So you’re finally coming home after your stint à l’étranger. If you’ve been gone for awhile, challenges await.
1. Be prepared for cognitive dissonance.
You’re excited to eat McDonald’s again, but you still miss noodles from the local food cart abroad. You’re happy to return to old friends, but you’re devastated to leave new ones. Your feelings will constantly contradict themselves over small and large matters. It can be overwhelming, but go with the flow and understand that this is a symptom of repatriating.
2. It will take some time to establish yourself.
After getting over jet lag and unpacking, you may notice changes in your friend groups, family members, professional networks, and other social supports. Finding a job, a place to live, and a meaningful lifestyle can take longer than you expect. Don’t beat yourself up because this experience isn’t particular to you.
3. Reverse culture shock is real.
After having adjusted to a host country, you might find home country norms and traditions totally bizarre. You’ll need to endure the same process of observing and imitating standard cultural practices, as well as habits to adapt and avoid. It might feel strange to do this in a place you once knew, but it will help you re-assimilate faster.
4.The loneliness can become intense.
You may be surrounded by people you have known for a long time, but they will not relate to your experience if they haven’t lived the expat life. It’s also likely that your circle grew accustomed to your absence and will have to do their own readjusting because you’ve been gone for so long.
5. You had a different life in another place, and no one will understand that.
You had a job, a routine, and probably another identity that people in your home country know nothing about. Sure, your friends and family may have kept in touch or visited when you were abroad. But, as you know, settling in a foreign land is completely different from absorbing it in a small short dose. Your loved ones may not understand the new you because they did not live your other life abroad.
6. Your worldviews may have changed.
If you truly immersed yourself in the host country’s culture, you encountered different perspectives, attitudes, and people who influenced your own ways of thinking. Your new outlook could put you at odds with home country natives who see the world through a more limited lens.They may not even be able to comprehend that people come from different cultural paradigms. Accept that you have changed while recognizing that your friends may need time to understand the new you and expand their own perspective.
7. Every interaction will seem different.
Budgeting, grocery shopping, and even taking public transport will become novel processes that you’ll be surprised you once knew so well. Fellow returned expats will be valuable companions as they re-navigate the same routines.
8. It will become harder to maintain your host country lifestyle as time passes.
You will eventually find it easier to reintegrate into your old life, which will simultaneously make maintaining host country habits harder. You’ll have fewer opportunities to speak the host country language, eat certain international products, and travel to foreign lands. That doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain aspects of your expat lifestyle, but they will stop seeming natural to you when you spend more time at home.
9. You will have to make your own adventures.
Your life abroad will inevitably seem more interesting than anything you’re currently doing. You need to find novelty in your day to day life and seek intrigue in the banal. Plan road trips, visit new cities, meet people from different places, and take on new challenges. This requires effort, but you can have an exciting life no matter where you live.
10. It will be OK.
Repatriation takes time. You will be a stronger person for having endured this process…until your next trip abroad!
Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com