When you think about expatriation, you think of the cultural challenges of adapting to a foreign culture. Most expats anticipate and prepare for these challenges. Sometimes there is some support and resources, whether through your company or a local expat community. What many expats don’t prepare for is the reverse culture shock when moving back home.
Going back home should be easy. You know the culture, are familiar with the places and often already have family and friends living relatively close by. But you may discover that you simply don’t fit in anymore like you used to. This can cause a wide range of problems which are made worse by the fact that you aren’t expecting it and you don’t have support.
Your experience abroad has exposed you to a new culture, and you are taking your new behaviours back home. But back home you have changed and the new you is not always valued. You may feel like a stranger in your own country. Reverse culture shock can be very painful. Bu if you approach it right, it can be used to your advantage.
First and foremost, anticipate and prepare for your return home in a similar way that you prepared for your move abroad. This means seriously considering how your home country might appear to someone from your host country. Chances are that you will now be seeing it through these eyes. You should also be aware of how you might be wearing rose coloured glasses. Be realistic, it can be hard work.
Second, start thinking about how you want to use your new cultural styles and learnings back home. Proactively look for people and places where these can be valued.
Thirdly, honour, and make sense of the new “you.” You have changed. It’s critical to own and accept that fact. Having a clear understanding of yourself will help you not to rely on other to provide validation and connection.
No one said repatriation is easy, but with a positive, proactive mindset you will overcome the reverse culture shock and it will add another layer to your personal growth.
This post is inspired by the very interesting article, How to Return Home After an Assignment Abroad by Andy Molinsky and Melissa Hahn: https://hbr.org/2017/10/how-to-return-home-after-an-assignment-abroad
Below some resources for the French expats returning home: