10 Tips for Handling Reverse Culture Shock
Repatriating can be as difficult as moving to a foreign country in the first place. Adults feel the very real pangs of saying good-bye to their exotic adventure. Children face the loss of, well, everything they know. For everyone, there is the job of beginning again. But life has many chapters, and these tips can help you make “back home” feel like home again.Have family discussions about relocating and let each person have a voice. Open, honest communication makes everyone feel heard, and that they are an important player in the transition.
Have family discussions about relocating and let each person have a voice. Open, honest communication makes everyone feel heard, and that they are an important player in the transition.
Realize that not every member of the family will be thrilled about the move. If the current location is home to the children, they may fear the unknown. Spouses may dread the red tape and their own job search. Acknowledging these legitimate concerns is important.
Accommodate personal temperaments. Some people are adventurous; others hate change. Some think ahead more than others. Each family member will experience the adjustment phase differently, and the duration and intensity will vary.
Monitor your kids. Children are resilient, but moving can be a huge adjustment for them. Give your children time, urge them to make new friends by using their cultural diversity as an entrée, by expanding their notion of who friends should be and by looking for peers with more diverse interests and backgrounds. Encourage them to be confident and to see the possibilities. If they don’t settle in well, though, consider third-party help from a counselor or psychologist.
Recognize that you may feel like an outsider for a time. You won’t be aware of recent local events or inside jokes that your family and friends share. (And they may be uninterested in or apathetic about your new interests and hobbies.) So expand your circle of friends. Look for an international community or expat group where you can meet people who have lived in other countries.
Bring the culture back with you. Create new family traditions by incorporating some of the customs and foods from your expat days, and share them with family and friends. Your life has been enriched and you don’t want to lose that.
Leverage your international experience at work, in school, or other activities. Your kids may become wonderful resources in geography or humanities class! Beware of sensitive perceptions, though. From my home in Belgium I could go to Paris for the day or London for the weekend—and some regard this as boasting.
Stay in touch with the friends you made abroad. As the one who left, it will fall to you to make the greater effort to stay connected. Skype and FaceTime provide a visual and more emotional link, but email, Facebook and other social media are just as important. It’s inevitable that some folks will drift away, but the ones who stay connected will be treasured ties to that time in your life.
Invite folks from your former country to visit. You might worry that you’ll be overrun with guests, but trust me: people have good intentions about visiting, yet in reality things come up and trips get postponed. The numbers will be manageable.
Budget for return visits. Seeing people in person, even if only once in a while, is the best way to cement long-distance friendships. They’ll appreciate your return, and you’ll enjoy reminiscing when you visit favorite spots. When I’m in the Frankfurt area, it’s a treat to return to my favorite Greek restaurant in Offenbach—not only for the food, but also for the memories.
The Wall Street Journal - by Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly