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Thoughts to consider for expats moving back home


Plenty of articles are written about moving and working abroad but often little attention is given to returning expats. Often expats move away from their original country of residence for decades and this in itself makes any move ‘home’ very challenging.

‘Home’ can change very quickly, and even after a five year stint abroad, there will be changes that have happened which as a returning expat you will not have envisioned and are maybe uncomfortable with.

It is wise to return home in increments, so you and your family/spouse/partner become comfortable with the idea. This could involve buying a holiday home and having regular holidays there before you go back. This will help start to build new friendships and if you have kids get them used to the new environment.

If you have time before your return look at schools for kids and discuss this with them and the positive impact the new environment will offer them. Clearly try to also have holidays when the area where you will go back to is at its best. For Europe this will likely be in the Summer.

It is unlikely as a returning expat that you would think about this, but the reality is that many of your new friends and even family maybe jealous of the expat lifestyle you have just given up. Talking about your experiences abroad to those who have never been there will only at best bore them but at worst alienate them from you. Find areas of mutual interest to discuss which will likely relate to your new environment.

Moving back home will likely offer a completely different way of life and it is important to understand this when you move back. If you move back to Northern Europe or the UK after time spent in places like the Middle East or Asia weather maybe a big factor. If you have also been abroad for a long time your memories of your ‘home’ may not be the reality you face when you return. Nowhere stays the same and in many countries things like language and values change all the time and if you have been away for a long time this may be disconcerting.

If you have lived in an environment where generally people are more respectful and less aggressive, where there is minimal crime then moving back ‘home’ may feel very uncomfortable. Many expat countries in the Middle East and Far East where the news is restricted can give you a sense of peace and complacency. On returning home where negative news about crime and violence is thrown at you 24/7, this can take time to get used too.

Generally, if you are a family returning home, provided you find a school where your kids are content, and they have a stable home with food on the table they will adapt very quickly and likely be content especially if they are given positive messages. For adults the transition is likely to be far more difficult. Clearly before any move it is important to sort out your new career or employment so that financial strain is not added to the stress which the move will likely cause.

If setting up a new business or career when you return it is important to have done many trips back. This will likely involve already having a financial plan and budget worked out a year or more in advance. Training and education for the new role will also have to be done maybe a year or more before the move so you can hit the ground running.

With all the preparation you do it is likely there will be times when you suffer a new type of ‘home sickness’. If you have lived away for long this could be for things like the weather, special trips in the desert, the ability to go to the beach in the evening or even special food or various events and friends. Clearly this is only natural and even healthy but provided you have planned your move back, you can still focus on the positives of your new environment, new friends and new challenges and adventures.

Another crucial aspect of any move is to review your financial arrangements and work out a budget for your new life. You will in time likely have to close bank accounts, investments and pensions/gratuities in the country you are leaving. Planning for your move at least a year before is absolutely crucial so you can get the maximum benefit from any legal tax breaks available. Unfortunately, many of us leave pensions and investments around the world making them difficult to manage and rarely does this make financial sense.

In the challenging and exciting world where we live change happens all the time and many of us end up moving from country to country many times during our working lives. With proper thought and planning this should be enriching and very satisfying giving you a perspective on the world which can be very helpful and fulfilling.

‘Wherever you are comfortable & at ease with yourself is your home regardless of where you were born or brought up.’

‘Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home.’

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