Living in a foreign country is often a life-changing experience: your mindset might have been forever altered by your time away! But what about when it’s time to pack up your expat lifestyle and return home?
It’s normal to worry about how the new you will cope in your old environment. The transition can certainly be tricky, but it’ll be a lot easier if you follow this advice:
1. Be realistic.
Living abroad has its unique challenges to overcome. As you navigated trying moments in foreign lands, you probably idealized your native country and thought of it as a sort of sanctuary.
You may be surprised to arrive home and find that life is not as easy as you’ve been imagining! There are difficulties to deal with and complications to be confronted wherever you are in the world. It’s unrealistic to expect perfection when you get back.
Instead, keep expectations realistic. Maybe every reunion won’t be glorious. Things may have changed a lot in your absence. Maintain a positive attitude regardless and remember that you’ve already shown you can build a life from scratch.
2. Use your fresh eyes.
Rather than trying to recreate your life from before, which is often impossible to do, apply your fresh eyes to old surroundings.
Think like a tourist in your own country, and you’ll soon see opportunities you never noticed before. This applies to every area of life, personal and professional.
After the transformative experience of living abroad, you’re likely to have a fresh perspective. That’s a good thing! There’s no need to repress your new personality to resume your previous routine.
3. Resist nostalgia.
The risk of having lived in multiple countries is that you end up in unhelpful cycles of constant comparison. “This food court sushi is nothing like what I ate in Japan! The people in Spain were far friendlier than they are here!”
This won’t just bring you down; it’ll also annoy other people. Nobody wants to be told over and over how inferior their culture is by someone who’s traveled more than them.
On hard days in your home country, you may find yourself looking at old photos and wondering why you ever chose to come back. At those points, try to remember the most difficult times you had abroad; it surely wasn’t always perfect! Overall, it’s inadvisable to compare your everyday ups and downs to the highlights reel of your expat lifestyle.
4. Expect culture shock.
If you’ve been living abroad for a long time, you might find yourself experiencing culture shock in the very place you’re supposed to feel at home. This can be a scary and alienating experience, but it’s a normal reaction after a prolonged absence.
What you’ve learned while abroad should enrich your existence. Experiencing different cultures opens our minds to alternative ways of living. That’s why you may find your comfort zone a little less comfortable than you remember it being.
Rather than resent the fact that you or your home country has changed, enjoy that fact and lean into it. Make an effort to get to know the place again. Change is a natural part of life, after all. The more you resist this fact, the harder your transition will be!
5. Ask for support.
After living abroad independently, it may feel embarrassing to ask for assistance from family on your return. However, this is a natural time to need their support.
Unless you managed to save money during your adventure, you might need to move back with your parents for a while as you find your feet. Try not to think of this as a step backward, and instead see it as a necessary but temporary circumstance.
Do your part around the house and show gratitude for their help, but don’t imagine that your presence is a burden. Your family is probably delighted to see you after missing you for so long. This is your opportunity to make up for lost time with them!
6. Make a plan.
While you’ve been gone, your home country has probably changed. You definitely have! So, it’s time to sit down and establish a strategy for your next steps. The good thing is that you probably have a better idea of what you want from life after experiencing it in such an exciting new way.
Maybe you now know for sure that you want to work with an international business. Maybe you had a great idea for starting a business while you were gone. Maybe you’ve decided that work-life balance is your top priority when making career decisions.
Whatever your perspective, you should consider your return a fresh start. Fueled by enthusiasm, ambition, and all that you’ve learned about both yourself and the world, you can formulate an inspiring plan.
7. Update your profile.
Given all the new skills and knowledge you’ve accumulated, it’s the right time to update your resume and LinkedIn profile. They should reflect everything that you’re now bringing to the table!
Think beyond the obvious. Yes, you may have learned some basic Italian while you were away, but you also undoubtedly refined your communication skills and learned to relate to people from diverse backgrounds. Soft skills like these matter, too.
The fact that you lived abroad shows that you’re adaptable, independent, and emotionally resilient. Employers love these qualities, so make sure you emphasize them in any applications that you make.
8. Engage and extend your network.
Re-entering the world of employment back home can be an intimidating prospect. But remember, you have resources to draw upon. Reach out to people in your network and let them know you’re back. Alert them to the fact that you’re looking for opportunities.
Attend events and participate in training in your industry of interest: these are great moments to introduce yourself to people and build your reputation. You can also join social groups to meet like-minded people.
You never know who might have the information or connections you need to find your dream position. Just because someone can’t help you right now doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in the future. As a former expat, you have a lot to offer!