Repatriation Blues

July 1

How to manage an unexpected, unwanted or unplanned repatriation

“Every goodbye calls for preparation, but most times, life takes us by surprise.”
– Elisabetta Gnone

Repatriation after an expat assignment is hard for everyone. It’s even more difficult when your move back home is unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted.

This time of year (June/July) is traditionally the time expat families move on. But this year, the COVID19 pandemic has forced many expats to move back home suddenly, without notice and with little time to plan. 

So, this first Expatability Chat episode is all about repatriating and therefore, I’m starting at the end of expat life!

Lots of sympathy, advice, information, and insights so you’re realistically prepared for expat, and ex-expat life. 

Scroll down for the transcript: 

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[00:00:04.390]

Welcome aboard the Expatability Chat podcast: helping expat parents navigate the challenges of moving and living overseas with Carole Hallett Mobbs, Expat Life Mentor and Consultant, and founder of ExpatChild.com.

[00:00:23.450]

Hi, I'm Carole. I'm so happy to be here with you today. Just a brief introduction to me as this is the first ever episode of the Expatability Chat podcast. Back in 2006, I moved overseas from the UK to Tokyo with my husband and then five year old daughter and a couple of cats. We lived in Tokyo for nearly five wonderful years. Apart from one big earthquake. In 2011 from Tokyo, we moved to Berlin, Germany and then on to Pretoria, South Africa.

[00:00:52.070]

In 2018, we moved back to the UK with a teenager, two different cats and a dog. This was the most difficult move of all. In 2012, about a year after arriving in Germany, I set up ExpatChild.com to help other parents moving and living overseas with children. ExpatChild gives generalised help and is there for everybody. I also help and advise individuals by tailoring what I know to your specific needs with short one-to-one programs.

[00:01:21.740]

So, why am I launching a brand new podcast about expats, global mobility and moving overseas when we are smack bang in the middle of a global virus pandemic, and no travel, or very little travel, is happening around the world and nobody knows what's going to happen next? Well, firstly, people have been telling me to make a podcast for ages, but I never really do as I'm told. And I wasn't quite sure how to start.

[00:01:46.550]

I want to share my stories, advice, information and help as far and wide as possible. And I simply can't do videos - they do my head in. It means having to do makeup and stuff and I just can't. And secondly, the dreaded C word - COVID-19.  COVID has certainly turned the world of relocation on its head. All international assignment postings are on hold for now. And with working from home proving so efficient in many cases, quite a few firms are considering the future of global mobility altogether.

[00:02:19.400]

While there hasn't been much global movement in the past few weeks compared to normal years, there have been many, many people making sudden, unexpected and often unwanted moves back to their home countries. Moving back home is harder than you'd expect. As you may well have discovered, moving back home when you aren't ready or when you really don't want to is incredibly difficult. So basically, this first Expatability Chat podcast is all about repatriating. I'm starting at the end of expat life.

[00:02:49.880]

I was going to give this episode the title of 'Repatriation Sucks', but that was because I was having a bad day. I also heard that some of the podcast people may ban that and I didn't want to put you off before I've even got my very first episode out.

[00:03:04.210]

My focus here is to give you advice, information and insights so you're realistically prepared for expat and ex-expat life, I found a really good quote by the author, Elisabetta Gnone, who says "Every goodbye calls for preparation, but most times life takes us by surprise." This sums up 2020 completely and expat life in 2020, even more so. This time of year - June/July is traditionally the time expats with kids move on, to coincide with school years.

[00:03:39.520]

So some people were planning to move home anyway. The pandemic hastened their departure from their host country. Some had to leave very suddenly, leaving everything behind on emergency evacuation flights before lockdown commenced. Many are staying in temporary accommodation until life returns to some kind of normal and they can get back to their overseas home. Some families are split up, unable to see their partners or children while they wait for flights to resume and quarantine rules to relax. Some were planning, but missed the boat or plane, and now don't know when they can actually get home because the borders have been closed.

[00:04:17.620]

Some are staying put in their host country, living a very different lockdown than their friends and family back home. And more recently, some have lost their jobs, meaning that they have to leave their host country very quickly due to visa cancellations. As I say, repatriation is hard when you're ready for it and planning for it's even harder when it's unexpected, unplanned and unwanted. Having successfully moved a family abroad the idea of a return journey can seem like a relatively straightforward one.

[00:04:51.080]

It's common for those returning home to think it will be easier to repatriate than it was to expatriate. After all, if you've lived there before, how hard can it be? However unrealistic expectations about home and a lack of preparedness for the reality can in fact make repatriation more difficult than expatriation. Moving abroad, families share in the adventure to an unknown location, but each family member will have a very different experience of their home country. Leaving the country you've been enjoying living in without being able to say a proper goodbye is so supremely difficult.

[00:05:27.320]

I know how it feels and how it affects you all. Back in 2011, we were due to leave Tokyo. In late April. We weren't repatriating, but we were moving to another country. Leaving parties had been arranged; end of school traditions had been planned. The big earthquake hit in March and everything closed down instantly. Many expat friends relocated within days to various countries. We were unable to say goodbye to friends. We were unable to say goodbye to the country.

[00:05:55.340]

Leaving was very, very hard indeed. And it was particularly difficult for my daughter, who was about 10 years old at that point. So saying goodbye and having a proper ending to your stay in a country is really, really important. It gives you closure and it gives you a mental chance to move on. Without that goodbye, moving on and enjoying your new country can be very difficult indeed. Add in the stress of an emergency situation and, well, it was really tricky trying to settle in Berlin.

[00:06:27.640]

The people who cope best with repatriation are usually those who had a tough time overseas, those who suffered badly from homesickness and missed their families and home countries the most. And when you're suddenly moving back due to a global pandemic, it makes life even harder because you're not returning to any form of normality whatsoever. So, why is repatriation so hard? Mainly, this is down to expectations and assumptions; those dreaded assumptions. Where most people trip up in their lives is often down to assumptions.

[00:07:00.970]

We expect that we're moving back to a familiar country. Everything will just carry on as normal and we rapidly find out that this is not the case at all. We assume that we'll simply slot back into our old life as if nothing happened. Wrong! The person who returns home after living overseas is not the same person who went abroad in the first place. You've changed. The way you feel about things has changed. The way you view the world has changed. Not only that, your home country, your friends, your family at home have changed as well.

[00:07:32.890]

Depending on how long you were away, your home may have changed a lot. Politics may have changed. I think that's highly likely, don't you? Bureaucracy has changed. Your neighbourhood's changed. And of course, your family has changed as well. Even food's changed! When you live overseas you're constantly processing new information, you're building new reference points. You're learning new things every day. They're all equally exciting and frustrating. But you can often shrug off the frustration as a cultural difference and enjoy it that way.

[00:08:05.140]

You experience quite an adrenaline rush every single day; from driving on the wrong side of the road to simply finding food you vaguely recognise; dealing with utilities and new rules such as how does the waste collection work? Can I wash my car here on a weekend? Why isn't there any electricity? And the fun stuff, trying new foods, seeing new sites, experiencing different cultures, visiting temples, beaches, mountains. Everything is new and fun and you're not even on holiday.

[00:08:36.250]

This is your life! And then you're back home. When you get back home, the context changes again, you need to learn to function again in your own country, your old cultural environment, but you aren't the old you. Switching back isn't that easy, especially if you were gone for a long time. So, you've changed and home has changed as well. Things that used to feel comforting aren't so comforting anymore. Everything just feels a bit odd. This oddness is a phenomenon called 'reverse culture shock'.

[00:09:09.510]

It's the name that people give to that feeling of not fitting into your home country. You're a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. So how does reverse culture shock manifest itself and what kind of symptoms, if you like, could you look out for? Like moving abroad? You dive into your new life with gusto. The first thing you may do when you get back home is to head off to the supermarket and stock up on all those foods that you've been missing out on for the last few years.

[00:09:37.790]

You catch up with all your old haunts, your friends, your family, and then what? Something I found strange was weirdly trying to re-learn my native language. For quite a few weeks after I arrived back in the U.K., I couldn't actually understand many of the accents and dialects in the U.K. hearing fast-spoken native English seemed like a foreign language to me. I could hear entire conversations in English and not understand a single word of them. My ear, my hearing had been attuned to foreign languages and accented or broken English for such a long time that English was itself a foreign language. The way I got over this was to listen to a lot of radio shows and watch or listen to the television. It helped me get the pace, if you like, and the rhythm of the different accents here in the U.K. Once you've got over the initial excitement of being back home and you've had your fill of your favourite foods and you're used to the way everything works, then what? Every mundane, everyday task overseas may have been a little more exotic and interesting.

[00:10:42.250]

But at home... nope! Going to the supermarket isn't a place where you'll find lots of new foods. You're missing the excitement of expat life. And if home is a place that you lived most of your life, you probably won't find any incredible cultural attractions that you don't know about either. Suddenly, normality hits hard. You start to notice some of the unpleasant sides of your home country. Maybe it's the litter on the side of the road. Maybe it's the aggressive driving, maybe it's the hideous weather.

[00:11:12.940]

Something will suddenly hit you and you'll think that life really isn't quite so good here after all. And of course, if you weren't expecting or wanting to come home, then it's going to be even harder for you because you may have been focusing on the negatives of repatriation before you even got back. I'll hold my hand up - guilty as charged! Something else that makes settling back into our country quite difficult is that other people just won't understand you. This is a pretty common thread that comes up time and time again.

[00:11:44.620]

The first thing most people will say to you is, "Oh, you must be so happy to be back home again". Of course, if you are happy to be home, then this is easy. If not, this comment can be brushed off by a bit of a "hmm" sound and a rictus grin while you hastily change the subject. It's when they directly ask the question, "Are you happy to be home?" that things get a little tricky. Depending on who's asking, you can say something like, "Yes, it's so wonderful to see you again". Or, if it's the 25th time you've heard this question that week, you may find the words, "No, I don't want to be here" just slip out of your mouth. That soon stops the conversation!

[00:12:25.510]

People who have spent an extended time abroad tend to come home with a new global outlook on life. And when people haven't even left their home country, these kind of issues just don't affect them in any way.

[00:12:36.610]

You aren't up to speed on the latest gossip as your calls home didn't really cover that. The latest TV programme craze everyone seems to be talking about. It just doesn't appeal to you. It seems distasteful when you've seen people living in true poverty, somehow. And yes, this sounds snobby, I know, but having a global life view, opens your eyes to real life. TV reality shows are NOT real life and some people really don't understand the travel bug at all.

[00:13:03.220]

Everybody is different, remember? And we have to recognise that not everyone is the same as everyone else. And that's what makes the world so wonderful. And regardless of what I just said about reality shows, we really shouldn't judge other people for their likes and dislikes. Basically, as a general rule, don't drop your travel tales into too many conversations. This may be particular to the UK. I'm not sure. I've travelled quite widely in my life and it's hard to talk about certain adventures that I've had with people that don't understand the travel bug.

[00:13:37.420]

But of course, when you do find somebody that's as well travelled as you, the conversations can be fantastic and you can have conversations that go, "Oh, I was in this restaurant in Moscow... Oh, goodness, you know it too? Isn't it amazing?" I actually had this conversation very recently with somebody. Really cheered me up! So, do expect to feel a bit blah about repatriation. Expect to feel, dare I say, a bit superior that you've done all this travelling and then you can beat yourself up about feeling like that. Expect to feel negative about your home country.

[00:14:12.780]

Maybe you felt the same when you experienced 'ordinary' culture shock in your previous country. This is the same thing just in reverse. One of the other aspects of reverse culture shock is that you can feel really stuck, particularly if you know you won't be moving overseas again. This is me - unless I win the lottery. In normal times, I would suggest having something to look forward to, booking a holiday, visiting overseas friends, just getting on that plane again.

[00:14:41.450]

However, that isn't an option right now, not with the global pandemic. Hopefully, it will be an option very soon because feeling stuck and being in lockdown in the COVID-19 crisis means that you really are stuck. I know of families who are currently split up and friends who haven't seen their husbands and children overseas for many months. Many expat families are separated during this particular time. It may be that you've lost your job, like so many other expats, and therefore your visa to stay there has been rescinded.

[00:15:15.100]

I am so sorry about that. The job losses as the economic consequences from the pandemic bite harder each day. It's causing a lot of stress and anxiety apart from the anxiety and uncertainty you may be going through right now, I do want to remind you that repatriation is hard for everybody, regardless of their situation. And I acknowledge that it is extremely difficult for you right now. About a year after I repatriated, I asked in my Facebook group, "Which is harder - moving overseas or moving back home?"

[00:15:49.610]

I have to admit I was struggling with that final move, still am, to be frank. And I was so relieved to discover that almost everybody who answered expressed the same response. The result was resoundingly, "Moving back home is so much harder". I want to read out a couple of comments I received about how hard repatriation is for every expat, so that you can see that you're not alone in feeling as you're feeling right now. So, this is the first comment, and I've mentioned it before.

[00:16:20.570]

"You are not the same person and your home country has changed too. It's really hard." Yes, the UK has certainly changed a lot since I left in 2006. Some changes are subtle. Nothing tastes quite the same as it used to because salt and sugar have been removed from all the foods. Some changes are the total opposite of subtle... I think I'll leave that right there, just now

[00:16:46.680]

Here's another comment. "Coming home has been months of finding our footing and having much less excitement and adrenaline in our lives."

[00:16:56.360]

I totally get this. Everything is familiar, a bit too familiar. There's nothing to surprise me here. While there's less daily stress when everything is familiar and you know how everything works in your home country, somehow we've become accustomed to living life on the edge while abroad, happily, never knowing quite what will happen next. While the UK I've returned to is very different in many ways from the one I left in 2006, I had spent enough years here as an adult to know that overall day to day life is pretty dull.

[00:17:28.040]

Here's another comment that sums it all up very well indeed.

[00:17:31.820]

"The expat world is built to create connections and trends within a matter of days, because everybody is in the same boat. At home you don't need to find new friends. At home you don't have that connection of complaining about how hard it is to find a good cup of tea. At home you've never had to restart. Home kept going - you did not. You moved overseas." The so-called expat bubble makes it so much easier to meet people in the same life situation as you. You slot into life abroad quite quickly. Not so at home, unless you're fortunate enough to live somewhere where there are many other expats.

[00:18:10.490]

Something else I think is very important to note is that when you move overseas on an international assignment, as in for work, you tend to be in a system of some kind. So the company know you're there even if you don't need their help or sometimes their help is more of a hindrance than a help. But they may have events and such that you could go to if you wish. There will be the working partner's colleagues to meet. They may even have some kind of welfare assistance making sure that you're OK as the accompanying partner.

[00:18:41.240]

When you move back home, however, you are dropped out of that system like a hot potato. Of course, the worker carries on working as normal, probably with people they've known for years. The accompanying partner has to, once again, make their own way in life with absolutely no safety net. You're expected to know how to register with the doctors. You're expected to know how everything works now that you're at home, however long you've been away and however different the procedures are now.

[00:19:09.300]

It may be a more familiar way of life with no language barrier, but it's still different from when you left. Adding to this right now, during the global virus crisis, and we don't have the benefit of shooing the kids off to school. It's no surprise that life is pretty tough right now for so many people.

[00:19:26.790]

And we really must talk about the kids. Kids and repatriation is a very different scenario. Think of it like this. You are going home. Your kids are not going home. Home is where they were before - your host country. Home is where their house, school, friends and so on are. Yes, they have a link to home from holidays and so on, but it's not their home. Visiting a country for a holiday is also not the same as living there, as you well know. Your child probably hasn't even lived in your home country for any significant length of time. If you work out the proportion of their life spent in your home country compared to the proportion of their life spent overseas, expecting them to understand home as 'home' simply isn't going to work.

[00:20:14.040]

Your home is not their home. When I first moved overseas, my daughter was then just five years old. All she really needed was me, her dad, her familiar books and toys and security. We repatriated when she was 16 and that was a totally different ball game, moving countries with a teenager. What's important to her right now is a whole new world. I think I'll cover moving with teens another time. It's a big topic. Anyway, she's now 18. She spent 12 years living in different countries, speaking to friends whose native languages range from Japanese, German, Afrikaans, Spanish, Italian and Russian and so many more. A fun aside to this is that her spoken English was very strange for some considerable time, quite a broken form of English with plenty of time searching for words. Due to the nature of many international schools, a good selection of the English was American English and spelling, and that's taken quite a while to correct. A significant proportion of her young life was spent overseas.

[00:21:18.210]

England isn't her natural home, if that makes sense. She spent a little bit of time over here, but only on holidays and during the summer breaks and now finding her feet in the UK, learning what teenagers are all about over here is taking quite a bit of time and parental education, if you like.

[00:21:35.790]

Children may have very little memory of their own home country and all their memories may be associated with a more childlike, younger self. Some children who may be considered to be repatriated have never actually lived in that country. And this is even more significant if children have parents of different nationalities. Don't expect your children to automatically adjust to your home country. Spend a long time helping them to work through it. It may help to treat this move as another international relocation for them.

[00:22:06.780]

Having said that, expat kids are remarkable people and usually make new friends very quickly. They're used to moving around. They're used to being the new kid in school, and they are used to coping with unusual situations, which is just as well right now. Encourage them to look forward, if possible. Children aren't too good at looking forward. They're better at looking back at something that they know. Conceptualising the future doesn't really come naturally to kids of any age.

[00:22:34.650]

So there's a natural tendency to look backwards which can actually move on to depression if you can't contain it, it's unlikely that your child will be able to talk about their life abroad with their schoolmates unless they're lucky enough to find a fellow outsider. They may be the new cool kid in school with a funny accent to start with, depending on the personality of your child and the skills of the pastoral care in the school itself, this could go up or down. Find a way to let them talk about their life overseas and just be aware it may not be with their peers.

[00:23:07.590]

Children who live overseas sometimes feel that they don't have complete ownership of any particular culture, but they are an amalgamation of two or more cultures. Hence the term 'Third Culture Kid' or TCK. This describes children who live outside of their home culture for two or more years. It's important for parents to acknowledge this and to talk about this with their children. All in all, such experiences can be very beneficial for children; learning to respect others, knowing about different cultures and religions, exposure to languages and an ability to adapt to difficult situations will open many doors later in their lives.

[00:23:44.790]

Acknowledge their emotions. This all applies to you, too, by the way. Know that it is OK to feel angry, scared, excited, worried, sad all at the same time. Leaving a country causes a form of grief, and this is made particularly painful  if you've had to return suddenly and unexpectedly. I'll talk about expat grief another time.

[00:24:04.980]

Allow them time to acknowledge the loss. And this allows them to move through grief and helps to settle them into a new place, unresolved grief is the biggest hindrance to adapting to a new country.

[00:24:17.290]

Briefly, the stages of grief are the same as the stages of culture shock and therefore reverse culture shock. The five stages of grief are, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. If you can show them a simplified form of this, perhaps Google the Change Curve, you'll be able to show them that it's a path that needs to be followed in order to come out at the other side. And that we all feel it. As long as they realise that adults feel this as well and that their feelings are acknowledged, it will make life so much easier for everybody.

[00:24:51.550]

Little kids will generally be fine. It's when they start relying on their peers for validation and acceptance that life gets a bit tricky, as I'm sure you're well aware, if you have teenagers. They won't have local reference points. They won't get the 'thing of the day'. They will find that everything is different from the holidays that you've spent in the cocoon of your family visits home. In jokes, fashion, trends, the latest must have games, how school works and so on, all of this will be different and something that they need to learn again.

[00:25:22.870]

Just a quick tip: I would recommend buy them whatever the other kids are wearing. I promise it will help them merge in with the crowd. Put your ideals aside for a while and focus on your child's well-being. Watch home country TV programs, read magazines, etc. Try to get your kids up to speed on 'home'. Make sure they know which words are not OK in your native language so that they don't make a fool of themselves or offend people inadvertently.

[00:25:49.660]

Thankfully, most teens these days use Americanisms in general speech, so they're likely to understand the universal language of expats. I still use phrases like elevator, sidewalk candy, etc. and I've not even lived in the States. It's just that other countries tend to use American English is the lingua franca. Your children need to try and work out the unwritten social rules within their peer groups. And something that we cannot teach them as we are far too old to know this kind of thing.

[00:26:17.800]

Luckily for your kids, their expat life experience will have given them a core of steel and a knack of making new friends really quickly. Try to make sure they're good friends, not toxic friends. Trust me on this. Of course, it's so difficult right now because schools just aren't open in most countries and definitely not yet in the UK. Sadly, your darling children are going to feel very lonely at times and also they're going to feel like an outsider and that hopefully won't last too long.

[00:26:46.900]

But it will happen. Something you can do to help is to make sure you keep items that represent your time in the country you've left. Keep photos, jot down memories, keep postcards and other information on what you visited and saw in your previous country. Perhaps have a scrapbook. Look back at the places you've lived, including your home culture regularly. Ensure that you allow time for sadness and sorrow, but with the happy expectations of a new adventure to come.

[00:27:14.890]

Recently, my daughter and I spent a happy hour wandering around Tokyo on Google Maps. It was really good to reminisce. Be watchful for any changes in your child's behaviour and ensure you listen to your child's concerns. Keep in touch with their new school when it eventually starts, and keep tabs on their development and ensure they're settling into their new educational system OK. Hopefully they'll be able to keep in touch with their friends from overseas via Skype and social media, so please try and facilitate this for them depending on age appropriateness, of course.

[00:27:48.520]

To make repatriations work, it's important to be open and accepting to the real challenges as well as the real opportunities involved. So, how can you cope with repatriation and reverse culture shock? In particular, when you haven't been expecting to go back home? The first thing to do is to try and just take one day at a time, try not to look back too much. Look forward as much as you possibly can, which is impossible right now, but try and find a new project or a new hobby to keep you occupied. Write that book, for example.

[00:28:21.530]

Hopefully soon there will be opportunities to look forward to. It may be helpful to let go the whole home concept altogether. By this I mean the geographical home. Make it a more abstract idea. Home is where your heart is. Hmm, I'm not sure that works in all cases, especially if your heart is somewhere else. OK, next idea.

[00:28:41.410]

Home is where the family are all together. For me, home feels right when my pets are here too. They create a grounding environment for me. Redefine what home means to you. Now, while you haven't been able to plan your repatriation, you can read up about culture shock and reverse culture shock. And by becoming familiar with the very common feelings that everybody has, it will help you counteract your own feelings, simply by knowing that it's completely normal to feel this way.

[00:29:08.860]

Try to find some like-minded friends, travellers, proper travellers, for example. Not every area is full of ex-expats. But if you can try and find maybe online friends and you can swap stories about eating local delicacies with eyeballs, having multiple live-in housekeepers, if that was something that you had, and mixing up your various languages and simply exploring the magnificent depths of our world. You can join my Expatability Chat Facebook group. The link is in the show notes.

[00:29:39.520]

Many people have told me that it takes about two years to readjust to your home environment. I've been back home in the UK since 2018, so two years in February 2020. And then what happened? Oh yes, COVID hit. Excellent. So I can't possibly tell you whether the two year thing is right or not because everything is just so very different right now. Don't dismiss that you've changed. Be proud of the fact that you've changed. Accept that your home country has also changed while you were away. Accept that your friends have moved on from you. Even if they've not left the country, their life has continued, just as yours has. Accept that you cannot just slot into their lives.

[00:30:21.070]

Family may expect your presence more frequently. That can take some  adjusting to! Something else is you'll miss all those things that you had just become accustomed to, such as air conditioning. Oh goodness, how I miss air conditioning! And things that you didn't even know existed before you moved away, suddenly you miss really badly. Food is one thing that you may be able to control - expats and food, there's always a thing!

[00:30:45.040]

You should be able to find food outlets that sell food and items from your host country, just to make you feel a little more at home, at home. For me, it's mochI, Japanese  sweets, biltong and various herbs and spices. These are my go-to items.

[00:31:01.600]

You may miss your home-help if you were lucky enough to have one. Sorry, you have to do your own cleaning now! Something else you'll notice when you move back to your home country, especially if you're moving from certain parts of the world, is the change of climate.

[00:31:15.850]

We moved back from summer in South Africa to one of the coldest winters in the U.K. Plus our heating and hot water didn't work properly for about three weeks. I don't think I've ever been so cold! I wore so many layers of clothing that first winter that I was actually spherical. It took me nearly a year to get used to that. You might want to be prepared for the physical and psychological reaction that you have in the changing climate. If you've moved back to a country in the Northern Hemisphere, dark mornings and evenings of winter may have a negative effect on your mental health.

[00:31:47.110]

If you've grown used to more equatorial and, in my opinion, sensible timings of light and dark - in the light evenings of the summer, your children will not go to sleep because it doesn't get dark until 10:00 p.m. Quick tip: get blackout blinds as soon as possible  if you have young children: it sounds strange, but it will have a big impact on how you settle. Try and explore your home area as much as possible. Take your daily walk a different route each day and hopefully lockdown will be a distant memory before too long.

[00:32:17.560]

As soon as you can plan some short getaways to reconnect with your own home country by exploring somewhere new. Treat being back home as a new international assignment; go into it with the open-mindedness that you would have done overseas. Understand that it is difficult and it can be, frankly, quite boring at times. Consider this, you're basically entering foreign territory all over again, so be prepared to make the effort to fit in. Similarly, ensure your children understand that this move is a fresh start rather than a return to your previous way of life.

[00:32:51.490]

It can be best for all of you if you consider this repatriation as just another move to a different country. Focus on what's going on locally, what you used to call home and the people in it. Every move, international or not, has three main elements to it. Firstly, you have what is known. You know the country you're moving to, you know the house you're moving to, you know the language that's going to be spoken. You know the job.

[00:33:18.970]

Sometimes you know how long you'll be there and you know the social rules -  normally. Social distancing is a new one, but at least it's new to everybody. Secondly, you have the unknowns. The unknowns of how your child will cope with the new school, unknown as to how the school run works, unknown of whether you'll find a job. And finally, you have the unexpecteds. The oh, my god, I can't believe that happened moments. Like having no power, water or Internet, like trying to find the local emergency room a couple of days after arrival because your daughter broke her hand.

[00:33:55.440]

The same applies to repatriation. You'll have the knowns. You'll have the unknowns and you'll have the unexpecteds. In this case, you may well have repatriated in the middle of a pandemic and lockdown with quarantine and everything. Of course, nobody could have prepared for this. So just keep breathing, just keep swimming, take one day at a time. And remember, my key point is to always talk to your children and listen actively to what they're really saying, even if they're not saying the actual words.

[00:34:28.230]

Don't worry about anything you can't control. Let it go. Letting go in this sense is empowering. Think of it as de-cluttering your emotions just like you de-cluttered before moving house. You're getting rid of something that you don't need anymore. Treat being back home as an adventure. Allow yourself to be sad, allow yourself to be depressed and all the other emotions that go with it and then let them go. Remember this: repatriation is just one more step in your life, just as when you moved abroad, be proactive in your new life back home. Take the time to appreciate all the things you missed while you were away. If it all gets really bad, try a gratitude exercise.

[00:35:10.320]

List three things you're grateful for each day. Do this each morning and last thing at night. It really helps refocus your mind onto the positives and it's a good excuse to buy a nice new notebook. Try to let go of any regrets. Saying goodbye is important, but you probably haven't been able to.

[00:35:28.680]

Sadly, there's no magic wand I can wave to help you get through this. However, if you'd like to chat one-to-one with me about any aspect of repatriation, there's a link in the show notes to book a call with me. What I'm sharing here is very generalised. When we talk one to one I can tailor what I know to suit your exact needs.

[00:35:47.900]

I wish you all the very best in your repatriation. And for however long your stay home is, whether it's temporary or permanent, I wish you a peaceful and happy stay.

[00:35:58.440]

If you're planning to move again, then that's wonderful. If you're planning on staying put, then that's wonderful too. I've heard of many people thinking of staying home right now. They've realised that for them, being close to family is really important.

[00:36:13.170]

Celebrate the amazingness of having more than one culture in your soul. Expat kids and expat accompanying partners are truly amazing. You've had the strength and resilience to cope with everything and anything that life's thrown at you and you survived. You will do now. This is just a blip and this too shall pass.

[00:36:32.860]

Please do get in touch. If there's anything you'd like to talk about. I'm here for you. Talk to you again soon.

[00:36:42.110]

Thank you for listening to the Expatability Chat podcast. Please check out ExpatChild.com for more free information and resources and follow me on your favourite social media. Don't forget to join me next week for another episode. Until then, bye bye.

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