What makes repatriation difficult?

For the last few weeks I have been going through the all-consuming process of returning back home after an overseas posting.  First the packing, then the suitcases (which had to include things that somehow didn’t make it into the boxes!), then the long flight home, and then the realization that this is it.  Our overseas adventure is over.

Of course, I realized this seemingly simple fact before – all through the moving and the packing process.  But the emotion of “having left” didn’t fully hit me until now.  It’s not so easy to leave behind a place where you’ve spent four happy years of your life and never long for it.  Especially when your Facebook friends who are still there post little reminders of it every day!

So what do these feelings of longing for a place that’s become your home have to do with difficulties of repatriation?  Aside from the fact that we experience some sadness from leaving behind a part of our lives, how do these feelings affect our experience back home?

I’ve been watching myself these past few days and I’ve discovered something that I think contributes to a negative experience with repatriation.  The thing is, I’ve been engaging in a lot of comparisons.  Starting from the size and quality of baked goods and ending with how tolerant the society around me is towards dogs, I’ve been criticizing everything.  Statements like “there I’d never have to…”, “this is not how it’s done in…”, “it’d be much better if these people here …” and so on have been populating my speech and my thoughts.  So how am I supposed to move on and start integrating into my new life when I am not even giving it half a chance?

Comparing often means that you come from a place of judgment and a place that leaves very little room for curiosity and exploration.  Because if we already decided that “there” is better than “here”, it’ll be very difficult for us to allow for an opportunity to develop “here”.  If we keep comparing the “there” and the “here”, the “here” will never have a chance in our lives.

As adults we do a lot of judging and I think we would benefit from taking a cue from our children, who, instead of judging and comparing, look around them with openness and curiosity.  My daughter, while being a little sad and missing the country we just left, is wide open to possibilities that await her here.  She isn’t judging and she isn’t comparing.  She is just living her new life.

So I am going to try to do the same.  I am going to try wearing the “glasses” of curiosity and openness and take off the “glasses” of judgment and comparison.

What about you?  Have you had a similar experience with repatriation?

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9 responses to “What makes repatriation difficult?

  1. Repatriation. after one y in England and 8 in the US, I have felt it was harder that moving abroad… so hard I am working with this niche all year around and advising others. I also have gain so much knowledge on this area , that I consult others in how to create a platform in their countries aimed toward repatriation and using international competencies in the workforce ehen reyrning back home to the companies. Feel free to contact me.

  2. Pingback: To tip or not to tip…is that a cultural question? « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  3. Been there, done that!
    After living in NY for over a year, moving back home it was harder than I´d ever thought it would be!
    I had read something about culture shock, but nobody told me I might suffer from reverse cultural shock.
    I met friends but most of the time I felt I had nothing to talk about with them. I couldn´t keep up with most of the things they were talking about: ads, tv, university, etc. I felt so lost here.
    I used to get lost in familiar places. Suddenly I couldn´t remember the name of the streets around my home, and longer days and higher temperatures because of the change of season/hemisphere was probably the worst of all.
    The first thing I thought on my firts morning when I woke up was that my bf should turn off the heat because it was too hot. I was just about to ask him to do it but instead it was simply awful to open my eyes and realize I was in my old room and that after the night storm it was actually cooler than the day before. And I was all by my self :(
    Things didn´t feel better for a long time. It took me around 6 months and a 3-week roadtrip to start coming to terms with the situation.
    Now it´s 18months later, and I still miss NY like hell. But I can say I got used to the South American way of life again ;)

  4. Pingback: Cross-Cultural Training: Creating Foundations or Creating Judgments? « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  5. I’ve been back to my country for 3 weeks after living overseas for 10yrs (2 in Australia and 8 in England). I moved there as I married a british man and we are now separated for more than an year. Although financialy my situation is better in my home country, I feel desperatly depressed and thinking about leaving everything again and returning to Uk , even though I hate the weather,the food and don’t have a job anymore. One of the thing is, there I felt differente, therefore, people were more interested in getting to know me, here I feel like another sheep just like everyone else; I hate the people,my culture, the fact my family is now near me and giving advice about my life. I don’t know what to do as I wasn’t feeling happy with my life there lately anyway,but it feels like I haven’t made the effort to improve before I decided to return. Just would like some tips in what to do to feel better, will I feel angry like this forever? Should I just follow what I’m feeling and leave again?

  6. globalcoachcenter

    Hi Adrea,

    It feels that you are really struggling — and not only with being back in your country but also with leaving the UK without trying to stay. So not only are you putting a lot of feelings of “re-entry” shock onto your shoulders, you are also dragging yourself down with guilt. Either one of those emotions are bad enough to deal with, two together are practically impossible.

    My first tip would be to take it really slow. Let go of the guilt and second-guessing your decision to return. You’ll do nothing for your mood if you keep blaming yourself.

    Second tip would be to make a list of what you don’t like but continue to put up with now. List everything — from small things like mess in your house to big things like not feeling good in the country you are in now. Once you have them all down — start working on getting rid of the easiest one. Once you start eliminating tolerations, things will get a bit better.

    There are other ways to feel better and find yourself again, but I cannot fit them all into this comment box. :)

    It sounds like some of your values are being stepped upon now and until you start honoring those values you’ll be feeling this way. I’d be happy to help you through this process. Send me an e-mail and I can tell you about the coaching I do and how I can help you.

    Good luck!
    Margarita

  7. Pingback: The culture of “fees”: only in the US? « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  8. I have yet to move back home permanently but when I do go back to visit I get glimpses of what I’m sure it must be like to move back. It seems that when I’m in one country, I always want to go back to the other country, and vice versa.

    I think your analysis of judging is pretty accurate and that you can’t do this, no matter where you are because it will just make things worse. Being open and seeing things as they are, as different instead of good or bad can help things a lot. Also, focusing on all the positive things in your life and realizing that many people have worse situations than you can give some perspective.

    I’ve also often felt the opposite of what Adrea was saying. When I’m abroad I feel like I get a lot of attention for being different/foreign but I feel that this is negative attention and I can’t wait to return home where I can just blend in and be “me” instead of being known as “the American,” for example. Of course the experience is different for everyone but I agree that there should definitely be more focus put upon this issue as it’s definitely very important, if not more important than culture shock and adapting to a new culture when you move abroad.

  9. Pingback: I live here? I live here. I live here!!! « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

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