If you’re an expat, you have doubtless considered what life may be like when you return home. What many expats don’t expect, however, is that coming back may be their most trying time. Here are five things you should expect upon your return.
1 You may experience “reverse culture shock”
Your home country may have changed in your absence. We may often take for granted the pace at which change happens in a place we live in because we can see it happen gradually for ourselves. However, when cultural and societal changes happen while you are gone, it can be quite jarring. Your brain may not be able to reconcile new developments in a place it expects to be familiar with immediately.
In short, you will be experiencing culture shock all over again, similar to what you likely experienced when you moved to your host country Only this time; you are experiencing it in what you thought was a familiar place. Reverse culture shock can be quite acute if you don’t regularly visit your home country and can be traumatizing if you already strongly identify with your host culture.
2 You might have to deal with jealousy from those you left behind
Not everyone has the opportunity to work and live abroad. Expats in general, are happier, more financially stable, and healthier than peers who stay in their home countries. People who stay behind tend to suspect this at some level, and even if being an expat didn’t make you happier or richer, they may resent you for the experiences you’ve earned.
Close friends and family may misinterpret your stories as showboating, which in turn can also lead you to be more reluctant to relate your experiences. This may lead to a strain in relationships that were otherwise OK before you left your home country.
3 You will miss your host country
If you had at least a few positive experiences as an expat, you would likely miss your host country even if it was an overall negative experience for you. Your brain may be craving the familiarity of your host country without you realizing it. If you enjoyed your experiences in your host country, as most expats do, then you will likely miss it even more as you readjust to life in your home country.
These feelings might be especially true if you left your home country because of negative feelings about the culture, the economy, and perhaps the climate. Those aspects are unlikely to change entirely within the period of a typical expat contract, which can lead to disappointment upon your return.
4 You may have to do a lot of errands and paperwork
Depending on your home country’s laws and your specific legal status, your income may be taxed differently when you’re an expat compared to when you work in your own country. Your social security info may need to be updated as well. In many cases, this means you will have to do quite a bit of paperwork to get back into the local workforce.
The first few weeks of your return is also a good time to review your expat insurance plans to ensure that they’re still effective. You’ll also want to take the time for medical and dental check-ups if you were not able to have these done in your host country.
5 Expats may need to integrate slower than they expected
Expats who don’t visit their home country regularly will find it difficult to keep up with all the new developments upon their return. Old friends may not be as warm, the price of different commodities may have changed, and people may have moved on as a culture. This can lead to difficulties finding employment or maintaining old relationships on top of all the other consideration of moving back home.
For these reasons, expats should consider taking a short break before rejoining the workforce, if possible. This will allow a smoother transition into life back home.