Repatriation is one of the first things you should think about when starting a new assignment, even though it’s probably the last thing on your mind. Almost no one talks about it; it seems to be almost a taboo subject, despite the fact that anyone who’s been through it, will tell you it’s the hardest part of expat life.
I’m starting this blog just as I’m experiencing our third repatriation. For us the situation has always been compounded by the ending of employment and the beginning of a job hunt that can last many months. But it is the reverse culture shock and social isolation, not just from friends in our former location but from expats generally, that is more stressful than the temporary loss of income.
A friend who repatriated to the UK wrote this to me a full 18 months after returning home. “We are just about getting sorted out to what appears normal UK life, but boy it takes time as you miss so much. The friendship and things we did together it’s just not here. People are so tunnel visioned, they don’t see beyond going to work and coming home.”
From South Africa another friend wrote just this week “I think I left a large part of my heart in Dubai – I cried when I arrived as I was so isolated and then cried even more when I left as I had made so many friends. I often wonder where everyone has now gone, all over the world, continuing with lives as before, but at the same time fond memories of our times shared in Dubai.”
But there are steps we can take at the beginning of the relocation process and during our time overseas help ourselves prepare. I’ll talk about some of the practical ones in my next post.