It is not easy going back. Those five words are easily spoken, they are extremely true, making it harder from time to time. Unquestionably, expat life can be very exciting. And, it’s easy to understand the reason why. There are so many new experiences, adventures, moments that life is bitter sweet most of the time.
All experiences and challenges of life abroad help shaping a person. It teaches us new skills and enhances our capabilities, creates new meanings in life, and more often than not turn into valuable memories, which are worth having.
Life in Limbo
But, the expat life is not always pink, shinny and perfect. Many people who live away from their home countries feel somewhat stuck in limbo, liek they don’t really belong anywhere. This feeling is quite understandable given that for many, life in the host country is perceived as temporary. But, the biggest problem is that as time passes “home” in the “native country” becomes more distant and less relatable.
It is a “rootless” situation that people are in. And perhaps, the solution could be to stay abroad or to decide to go back. But, going back is no easy task. The main concern is that while being temporarily abroad, life goes on, as it should. This means that families get established, careers progress and house mortgages get paid. People move on, take adventures of their own and when you see them they are like in a parallel dimension.
Going back home isn’t easy
More over, going back home may not be easy, and indeed, it may be perceived as starting all over again.
Even though equipped with new skills, experiences and prospects, at the moment of repatriation the people themselves in the middle of a “weird” and boring situation where a job needs to be found, new accommodation arranged, and social ties renewed. And, you would think would happen automatically when in fact most of the tiem it feels like a job.
So, I guess that we could certainly say that change is to be expected. And, failing to plan for changes can be the biggest reason to have difficulties.
For that reason, you should be ready to face changes in yourself, other people, places and lifestyles, as the result of the move itself and the effect of time.
Using the continuity of certain things should always be an option. It doesn’t matter how much time someone spent abroad and the country you have lived in, there are certain things that have remained the same at home.
The culture shock
People that go back to their country after living away for some time experience treverse culture shock. This shock is characterised by the psychological, emotional and cultural aspects of reentry.
It is important to note that the culture shock phenomenon is well known. However, reverse culture shock is not as recognised and understood. So why should “returning home” result in culture shock?
It may be helpful to think of Reverse Culture Shock in terms of the culture shock one experiences when moving overseas. Many of the same events and circumstances that create stress when adapting to a foreign culture also create stress when returning.
Many aspects of reverse culture shock are subjective. This means that each person will have a unique experience in readapting to his or her home culture.
As strange as it sounds, expats become less and less familiar with their home stomping grounds. Returning brings a blanket of fog on perception, like an audience member walking around in a setting that’s familiar but still unreal.
Being an expat is such a lengthy and deep international experience it brings about great professional and personal changes. A perfect example is that, norms and values from your home country are viewed from a fresh perspective. Everything is seen with a new set of eyes. In addition, expats can begin to feel frustrated or confused. After all, the expat was gone to a foreign land for years, with sights, sounds and smells exotic and new. I felt reduced to a scale of emotions.