“As you embark on your repatriation journey, there are so many variables in the equation,” shares Julia Thornburg, Global Career and Transition Coach at IMPACT Group, who provides repatriation assistance to families across the world. “It may surprise you how long it takes to settle in, even if you return to your same neighborhood or a familiar city.” You may find your home culture to be the foreign one. To avoid feeling displaced, here are things everyone in your family can keep in mind to prepare for your repatriation.
Consider how your mindset has shifted.
“Your eyes will see things differently,” shares Julia. “You may think you understand this from moving within your own country or traveling abroad, but it is different after you live in a new country.” Your values, beliefs, traditions, and awareness may have changed. “It can be hard to articulate this when talking with old colleagues, friends, and family who have not had these moments in their own lives.” Julia likes to share this quote with her clients who are receiving repatriation assistance:
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
Mary Anne Radmacher
Be patient with yourself and those in your family who are returning with you. Your dear family and friends will try to understand, but this experience will be truly unique to you. They will likely never fully comprehend what you experienced.
Be aware that you may over-romanticize your experiences.
As with any change, it’s easy to only remember the good things about the past. Once you repatriate and start missing the country you formerly lived in, you may over-romanticize the experience. “I advise my clients to make a list of positives and challenges from the country they are missing. Really get down to the reality of the place,” Julia recommends. “It helps to have an accurate picture in your mind.”
We conveniently leave out the challenges, and this skews our perspective. Recognize the pros and cons of your life in the former country to avoid criticizing your current circumstances with thoughts like, “Things were so much better there.”
Say a nice goodbye before leaving.
Be sure to visit all the places, people, and things you wish to see one more time before moving. Julia recommends this to all her clients receiving repatriation assistance. “The list may be things that were very important to you – or things you always meant to experience but never got around to doing so.”
Take photos of things that hold significant meaning to you, but that you won’t be able to find online. “Sure, you can find landmarks and city streets with Google Earth, but what about the view from your favorite table at the coffee shop you visited every week? Or the fruit and cheese shop where the owner always gave you a nibble of cheese to sample?” Julia points out. Having photos of these places – as well as the people you encountered in your everyday life who you likely won’t keep in touch with – will allow you to revisit those fond memories whenever you are missing your former country.
Understand how children may perceive the home country.
While you may be returning to your passport country, to a child this experience may be more like being an Expat in a new country. “If many of their formative years have been spent outside of the home country, it will be all new to the child,” points out Julia. “This is something parents might not think about or plan for.”
Prior to your repatriation, talk to your children about the new country’s culture. Ask your children what questions they have about the country. You may be surprised by their response. “One of my clients asked her son this, and he questioned, ‘Are there trees in the United States?’” Their perspective is so different from an adult’s. Addressing even the smallest of details can help put them at ease.
Once you repatriate, your children will likely feel there is much they don’t understand – such as day-to-day things they were not a part of or things their new friends know. Their response to many questions may be, “I don’t know.” This can be hard. In the months leading up to the repatriation, take time to introduce children to some of the differences in your new country compared to your current country to make the experience less jarring. What resources and books can they read on the new country? What TV shows are set in the new country? Can they stream videos on YouTube to be current with what their peers will know? Can you schedule a call with their new teacher? Get creative on ways you can introduce them to their new home.