The repatriation process refers to the adjustment by the expatriate employee and his or her family upon their return to the home country after living and working overseas for a period of time. For some, this can be more stressful than the original expatriation, and can result in a repatriation reaction (sometimes called reverse culture shock). It is helpful to understand the causes and symptoms of repatriation reaction, as well as coping strategies during repatriation.
Causes of repatriation reaction can include:
- A change in the home country or the expatriate
- Differences in work ethic between the overseas culture and the home country culture
- Negative changes in financial, social, or job status upon return
- Loss of servants and company-provided support services for daily living
- Loss of the tight-knit expatriate community
- Lack of interest in the expatriate’s experiences on the part of family members who have not lived overseas
- Under-appreciation of the expatriate’s knowledge and skill in the workforce upon return
- Leaving for college
- College-bound adolescents may experience a particularly challenging repatriation process. These students experience the "triple whammy" of being away from their family for the first time, adjusting to the new demands of college-level courses, and repatriating, all at the same time. Some students may relate primarily to foreign nationals or other students with expatriate experiences.
Symptoms of repatriation reaction can include fluctuations in mood, changes in sleep habits (insomnia, sleeping too much, etc.) changes in libido, and changes in alcohol and/or tobacco consumption.
Dealing with Repatriation
The following strategies can be employed to help deal with repatriation:
- Develop a new support network at home.
- Learn and use relaxation techniques.
- Schedule reunions with other repatriated families.
- Avoid self-medication with alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.
- Participate in any company-sponsored training programs that might be offered.
Some companies offer a training program for the expatriate and his or her family before leaving for the home country. This type of program can assist in identifying behaviors and attitudes that have changed while overseas, as well as changes that may have occurred in the home country culture.
Some companies also offer follow-up counseling after repatriation. Follow-up counseling should include all family members older than 12 years and would likely be most helpful at 2-, 6-, and 9-month intervals following the return home.