When you relocate abroad, you anticipate that adjusting to the new country will bring both joys and challenges. You likely spend a lot of time learning about the culture, the language, and the locals. You may even prepare yourself for how different life will be.
Then when it comes time to pack up and repatriate to your home country, you might assume it will be a smooth transition back into what is familiar. It’s home, after all! This isn’t always the case, however. Reverse culture shock takes some by surprise. Reacclimating to a place that was once so familiar may take more time than expected.
Don’t let these three things catch you off guard as you repatriate to your home country.
1. You have changed.
Whether you have been abroad two years or 10 years, that experience has reshaped who you are and your world view. While you may still connect with your family members and old friends without difficulty, you likely will see the world around you different than you did before. Lynn Wagner, Client Relationship Executive at IMPACT Group, shares, “The transition back can be harder than the original move abroad because people don’t anticipate it will be difficult. Since they don’t anticipate it, it becomes that much more jarring.”
Find meaningful ways to share your overseas experiences with loved ones. Bring home some of the traditions you started abroad so others can experience the new culture as well. Taking time to help others understand how the experience has shaped you, and doing the same to understand how time has changed your dear friend or family member as well, can help everyone find new ways of connecting.
2. The office has changed.
For employees returning to their home office, you may find the company culture and dynamics are significantly different. Colleagues you once enjoyed working with may have moved on to new opportunities. You will probably have a new boss and team members to acclimate to. One way to deal with all this change – even when it is in a familiar environment – is to ask for a mentor at the home office.
“Mentorship is a great way to learn about current practices and dynamics, share struggles you are facing, and gain a trusted partner to ask for help,” shares Lynn. This provides a defined co-worker to talk to when questions arise. Request to start the mentorship program a few months before you repatriate. This gives you a key contact at the home office to start building a relationship with and time to present your achievements abroad in the best light based on the business happenings that are going on in the home office.
3. Job searching has changed.
For spouses/partners who are job seeking, the job search process will likely be very different than you remember. The pace of change and speed of technology means certain practices, platforms, and websites become outdated quickly. You may become frustrated when your CV/résumé goes unnoticed or you find that interview styles are not what you expected. Reach out to your career coach or a trusted acquaintance who works in HR to discover ways the job search process has changed and how you can leverage the experience you gained abroad to find your next meaningful career.