Moving back home is an expatriate’s dream come true, isn’t it? Not always! Returning home after living abroad for a length of time can be challenging. How can you help family members to overcome reverse culture shock?
Be There for Them
Many families welcome returning expatriates back with open arms and are thrilled to have them home. But this feeling of excitement and joy at welcoming family back home can be hard to handle when it becomes clear that the brother or niece they saw off at the airport a decade ago is no longer the same person. It can be challenging for all concerned to re-establish family relationships, catch up on news and goings-on and settle back down into a new routine.
If your family member has recently returned home, you should be there for them. Being there involves much more than simply providing them with a roof over their heads as they search for accommodation. Returning expatriates also need to be given the opportunity to talk about their experiences, to make sense of how their home and family has changed during their absence.
Encourage Community Involvement
Reverse culture shock can be a devastating experience for expatriates returning home. Instead of their old lives picking up exactly where they left off years ago, many feel rootless and find it difficult fitting back in. One way to help relatives in this situation is to encourage community involvement, whether that involves volunteering at the local animal hospital to raising funds for charity.
Encouraging family members to give back to the community can help to foster a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives and take the edge off feelings of reverse culture shock. Helping others can also help forge new, lasting friendships and networks that will last for years to come.
Develop a Thick Skin!
After living abroad for years you would think that returning family members would be overjoyed to be home again, wouldn’t you? Wrong! Many returning expatriates actually go through a similar process of adjustment that they experienced when they first moved abroad, before they finally settle down and make the needed adjustments.
Do not be surprised if all you hear is complaints about the price of food, fuel, utilities, economy or constant comparisons with the country they have just left behind. Give your family time and they will eventually adjust. This is a normal part of overcoming reverse culture shock.
Returning expatriates need their family and friends around them when they head home. The first few weeks and months will require some major adjustments as they get used to being back home again. Be patient and offer any needed support.
More from this contributor:
A Military Spouse’s Guide to Adapting to the UK Culture.
Culture Shock in Marriage: How I coped.
How to Prepare for Reverse Culture Shock.