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From the Desk of the President

Tips to Prepare for Reentry

By Neal Goodman, Ph.D.


Many expats have reported that reentry is more difficult a transition than moving abroad.  As paradoxical as it may seem, the better able you were to adjust life in the host country, the more difficult the adjustment to your home country may be.

I sat down with a returning expatriate family and one of our repatriation specialists, Paula Kugelman. The following are several tips that she shared to ease the family's transition home.

SEVERAL MONTHS BEFORE RETURNING HOME: 

  • Think about your home country budget before you return. Consider your financial situation. You'll be on a local employee salary. 
  • Don't assume that you will automatically find a promotion and a raise, greeting you upon return.
  • Buy those items you've put off purchasing but will regret not buying.   But don't go crazy. And forget about hurting your mother's feelings if you don't get all the things she asked you to get for her.
  • Make a list of those places you wanted to visit, things you wanted to do, prioritize, and do the things at the top of the list.  Include children in this process, if age appropriate.
  • Begin to position yourself for your next work assignment.  Remind those back home of you new skills, insights, global view perceptions.
  • Consider how you to use company support for the next stage of your career development and what you see yourself doing upon return.  Have at least a tentative plan before you return.

RIGHT BEFORE DEPATING:

  • Arrange a way of staying in touch with your new colleagues and friends
  • Take the time to attend any farewell parties.
  • Tie up loose ends at work and with relationships

BETWEEN THE U.S AND HOME COUNTRY:

  • If possible, it's helpful to have a time for decompression, a neutral zone.  A short break, either here or in home country is recommended.

UPON RETURN:

  • Try not to compare and try not to be critical.
  • Remember what helped you to adjust to living in a foreign country and draw upon that experience to help you adjust to your home country.
  • Be aware that the average person who has never lived abroad (holidays don't count) has a very short attention span for your exciting stories, not to mention your slides and videos.
  • Restrain yourself, and before telling your stories, ask others how they have been and what they've been doing in your absence.  They may think that they also have some interesting tales to tell.
  • Limit yourself to sharing one or two really special experiences you'd had.
    Try to contact former expats with whom you can connect with and will appreciate hearing all of your stories.

Remember that just as when you moved abroad, you will go through stages of adjustment, and as with developmental stages in general, everyone goes at their own pace.  It is not a race. You will experience an emotional roller coaster, but the ride will end and you will climb out of the car and walk back into life at home, as changed as it and you, may be.

Enjoy the ride!

Neal Goodman is the president of Global Dynamics Inc.