When repatriation means separation

Just as Andrea’s partner was coming to the end of his assignment, and they had already begun the process of repatriation, he was offered a dream promotion in their host country, creating a dilemma.

Should you stay, and I go?

After four great years in North America, Andrea* and her partner had already informed their tenants back in Sweden they would soon be returning to the family home. In that sense, the die had already been cast, but they also agreed the new position was an amazing opportunity. “In the end, we decided I’d move back with the kids and my partner would follow in nine months’ time,” says Andrea, who fixed up the old homestead on her own. “I am pretty handy with hanging up lamps and electrical maintenance now!”

Taking your host country home

“Although my son (12) knew what he was returning to, it felt like my daughter (8) was relocating, not repatriating. To her Sweden was a new country, so we decided she would go to an international school while our son would attend a local one,” says Andrea who really enjoyed the open and respectful social culture of North America. “Personally speaking, I didn’t want to go home, and I’ve been figuring out ways to recreate the culture of my host country here in Sweden.”

Personal relationships

“I’ve noticed with some friends I was really close to before we left, now, we struggle to find the same depth of contact again. On the other hand, some relationships with people that I wasn’t really close to have developed for the better,” says Andrea, who adds that she and her husband will “have to find a balance within their relationship again, just like when you first relocate, and figure out who does what.”

Different expectations and needs

“Now in Sweden, some typical things I do quite naturally, but sometimes I feel I’m walking around like a foreigner, as if there is a filter,” says Andrea. “For example, I had to figure out how to buy a train ticket all over again! When you are repatriating, you have to realise that your adjustment at home can take longer than the adjustment you made when relocating. You must also consider the different expectations and needs of each individual family member. For your children the cliché ‘if you want to treat them equally, you have to treat them differently’ may very well apply.”

* Name and certain circumstances changed at request of interviewee

This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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