Reverse culture shock hits returnee expat professionals

Published:  24 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: Jobs, Study Abroad
Many expats feel a sense of relief combined with anticipation when leaving their home countries, but how do they feel when they eventually return?

The majority of expats who leave in order to further their careers and grow their bank balances are fully aware that at some time in the future they’ll run out of steam as regards new jobs in new destinations and decide to return to the home country. Others, including retirees and those who’ve married overseas, have no intention of ever returning but may be forced to by unforeseen circumstances such as Brexit.

Whatever the reason for becoming a repatriate, almost all find it difficult to settle back into a life once left and not much missed. The worst affected are expats who’ve not stayed in contact with important elements in their old lives such as families, friends and even developments and changes in politics, economics and financial matters. The longer an expat stays away, the more they’re likely to be hit with reverse culture shock on coming back. It’s not just the home country that’s changed, it’s the expatriates themselves who’ve adjusted to different cultures, languages and climates.

Psychologists are now studying repatriation and the effect adjustment has on returnees, with self-analysis as regards personal changes made whilst overseas recommended as a preparatory step. Analysing which newer parts of yourself you should keep and which you should discard once you’re back in the country of your birth goes a long way to helping you adjust in your daily life. Keeping your bicultural identity and retaining at least some links with your expat life and its memorable events is the best way to go, and choosing a job using skills learned whilst overseas will help you adjust to new challenges.

For professionals who’ve completed a relocation assignment and are now back in their original company in a new role, it’s normal to be dissatisfied with the new job. A recent repatriation survey revealed around 14 per cent of returnees decided to leave the company they’d represented overseas within two years after coming back. According to survey respondents, most missed the responsibility and independence they had during their overseas postings.
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