As this post goes live, we will be merely days away from returning ‘home’. Prior to our move and shortly after we arrived, we were prepared by our organisation for the initial challenges of change and cultural adjustment. Repatriating, we have found a gaping hole. There is very little support in preparing us for the transition ‘home’.
Repatriation is difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced it. Many people perceive returning expats (repats) as being overly nostalgic, affected, resentful and difficult to relate to at times. I mean, repats are returning ‘home’, so what’s so hard about it? Well, for us ‘home’ is where we have lived for the past few years. We have carved out lives here, we work here, have friends here and here is where our normal and familiar is.
Researching repatriation, I have discovered that the process of returning is extremely challenging for most. Most repats experience depression, anxiety, grief, isolation and reverse culture shock that may last for up to 12 months. Friends and family just wish you’d stop talking about your old life and get back to normal, back to reality. But what you really need will be their support, patience and understanding.
Friends and family have changed since we moved away due to life experiences, as have we. I am acutely aware that some friendships won’t last the test of reconnecting and that has to be ok. That’s life. Another stressor however, is how this next phase will affect and test our relationship as we move from being a single income family with pressures of life abroad to a double income family with the additional pressures of the everyday plus transitioning back to a Western culture. Relationship breakdowns are common within repat communities.
Having worked for only a short while during our posting, additional anxiety is emerging for me about returning to work. Have I lost my knowledge and skills and have I still ‘got it’? Will I cope with the long hours and a job that is mentally and emotionally demanding? How will I establish a work/life balance and not burn out? Will colleagues understand if I have a mini meltdown due to stress or anxiety about settling back into Australia (reverse culture shock)?
So. with all of this in mind, we cross our fingers and hope for a relatively smooth transition into our previous lives. I’ll keep you posted..