Adjusting to returning home after a stint as an expat

Published:  25 Jan at 6 PM
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Packing up and becoming an expat in a faraway land is a dream for many, but does reality kick in once you’ve returned to the home country?

Nowadays, becoming an expat is somewhat of a commonplace development in many peoples’ lives, tinged with the excitement of new experiences, new jobs or the long-awaited freedom of retirement. However, not every expat stays overseas for ever, with reality likely to overtake the expected familiarity of returning home.

Jeremy and Deidre Youell and their four children emigrated to Qatar from Ireland almost 10 years ago, with the couple taking on teaching jobs in their children’s’ international schools. They enjoyed their new lives in the UAE, with a ready-made social life, a maid, employer support and an established, friendly expat community, but reality began to dawn when their oldest son decided to move back home, thus creating a gap in the comfortable family environment they’d created.

As the gap widened, Deirdre and Jeremy began considering the possibility of quitting expat life and going back to their roots. During a 2014 visit, they noticed a closed-down pub which, according to Deirdre, looked sad and gave the couple the impetus to return home and try a new adventure. However, they found the challenges of moving back far more difficult than those of emigrating as there was no-one to help them adjust.

Deirdre remembers she felt vulnerable and alone as everyone had moved on in their lives whilst she’d been away. People, she said, have lived without you for years and moved on as their lives changed. Slotting in without having been there is, she believes, impossible – with some threads able to be picked up but others staying broken for ever. She feels optimism is fine, but it must be tinged with realism rather than coloured with the expectation of a warm welcome.

Stress and change come as standard for expat returnees, and the inevitable lifestyle changes don’t help. Not having a cleaner, adjusting to the soaring cost of living increases since you left, the bureaucracy of running a small business and the change in the weather from day-long sunshine to the Irish ‘soft rain’ all took their toll on Deirdre and the family as they adjusted. Her younger children are now happy at school, and the couple are carving out a life and successful pub business for themselves in Ireland, even although they’re not ruling out another stint of being expats in an unfamiliar land.
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