Lately I’ve noticed that there had been a lot of discussions in various expatriate forums (on LinkedIn, Twitter, and others) about the difficulties of repatriation. And, of course, I have also worked with clients who had repatriated or were facing repatriation. But not until my own recent return home have I felt the full “homelessness” of the experience.
For me there are two kinds of “homelessness”. One has to do with feelings of not belonging — the feelings that come to many of us when we return home after a long expatriation. We find that not only have we changed, but also that our home country has changed. If we fit together before like pieces of a puzzle do, we don’t seem to fit together now. And so we begin the quest of trying to fit in, to belong, to make a “home” — a quest that for many ends up in an overseas stunt again.
And then there is that second “homelessness”. This one is more logistical in nature although it’s no less frustrating. It presents a dilemma for those of us who don’t have a house to come back to and, upon repatriation, have to find a place to live. Having been used to the housing that often differs from what’s available at home — in both quality and character — we go through denial, disappointment, frustration, and finally feelings that “one has to compromise somewhere” all in a span of the first few weeks.
This second “homelessness” is the one that has been affecting me. I’ve been looking for a house for a few weeks now and with each new place that I see I get more and more disillusioned. I try to think where to put the various mementos I’ve accumulated from my expatriate travels, I try to see myself in the new place and imagine it being my “home” for the next few years, and I try to predict if I am ever going to “love” it.
The truth is that I really loved every one of my overseas houses. And I feel that loving the place were you live accounts for a good percentage of your happiness as an expatriate. For in every place you go you thrive to make a home for yourself and your family. A home that will be your sanctuary and support you when things get tough. The same remains true when you repatriate. “Loving” your new home in your old home, or your home country, is important.
And so I am continuing my search for that one place that will speak to me, that one place that I will know I will come to love. What about you? What was your experience like in finding your “new home” in your own country?
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