Repatriation – Two Years On

It’s time for my annual report on the state of my repatriation.  Last year I optimistically wrote “I’m gradually putting my life back together again.”  Looking back I think I was trying to convince myself that was the case.  After all, things SHOULD have been going well.  I had found a job which OUGHT to be have been perfect for a trailing spouse and my husband had started a new job in Canada, after spending most of the first year of our repatriation working overseas again.  In theory all the pieces of the jigsaw were finally coming together.

But of course life never runs as smoothly as you would wish and that’s certainly very true with repatriation.  Just when you think you’re finally getting over it, there’s a setback; three steps forward and two steps back.  I found my new “perfect” job to be isolating and as my husband dealt with his reverse culture shock upon repatriating, I relived it all again through him.

So by the beginning of 2011 I resolved to find a new job and eventually in April started working for a couple of Toronto’s top real estate agents.  It involves many of the skills I’ve acquired along the way and enjoy using – administration (I started life as a secretary, back in the day when that was a job title to be proud of), real estate (I worked for 15 years as a real estate appraiser), social media (my newfound interest since repatriating) and relocation (my last gig).  It’s busy, interesting and the people I work with love what they do, which makes for a very positive atmosphere.

This last year I’ve also, FINALLY, made some new friends right here in Toronto who understand my expat experience.  Not that my long-distance friends aren’t important, but I need to have people I can talk to face-to-face sometimes and it’s got me out of my internet cocoon.  For that I also have to thank my last job in Destination Services, because that did at least get me exploring and reconnecting with Toronto again.  As an admitted computerholic, I’ve been very bad at taking my own advice about getting out and meeting people.

So now, two years on, I can truly say that I’m glad to be here, and when my husband, who is still struggling with his reverse culture shock, muses about the possibility of going overseas again, I’m not instantly exhilarated and ready to pack my suitcase again.  Which is not to say it won’t ever happen, just that it’s good to feel good about where I am now.  It’s taken a long time and I will enjoy it while it lasts.


15 thoughts on “Repatriation – Two Years On

    • It’s been an uphill personal battle, Andrea. I spent way too long hiding at home and finding reasons not to go out and meet new people. Which is ironic considering that my last job overseas was organizing events for expat women to get them out and socializing.

      • As one of the expat women who met up with Judy (& Helga) every Tuesday at Mercato can I just say…..You are sorely missed

        Would love to have you back with us

        • That’s sweet of you to say, Jo. I do still miss “my coffee morning ladies” – we were a great crowd 🙂 However I keep meeting women here in Toronto who have lived in Dubai … so at this rate I may be able to start a group here, lol!

  1. Glad to hear things are looking up…and interesting that your spouse’s re-entry has been so different than your own. That seems like the final frontier for globally mobile families — all members of the family getting on the same page — since we deal with things so very differently.

    • Repatriation is definitely the final frontier. I would like to hear more stories from other repats as to how their lives have turned out, but they do seem to be hard to find.

  2. Judy, I’m curious how and where you happened to meet your new friends. What was different about how you met them compared with all the other people you must have met who didn’t understand the expat experience? What suggestions do you have for others as to the best places/ideas for meeting people with common interests upon repatriating?

    Also, I’d love it if you could write a post on your husband’s expat experiences. Mostly we hear about women’s experiences. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever read about a man’s repatriation experience. I bet a lot of men would like to read about this, too.

    Best regards,
    Lynne Diligent
    Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor

  3. Lynne my new friends are all other global nomads of one kind or another and I’ve met them in a variety of ways – the local Newcomers Club, introduction through mutual (expat) friends and one through writing to her on LinkedIn! The fact that I live in a large multicultural city makes it easier. If I lived in a smaller community I think I would have found it more difficult.

    And thanks for such a great idea for a blog post!

  4. I think the themes you’ve described — trying to find out who you are and where you fit — are almost universal within the expat/repat population. The fact that not all family members adjust at the same rate is an added challenge. But you’ve worked hard to get to this stage, which is something I’ve always admired about you.

    • I agree that identity is a universal theme for expats and repats, but I’m still puzzled as to why it should take SO MUCH longer for repats. I mean, a BIT longer I would understand, but 2 years! And I know that for some of my repat friends it has taken even longer … and no I don’t mean you 😉

      • It did take me two years, though. That’s a number that actually pops up quite a bit when I talk to repats, and they’re always surprised that it should take so long. I think part of it is dealing with the grief of leaving expat life behind, and part of it is the shock and resentment of having to re-learn one’s own culture.

  5. Maureen says:

    So good to hear of your positive move forward. I’ve only been back for 10days now and still feeling rather unsettled and with no direction in my daily routines. Although I was only an expat for 5years, I’ve now relocated back to Cape Town where I’ve not lived since 1974. I’d been living in Johannesburg and working full time until we moved to Dubai. Now it’s having to start a new circle of friends and past times, but fortunately I do have some family members living here. I do so enjoy reading of your expat experiences and it’s great to share in your encouraging advice.

    • Maureen, my tip would be to check out any local newcomer’s clubs, expatriate or international groups. I found that here in Toronto quite a number of members are repats and although it’s been good to reconnect with old friends, making some new ones who can relate to my expatriate experience has been helpful. I’ll be interested to hear how you settle in.

  6. Judy, you definitely touch upon one of my fears about repatriation (not that we’re there yet, but I can’t help but think in very rosy terms about the day we “go home”)–that no one will really relate to me (or E & newbabygirl’s) experiences. When I visit, there’s some interest in my life here, but mostly I’m sort of just expected to fit back into a groove I’m not sure entirely fits anymore.

    I honestly stress most about integrating my girls into American schools after the far more academic/rigorous Singaporean experience. Ironically, we’ve talked about looking at British/expat schools when we move back to the US as she may have more in common with those kids than other american kids.

    • When we moved back from Azerbaijan my son was in middle school, and although we rather recklessly (considering we were unemployed) decided to put him in a small private school, there was still a big culture shock for him. Schools are definitely top of the list of things to stress over for families who relocate with children.

      If and when you do move back to the US you might want to consider using the services of an educational consultant who specializes in expat kids (yes, such a thing exists!). Although I haven’t used her services, I have met Becky Grappo (an expat mom herself).in person and she seems really good. Follow her company on Facebook as she posts some interesting articles about expat kids and education.

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