Your time abroad is ending. Your international assignment is almost over, and you start thinking about going back home. For some people, it’s a time of relief, and they’re happy to go back to familiar environments. For other people, it’s a sad time, a feeling that the great adventure is over.
It really doesn’t matter in which group you find yourself because relieved or sad, you are bound to experience a roller-coaster of unexpected emotions. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to deal with this phase.
When you moved to the new culture you probably had an idea that things would be different and that you’d have to adjust and adapt to new ways of doing things. And I bet that at some point you really missed some things from your home culture. It is likely that you remember the good stuff from home. But here’s the pitfall. Things have changed back home too. And you’re not the same person either. So, if you want to minimize the negative effects of reverse culture shock (yes, that is a “thing”) I will help you and give you some very doable tips.
RECONNECT: If you have friends and family back home that you have not talked to in a while, before returning is the best time to reconnect. Call them, Skype them, facetime them, or just email them. It doesn’t matter how, but it is important to reconnect before you go back to minimize the gap in communication. Ask them about their lives and what has changed. This will get you in touch with the changes and help you sort out whom you might still want to be friends with.
EMBRACE THE NEW YOU: You have changed. An international experience will change your worldview. You have probably acquired new tastes and ways of doing things that are different from the “old way” of doing things. It is important to acknowledge this new you and realize that things will be different than they were before. And that’s good. It means you’re growing. If you feel out of place, remember that, just like you needed time to adjust to your international experience, you too will need time to readjust to your “new-old culture”.
CREATE THE NEW IN THE OLD: Once you have arrived back, it’s a good idea is to try new things that you didn’t do when you lived there before. You might miss some of the novelty that your time abroad gave you. If that’s your case, create a new reality by looking for new places, new groups of people, even expats in your home place that you can help adjust.
Going back home can be disappointing because your references might have faded with time. Some friends have moved, married, divorced or just are not aligned with the new you. Being conscious of this process will prepare you better for this new adjustment and make your transition smoother.
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