If you are a perpetual corporate expat as I have been for decades, becoming a repat and having to return home can be one of the most difficult things to cope with.
I have done so many times; when I returned to Europe from the US, when I had to leave lovely Jersey, the Channel Islands to go back to my now empty house in Scotland, or when I had to leave behind my beautiful life on sunny Mallorca and travel back to cold and rainy Scotland, finding myself in my modest apartment that suddenly wasn’t home anymore. There were more.
Every time this happened, I felt as if I was regressing, as if I was taking a step back, leaving the good behind and having to settle for second best.
The toll on my happiness was considerable.
The Repat Remorse Phase
When I do something, I do it wholeheartedly. There is no in-between for me. It’s everything, or nothing most of the time. I am a black and white kinda guy. When I moved to different locations for longer time periods, I fully embraced the new home with all its good and bad. I called it home because home is wherever I hang my hat.
But home wasn’t the base from which I traveled anymore. Home wasn’t what was in the rear mirror, looking back. Home was the new, the unknown, the adventure, the new lifestyle. Whenever this happened, I regarded my new home as the new standard.
This was the case when I moved back to Europe from the States. Parking spaces were tiny and supermarkets were mere grocery stores compared to the US. Rules were different. Space was sparse.
When I returned from the charming island of Jersey, I felt out of place in Scotland. Repat remorse sat in. Everything seemed backward – it hadn’t seen the sun, and crime statistics had risen. My house was broken into and they stole things. Luckily, the insurance paid out. When I came back from Mallorca, I felt as if Scotland now was a dark place without hope. Yes, I even was depressed at times. It took me 12 months to decide that I couldn’t be there anymore, and I started working on a solution.
How to Avoid Repat Remorse?
Expat to Repat
Regardless of how beautiful and gorgeous a host country can be, remember that a corporate expat move is most likely temporary.
It was difficult for me to accept. I had no family, no dependents. I was free.
But my assignments were temporary contracts. They had an expiration date. Yet with an optimistic everything-or-nothing attitude, I often set unrealistic expectations. And when the time came to return, I hated the idea of moving back in time, back to the old.
I had failed to make tangible plans to stay in the country – always hoping I could stay there in perpetuity.
Therefore, set your expectations, and if you really want to stay, make it happen and don’t wait until the last minute.
But even if you do, not all is lost. Read on…
From Repat to Expat Again
Out of the anguish I had experienced so many times, I decided to leave my friends, the apartment I once adored, the lovely village I had embraced in the past, and Scotland behind and move to Panama—this time permanently. I took action.
Six months later, I had given away most of my belongings, canceled the rental contract, and said goodby to Scotland.
To date, I have no regrets. Things have not been easy. But I could not imagine going back to Scotland or to Europe.
It’s an experience I had, and I embrace the memory, but I have moved on, and I won’t look back.
Have you had repat remorse in your expat life? Did you have to return home when you didn’t want to? Or did you find it easy to reintegrate back home? What was your secret? Share your experience with us.
by: LP Wirth