Part two my repatriation story. So what did I find out (/Google)?
"Repatriation shock lasts three times as long as the culture shock endured by new expatriates."
-eek! That's a bit of a shock in itself. Why is that the case? Surely it should be just as long as the initial culture shock if not shorter because you know what you are going back to?
"For many expatriates repatriation back home often becomes the most challenging relocation experience. They arrive back to discover that not only things have changed in their home country – but also that they have changed and they no longer feel like they belong at home. They feel disconnected both from the country and from the people that used to be their friends and acquaintances; they miss the status of being a foreigner and being special; they struggle to fit in; and they often feel as if they’ve lost some degree of freedom." - Global Coach Center.
That's a worry for me. I haven't kept up with what is going on at 'home'. Not only do I know very little about current affairs in the UK: if I am honest I have thoroughly enjoyed living in my 'bubble' where I don't watch the UK news (beyond occasional glimpses of BBC World News, which is a bit more global than British) or read newspapers, or even for that matter watch the German news, so what news I do get is gleaned mostly from the internet and what I hear on the radio in the car. Not only that, but I haven't got a clue about what has been happening in a social or cultural sense. I haven't seen a 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding', can't talk about the people on Big Brother (though I stopped watching that years before I even left the UK, so that's not really an excuse), and haven't been much to the cinema, and I don't know whether all my children's friends are busy having sleepovers and talking make-up and Nintendo DS games or ....well, doing something else.
Some common symptoms or situations that repatriating families encounter*:
- irritability/ resentment
- sense of difference and disconnect
- inability to concentrate
- low morale
- change in values/attitudes
- marital conflict
- parent/child conflict
- educational/adjustment problems for children
- feeling unappreciated personally/professionally
- decreased productivity
*Source: 'Reverse Culture Shock (or Why Do I Hate Being Back Home?)' by International HR Forum
The reasons given for 'reverse culture shock', as it is known include the fact that most people plan pretty thoroughly for their move abroad. You are in the mindset for moving abroad, and if, like my family you are moving abroad because your company wants you abroad then you may get some assistance with the move and settling in. Often when you move back home there isn't the same kind of support for settling back in - it's just something you are expected to get on with. More and more companies are starting to recognise that they need to support their employees more with their return, as the statistics for employees who end up changing their career or returning to a life abroad are higher than you might imagine. From personal experience, we know three couples who have worked in other countries and have returned back to the UK in the past year. All of them have said that they would either like to move back to the country they had lived in or were hoping that they would be able to get another foreign assignment in a different country.
From the various articles I read I've read that around 25% of people who have moved abroad because of their employer resign within 2 years of repatriation. And I am pretty sure that I read that this percentage increase to 33% within 4 years.
The big factor seems to be the unexpected changes that you notice on your return. Whether it's a change in politics, or the dynamics or structure within your previous group of friends, or work and school, these things all seem to make a difference. And of course, it can be the feeling that you've changed while those around you haven't.
"I noticed my frustration levels rising with people who have never worked or lived abroad, or worse, with people who travel regularly but have never lived abroad." - Trevor Hall comment on the Repatriation article by Global Coach Center
Making friends with other expats, even when you return to the UK because they are the people who 'understand' "people who hold a similar world view"
"When we return to our ‘home’ culture we will more often than not connect most easily with people like ourselves who have lived overseas as that is what sets us apart from others." Ruth Forsythe - Global Coach Center
Yikes! It makes me come over all uneasy... enjoy the links below and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this too.
Repatriation shock by Shelter Offshore
One woman's experience of repatriation in the UK by Shelter Offshore
Repatriation & belonging by Global Coach Center
Paper on problems with repatriation for employees and their families by by Andreason, Aaron W, Kinneer, Kevin D