When someone sets out full of enthusiasm to live abroad for some time, he will unlikely spare much thought for the far-off-day returning home. In a way, that is as is should be, as it’s more than enough to deal with the changes and finding one’s way around the new surroundings.
Even so, it is important not to completely ignore the far-off time of return, because even that should be well prepared and brings some unexpected challenges.
The most often neglected – and at the same time almost most important – aspect is the next career move after the time aboard, especially if the move happened within the same international company. The employee is out of the country, their old job filled again, and no one usually spares much thought for the question, what that person is supposed to do upon return.
Usually, some task will be found anyway. And there is the problem. Doing “some task” certainly wasn’t the goal you wanted to achieve when starting on the plans to go abroad. The whole adventure was supposed to advance the career, not become a liability. That is why it is important to start working on your return scenario early on – maybe even before you leave – and regularly keep in touch with the old colleagues.
Successfully returning to a suitable position at work is only one aspect, though. Many will find out that upon return, the old home suddenly doesn’t feel quite as homely and familiar as you might expect, and you actually have to put effort into re-integrating there. The culture shock will be much less severe than during the initial trip, but it will be there in one form or other – only that this time it usually comes completely unexpected. That is why this culture shock can often feel a lot more disturbing than the initial one.
How is that possible? Could it be that Could it be that the place you lived in for so long changed this much over the course of two or three years? Of course not. But something did change, without you ever noticing it – you! You familiarized yourself with a different culture, and are likely to see some customs of your home country with different eyes. You’ve come to like new things, or learned to appreciate old ones that before you simply took for granted. Your horizon has broadened, and inevitably you’ll have become more accepting of cultural differences, you might have braved the occasional culinary adventure. And you probably will have realized that most foreign traditions aren’t much stranger than those you grew up with. In short: you’ve broadened your horizon considerably.
That new left will obviously need some time to fully re-integrate.
Someone once said that you leave a piece of your heart in every place you ever lived. Whether that is true or now, you definitely do leave something behind: new friends.