Returning Home, Changed

11/21/2013

In my own personal experience, I thought repatriating would be easy. After all, I was coming back to the same home I had left two years earlier, and I had repatriated twice before. I had even moved 13 times in the previous 18 years and considered myself a pro at relocating. I knew what to pack, what to leave behind and how to fit my suitcase into everything from an overhead compartment to a train cubby. Moving home from Southeast Asia should have been easy, but why was it suddenly so difficult?

My time abroad was filled with amazing experiences. As an expatriate, I enjoyed learning about different cultures. Our vacations featured exotic travels to far-away locations, and we became part of a diverse expatriate community with origins from across the globe. Each day, whether I was involved in the local or the expatriate community, I was in an environment where everything was different from home. It was new, exciting and challenging.

Most former expatriates feel that way. The majority of returning expats Berlitz spoke to for a 2010 survey on the topic said they gained much from their experience abroad in terms of knowledge, culture, language skills, open mindedness and self-confidence.

After much reflection upon my experiences, I realize now that because of each experience, I was the one who changed. My experiences abroad heightened my awareness of my own cultural norms, and thus slightly altered my values, interests and behaviors. Coming home has been a new challenge each time.

Diana McGreal