Coming Home — the truth about repatriating

Catching up with old friends is one of the upsides of heading home

When reality sometimes doesn’t match up to expectation it’s you that has to change, not your surroundings.

For weeks, maybe months you find your mind taking a nostalgic tour of your hometown. At night, while you’re sweating in the heat of a Singaporean dry spell with unreliable air con, you recall cold, crisp autumn afternoons spent in the woods or watching the waves crashing down on uniform grey pebbles. What bliss, what contentment, what utter fantasy.

Still it’s a nice fantasy and one that occupies your mind as you hopelessly persuade children that school will be better tomorrow and wait for that Red Mart delivery with every single item needlessly wrapped in a million green plastic bags.

Then the day comes, the decision is made, the new job is acquired, and you find yourself experiencing the euphoric high that the promise of change brings. This time it’s different though, this time you’re not relocating again, off on a new adventure. This time the adventure is home.

Packing up and moving on

Friends and family that side of the world are delighted. Friends where you are right now, breathe a bitter sigh and experience the sadness that every expat feels and gets used to as another kindred flies the nest. That mark each friend leaves, it doesn’t go anywhere, you just get used to that grating feeling of loss and learn to distract yourself with other things.

And then. You’re home. Just like that.

Except of course this is just the start. There’s unpacking your life, there are schools, the right clothes. How cold? And there’s figuring out exactly how you fit back into the you-shaped hole that has closed up without you.

The tornado of doing eventually spits you out into your new Kansas and as you gather your breath, some three to six months down the line, that’s when the reality of this new life sets in. It’s at this time many expats begin to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Buoyed by the initial discovery that the NHS has got their back when it comes to dishing out free glasses for children, that underlying feeling of “have I really made the right choice?”, rubs away at the back of your mind like a blister on the brain.

We forget, of course, that we said this three countries ago.

Shifting goal posts

What is it about repatriation that’s so different to moving country in general? Expectation. It’s a weight. It becomes your soul’s purpose. Reconnecting with those friends, getting back into work, living a better life than the one you left behind a decade or so ago. It’s all going to come together because you’re home and things should be easier. Shouldn’t they? Oh, hello Brexit.

Much depends, of course on the reasons for your move. If it just felt right or if the move happened through circumstance rather than choice. Key to moving forward is letting go of those reasons, whatever they are and forging a new path. Treating your move as a new adventure, a new country even. You’ve got skills, you can make friends and find work. You can help children with their friendships and make arrangements for them to keep up any languages they’ve picked up. You’re adaptable, flexible and used to experiencing the lack of control that comes with landing in foreign fields.

The key to your success in these new/old surroundings is to let go of those expectations or at the very least give them time to root themselves and grow in a way that’s organic rather than hot housed into submission.

What rules did you have in place when you were away? Did you review your life situation every 12 months or so? Do the same. It’s time to carve out a new niche for yourself. You’re not the same person who left all those years ago and neither are the people around you. And unless they look as good as Harrison Ford as Han Solo cryogenically frozen in time, nor would you want them to be. They’re happy you’re back, but no they don’t want to hear you talk endlessly about your previous life, they want you to focus on the present and your future together.

Life moved on when you left and life continues to move on now you’re back. The sooner we jump in the current and go with it, the easier it’s going to be starting your new old life again. Good luck to you if you’re jumping back in. Come and find me on www.theexpatnet.com if you need a chat.