When reverse culture shock hits hard

Whether you are repatriating, or just visiting for the first time in two or more years, you might feel ‘all at sea’ after touching down on home soil. Here’s a few pointers to help you find your land legs again.

The odd one out

It’s been a long couple of years for everyone. Many members of our community will now be returning for summer holidays. Some might be going home for the foreseeable. Either way, it will be good to touch the green, green grass of home. But it can also be an emotional challenge. You might feel like the odd one out when sitting amongst old friends and family members, or feel out of step amongst your compatriots as they do completely normal things, which can be disconcerting, if not unnerving.

Vocalise your feelings

As the author Robin Pascoe writes in Homeward Bound: A Spouse’s Guide to Repatriation : “Re-entry shock feels like you are wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes. Everything looks almost  right.” Acceptance is an important step. If we bury our anxieties, they don’t disappear. So vocalise your feelings. Talk about how strange it is to be back, preferably with a good listener (a dear old friend, a kind aunt, or perhaps a fellow repat who knows exactly  what you’re experiencing).

Tour of the town

Of course, your hometown will have undergone changes. Why not go see what’s different while reacquainting yourself with familiar sights. Discuss the changes you see with friends or family, or invite them to join you on a tour of the town. If you are feeling anxious about ‘where’ you will meet old friends and family, dictate the terms of engagement. Choose a place to meet and an activity that will help you to feel comfortable.

Take a raincheck

A homecoming can be intense. You might feel obliged to say yes to all invitations. Don’t be afraid to take a raincheck or two. Everyone will understand that you’re in demand! Also what are your usual methods of self-care? Going for a run, journaling, painting, meditating, taking a long walk? Whatever it is, make sure you set time aside for yourself (even if all you desire is a nap). Lastly, preparing to repatriate is a big logistical challenge. Just as you experienced when you became an expat, there will often be a honeymoon period and then a dip. Generally the highs take care of themselves, so best be prepared for the lows!

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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