts-on-repatriation/).”
Here are my thoughts/strategies for our successful return:
Be kind to yourself. Allow time to settle and adjust to this life change. Work through emotions and the grieving process just as you did when you transitioned to the expat lifestyle. Schedule protected time to nurture yourself – join a yoga class, walk the dog, coffee with an old friend, find a hobby that fills your bucket.
Reconnect with expat friends who have returned home. These folk understand the expat bubble as well as the challenges and positives of repatriation. Monthly dinners/catch ups like we used to schedule will be happy distractions and good for mental health.
Say yes. Accept invitations to coffee and other social functions just as you did when you landed in your new country. Eventually you will make new friends who are a good fit and are a good support. You won’t connect with every person and that’s okay.
Reconnect with old friends. Authentic friends will be interested in your expat experiences as well as your intentions now that you’ve returned. Be aware that you may need to evaluate these friendships and let some fall by the wayside and that too is okay.
Seek support. If things are not going well, seek professional support. Asking for help is sign of strength and may assist to develop a plan of action as well as developing coping strategies for this challenging period of transition.
Plan holidays. Having a mini break or holiday to look forward to in the first few months back home may help to recharge and provide time to reflect upon how well you are managing and coping with this major life event. Taking time out may assist in recognising and celebrating achievements and milestones since your return as well as leading to a new and positive perspective on life.