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Repatriating: A New Challenge

You're going home! Gosh, that sounds wonderful doesn't it? You're headed back to the people you love; back to familiar food; back to the stores that have your sizes.

But as it turns out, repatriating can be challenging – often more challenging than moving overseas even. People back home likely don't understand how you miss your helper and all she did for you. Saying, "I really miss weekends in Bali," won't be received well. How can family back home possibly understand how your friends in Singapore became like family in many ways?

You don't want to hide from the fact that your life was different overseas, but you also have to be careful how you talk about things so that you don't seem like you're bragging. And you'll also soon see that people back home often ask, "So how was Singapore?" politely. In truth, all they want a three-sentence answer and then they're ready to talk about other things closer to home. It can be hard to connect as you feel like you can't really talk about your entire life experience for how ever many years you lived overseas.

Not only have you changed while you were away, but things at home have changed, too. Time didn't stand still while you were abroad. So you need to manage your expectations about returning. People's relationships with each other back home might have deepened in ways you don't understand. You might find yourself feeling a bit left out. That's all perfectly normal.

Eventually, you'll find common ground with your peeps back home through your daily activities. "Talking about what's happening in the here and now and in your daily life will help you connect," according to Suzanne Anderson of Restorative Community Counselling. Dr. Anderson has given a repatriation talk to members of the American Association of Singapore for many years.

You may also find yourself seeking out new experiences or new friends who may have also had an international experience of some sort. Your life back home will likely need to expand to embrace the new you, the you that has had this amazing international experience.

Besides the people at home not understanding your expat life, dynamics in your own family are likely to change, too. Dr Anderson explains.

"Roles will change at home. You can't assume everybody knows their new roles. Instead, you need to discuss expectations when you return. By talking about things ahead of time, you avoid misunderstandings when you return."

Dr. Anderson shared some family discussion questions from author Craig Stort to get you started.

  • What will each family member be doing upon return? In what ways is that different or similar to what they have been doing?

  • For those job hunting, what is the job market like in your field? Do you have current needed qualifications?

  • What will each parents role be with the children?

  • What does the family financial picture look like?

  • How is the work around home (especially that which has been done by domestic helpers) going to happen back home?

  • What in your lifestyle will change?

  • How will your free time change?

  • What does your family (parents, siblings, etc.) back home expect of you?

  • Are there family issues which have been on hold waiting for your return?

But don't worry. You will eventually adjust and any homesickness you have for Singapore will begin to fade as you make a new life for yourself back home. As President Lincoln said, "You're about as happy as you make up your mind to be."

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