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Returning home after an expat assignment abroad, and how to make it work?

21 October 2021


Just like moving overseas, moving back after living away brings a whole set of new challenges – from the emotional turmoil of leaving your new friends, job, routine and lifestyle behind to the practicalities of organising an international move.

With an administrative to-do-list including sorting out possessions, deciding what to bring back to your home country, as well as updating lots of paperwork, the process can quickly become overwhelming. So planning should begin long before your moving day arrives.

Many companies will offer support during the repatriation process, so it’s worth checking with your HR department to see what help or advice is in place to help make the transition a little smoother.

Keep in mind that while things might have “changed” at home since you moved to a new country, most likely, you have too. Particularly if you have been living away for many years, it will take some time to readjust to your old way of life; so be patient with yourself.


Even though home is very familiar to you, it might feel foreign for the first few days or weeks. Don’t rush the process; allow yourself time to readjust. Step by step, familiarity will settle in and you’ll soon get that sense of connection to your home country again.

Just like moving away to a new country, moving back home will also seem strange at first. Everything you thought you were familiar with will feel different to you. This is known as reverse culture shock and it is a common phenomenon among many expats returning home. 

Thinking that everything will be the same as before you left will only make your transition back home more difficult. You will have to accept that, just as much as you’ve changed during your time abroad, so too have your friends, your family and even your home country.

Just like you worked at building a network of friends abroad, you’ll now need to work at reconnecting with old friends and family in your home country. Get in touch with them well in advance of your move back home so you are up-to-date on their lives. This will make it easier for you to adjust and also help ease those repatriation blues.
If you used to spend your weekends exploring your city abroad, you can do the same at home. Make a list of sights and attractions in your home town and invite some friends to accompany you on your expeditions. 
Try making new friends or meeting other expats who have also returned home like you. Join a sports team or club, take up a new hobby, volunteer at a local charity or attend events you’re interested in. You will meet like-minded people and make new connections too.
And finally, continue to maintain regular contact with your friends abroad. Many expats lose contact with their overseas friends, especially during the upheaval of the first few months back home. These old friends can be a very useful support network while you work at reconnecting with your friends and family at home.