Repatriation Advice: 10 Tips for handling  Reverse Culture Shock

Repatriation Advice: 10 Tips for handling Reverse Culture Shock

In this article we will explore what you can do if you decide to repatriate and provide some advice for a successful return home.

Moving back home can be tricky. There might be different reasons why you are moving back and depending on these reasons you might be looking forward in moving back or also might be deeply saddened.
Maybe you lost your job or your spouse did, or maybe your employee decided that he wants you back in your home country. Due to the pandemic many Expats have to suddenly leave their current homes within a very short time frame and have no time to prepare. Keep reading to learn how to deal with reverse culture shock.

1. Make sure everyone is on board

Have a family discussion about relocating and let everyone have a voice. Open, honest communication makes everyone feel heard and that they are an important player in the transition. If you have kids it is important to listen to their fears and do let them know that it is fine to feel that way. Especially if your kids spent a lot of time with a maid it is important to explain what will be happening.

2. Think of the positives

Depending on why you are leaving you might feel upset and are grieving or you might be excited.Try to focus on the positive outcomes of moving back home. Write a list of positive things and place it somewhere in your home so that you can see it often throughout the day. This helps you stay focused. If you have kids make them excited by reminding them, what amazing things they can do back home like cycling, tenting, spending time with the grandparents etc. 

3. Get ready before you even leave

Prepare as much as you can before leaving. If time permits we suggest you start 6 months ahead before the scheduled move. Prepare like you would if you’d move to another country. If you are living in a country where having a full staff of house help is the norm and know that back home no help is to be expected, you can teach your children how to do house chores as they grow up overseas. This simple activity will facilitate the transition back and teach an aspect of your culture. Make a plan what you still want to do, see and eat and really enjoy every bit of the country you are in. Meet friends and embrace your friendship, even if you are leaving. Plan a good bye party if you feel like it or write notes to your friends thanking them if you fear that a good bye party is too emotional for you.

4. Accept reality of reverse culture shock

Yes, reverse culture schock is a real thing. Just like when moving abroad and you experience a culture shock, the phases of a reverse culture shock are:

1) Honeymoon phase

2) You experience some anger and are in flight mode

3)  Reconciliation phase

Be prepared for sacrifices. When living abroad you enjoy a certain standard of living. Be prepared for some big changes to the way you live and the lifestyle you can afford. Look at it as an opportunity to discover what you value most. As we grow older our priorities change and you might find that you enjoy life better like this.There will be a lot of ups and downs and the more you accept your feelings, the easier it will be. 

5. Work on your coping skills Toolkit

When moving it tends to be like on a roller coaster ride. Excitement is mixed with fear and you might be stressed with organizing the move, work and taking care of the family. During this time it is important to make sure you put time aside to practice self-care. Reflecting on what has worked in the past and learning new coping strategies will help you navigate though this transition period. 

Some things you can include in your toolkit:

– Exercise

– Make sure you get enough of rest

– Speaking with friends

– Journaling  

– Meditation 

– Doing whatever brings you joy and happiness 

6. Create your new home and identity

Part of the reason reverse culture shock happens is because people attempt to go back to a place that no longer exists as a person that no longer exists. You have changed and what you call home has probably changed as well. Many people find themselves isolated and lonely upon their return.
When living in a foreign country you meet people who are often quite similar to yourself. They are seeking an adventure, like you do and often you share the same values. At the same time you feel a deep connection, as you are also going through the same struggles when living in a foreign country.
When returning, try to find like minded new friends. This will help you overcome the reverse culture blues. Having friends understand you as who you are as a person will help you settle in better. Also mindfulness skills can be very helpful to deal better with the feeling of boredom.

7. Keep traveling

Just because you are back home, does not mean that you can’t stop exploring. Keep your travelers mindset and  thirst for adventure. There is so much to discover just around the corner. No matter if it’s only the camping at the lake or driving to the neighboring town. Especially now during the pandemic it might help you stay sane to do small weekend trips (if you are allowed to according to the laws of the country you are living in). 

8. Plan your trip back

Planning return visits will make it easier for you and your kids. Make plans to look forward to when visiting next. Maybe other families/colleagues are leaving at the same time and you can schedule to return together. During the current pandemic it is difficult to plan, but it helps already just to make loose plans.

9. Consider seeking help from a professional

When in doubt, it might be helpful to seek help from a professional (coach, therapist, counsellor) who has experience in supporting expats through the process returning back home. You can do this when planning the move or once you have arrived back in your home country. Many professionals will offer a free consultation to discuss how their services might help you.

Some examples of how a coach can help you through reverse culture struggles: 

– Increase resilience

– Manage stress

– Identify an unhealthy mindset

– Support you through transition

– Work with your on your next career move and finding your dream job

10. Patience

The probably most important thing to keep in mind: Be patient-with life and with yourself.

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