The decision to return home
RETURNING FROM EXPATRIATION CAN BE A PERSONAL CHOICE, OR SOMETIMES IT IS SUFFERED. BUT IN ALL CASES, IT IS OFTEN SYNONYMOUS WITH AN IDENTITY CRISIS.
Returning from living abroad is sometimes imposed upon us, it is most often the result of family, personal or professional events that occur in our lives, either in our host country, or far from us, in our country of origin. Thus, the end of a local contract, the separation from a spouse, the death of a loved one, the calling to question certain life choices (children’s schooling, family support to be provided, illness…) all these trials and upheavals are a source of uncertainty as to whether or not we should return home quickly.
It may be imposed by the legislation (non-renewal of visas), or even by the global situation: the COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to take drastic measures regarding travel authorizations. This has brought to the forefront the recurring question of distance from family for expatriates: is it urgent to go home?
Sometimes we choose to come back of our own free will, because we feel that “it’s time,” or because we have a strong need to reconnect with our roots, with our family. In some cases, we consider that we have reached a saturation point in our country of residence. This is due to several factors: political differences, cultural environments, social characteristics, etc. …. In these cases, the return will be approached with a certain euphoria and therefore minimize the difficulties and constraints to come.
In any case, whether the return is imposed upon us or a choice we make, it is undeniably a source of chaos. As an illustration, studies show that 58% of French expatriates have chosen to return to France, and yet 69% wish to go back to living abroad (Expat Communication, 2020).
Returning by choice is not necessarily a positive experience. It can be just as difficult as a sudden return, due to the lack of visibility regarding the personal adaptations necessary to reintegrate into the country of origin (changes in identity, feeling of disconnect). It is often said that the expat must prepare his return on the basis of the founding principles of a departure. Preparing for a new expatriation remains the persistent advice on social media of expat communities.
If we prepare ourselves with serenity for all the logistics, the administrative and legal aspects of our departure, the psychological aspect of this tidal wave is not necessarily understood. How can we prepare for a homecoming without identifying, beforehand, the difficulties of a moral and identity nature that await us?
The support of a certified coach specialized in intercultural issues can be a valuable lever in this life transition.