Returning home after living abroad can be difficult for the entire family, as exciting as repatriation can be. How can individuals and their employers assist in making the transition back home easier?
Companies are becoming increasingly aware that one of the most difficult aspects of relocation is repatriation. According to the 2021 Global Relocation Trends Survey, 94% of respondents discussed repatriation and re-entry issues with their employees. Around 70% of respondents said their company had a written repatriation policy. Nonetheless, despite significant efforts by both the company and the expatriate to openly discuss the relocation, returning home after living abroad remains difficult.
The effects of relocation differ for each family member because everyone goes through the transition in their own unique way. The earlier you plan, evaluate, and manage this phase, as with all other aspects of international relocation, the more satisfying the experience will be. HR managers should take advantage of this opportunity to continue learning about intercultural interactions, whether by educating your company, friends, or extended family.
Tips for a successful repatriation
For the expat
- Once you've accepted the overseas position, look for a mentor. This person's role is to keep you informed, help you advance in your career, and increase your visibility within the company while you are away and when you return home after living abroad.
- Set up a transition fund. This is a safe amount that will cover any unexpected costs that arise during your return home.
- Expect your values and beliefs to shift. Expect your former coworkers, friends, and family to not immediately understand you or your new experiences.
- Practice communicating your newly acquired values and beliefs to people back home. With an open mind, demonstrate your new leadership style.
- Recognize that it will take some time to adjust to what was once a very familiar environment. This procedure will take longer than anticipated.
- Consider novel applications for your new skills and knowledge. This could be assisting others who are going through a similar relocation process.
- Be prepared for a shift in your relationships. Your coworkers may be envious of your international experience and unsure of how you differ.
For returning family members
- Make sure your family has enough time to relocate. This is especially important when it comes to your children's school schedules. Inform your employer that you will be doing so.
- Control your expectations. Consider how each family member's expectations will differ when they return home after living abroad.
- Determine and emphasize the positive aspects of the relocation.
- Allow time to reconnect with family and friends. Remember that because family and friends cannot fully comprehend what you and your family have gone through, you may no longer interact in the same way.
- Expect to have missed significant events while living abroad. This is unavoidable; close family and friends should understand.
- Stay connected by using technology. Webcams, social media, and instant messaging are great ways for family members to communicate, making the transition back home easier.
- Before relocating, hold a family meeting. Make a list of what each family member likes and dislikes about the country you're leaving. When you return home, go over this list again to avoid romanticizing your experiences abroad.
For the employer
- Consider how to use newly acquired culture- and market-specific skills during the early stages of the selection process before sending an employee on a global assignment.
- Make a repatriation contract to spell out the expatriate's future with the company and his or her job upon return.
- Provide an intercultural repatriation program for the entire family that addresses the needs of each family member.
- Create a mentoring program to keep expatriates informed of company policies and events while they are on global assignments. Maintain contact with them and provide a support system.
- Provide a company orientation for returning expatriates that addresses changes that have occurred during their absence, such as policy and strategy shifts.
- When your returning expatriates return, show your appreciation.
- Employees with accompanying spouses or partners should receive spousal career counseling.