When the time comes for an expatriate to move back home, it is quite incorrect to believe that no preparation is necessary. As a matter of fact, repatriating may require more planning, preparation and consideration, than moving into a foreign country.
Going back home may not be as easy as expected. Therefore, it is important that you should emotionally prepare for such a transition. Your life has changed, and it is very likely that the lives of your friends at home have changed as well. Expecting to find everything as you left it is not always realistic. If you can accept it before moving back, you will probably avoid a feeling of depression or sadness upon return.
Once home, you may experience a strong set of emotions called “reverse culture shock”. It is very similar to ordinary culture shock when moving to another country. You will need some time to adjust to your previous way of life, and adjustment is never easy. Thus, it is always good to think about such emotions before moving back home, and to be prepared for such feelings after repatriation. This way, you may even avoid additional stress or depression.
Apart from emotional concerns, there are more practical issues to focus on before you actually leave your host country. Just like you carefully planned your move abroad, you will need to make arrangements for moving back. This includes arrangements with shipping companies, pet relocation, finding a place to stay in your home country (if you don’t already have one), employment opportunities, choosing schools for your children, and many other practical issues that are absolutely necessary to be arranged in advance. It takes a lot of work and planning, just as it did when you left home.
If you are living abroad with your family, it is crucial that all family members are mentally prepared for returning home. If you have children, talk to them constantly about the change that they will experience, in a positive way. Explain that they will be able to reconnect with their old friends and family. The better you prepare your family for the return, mentally and emotionally, the sooner they will adjust once back home.
Although repatriating is a rather challenging experience, it also opens new opportunities, brings new or old emotions, and actually represents a new beginning. Here is a list of things any repatriating expat should do before and after moving back home:
• Confirm the date of your repatriation with your employer and inform colleagues, family and friends.
• Schedule an exit interview with your employer.
• Make a financial plan for your return (stop or reduce host location salary payments to avid accumulation of local currency; resolve any tax requirements in the host country, make your bank account(s) transfers).
• Notify your landlord, reclaim the security deposit, disconnect utilities and arrange for possible selling of furniture and appliances.
• Make housing arrangements in your home country.
• Notify host country schools, recover deposits, and obtain copies of records, recommendations and curriculum descriptions. Also, notify the home country schools, fill out enrollment documents and make deposits.
• Make necessary arrangements for return shipping of household goods, transportation of pets and removal of goods from storage.
• Make sure that your residence or work permits do not need to be withdrawn.
• Notify home and host supervisors, HR, your tax adviser, friends, and family of your new work and residential addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses in the host country.
• Take some time to say goodbye to local friends and colleagues, take photos and commit some time to all the people that were a part of your life abroad. Also, make plans to stay in touch with close friends.
• Stay in touch with friends you met abroad.
• Reconnect with old friends and family. Create new life routines and socialize as much as you can.
• Use your expat experience and connect with people with similar experiences. Consider forming a support group, give advice to colleagues going abroad or coming back home.
• If you began with language studies abroad, continue at home. Use your knowledge of foreign language to volunteer with immigrants, foreign nationals, or exchange students.