How to Beat the Homebound Blues
So, you thought taking that overseas assignment was a necessary, albeit challenging, step up the corporate ladder? Well, think again. According to a recent article from the BBC, your time spent abroad might be less appreciated in your native country and your home office than you might have ever imagined. You also might find yourself downright depressed upon return.
When moving somewhere new, the lack of familiarity tends to breed a certain emotional openness, which levels your sense of expectation because you don’t know what you don’t know. When an expat returns from a lengthy stay abroad, they often return home with a very strong notion of what life will be like (based on what it was like when they departed). They also expect to be seen as a person of interest, having accrued a whole new set of skills and insights. They often expect to return to a higher level position from the one they left and maybe even higher pay. They expect their colleagues and co-workers to be anxious to hear their stories of life abroad, and they expect to slide right back into the way things used to be.
These notions can lead to a serious crash, which makes repats home sick for the once-foreign land they left. Feelings get hurt as old friends and co-workers show about three minutes of interest in their stories of life abroad, and the home office seems more concerned with what they missed rather than what they learned.
According to Michael Schell, CEO of RW3 CultureWizard, you need a repatriation plan:
1. Prepare for repatriation as you did for expatriation. Ask yourself the same questions about how life would be different, or similar, before repatriating.
2. Make a concerted effort to stay in touch with friends and family in your home country and use social media to keep people abreast of your adventures while abroad. They’ll feel more involved in your adventure through what you share online.
3. Stay in touch with your old colleagues and bosses from the home office. It’s wise to keep up with what’s happening at home so you’re not to out of the loop upon return. If rules or policies changed, it’s best to familiarize yourself before returning.
4. Let people know several months in advance of your return date so they start to put you back on their radar to avoid missing special programs, social events and even promotions.
5. Prepare short and exciting answers for all the typical “How was it abroad?” questions you might get at work. The less you bore co-workers with long answers, the less likely you are to get hurt when they seem distracted or uninterested.
6. If you’re a bit depressed, get help. Find a therapist, coach or really good friend to share your feelings instead of moping around the office. Most co-workers won’t fully understand what you’re going through. Sharing your repatriation turmoil might only make you and them uncomfortable.
7. Don’t wait around for someone to throw you a “Welcome Home” party. Take initiative and throw your own party. Invite friends and colleagues and let them know you’re back in a personal, emphatic style.
RW3 CultureWizard is a leading provider of cross cultural training and information through the CultureWizard intercultural learning platform.