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Repatriation: Challenges Faced when Coming Home


repatriationImagine going abroad to live in an unfamiliar place then coming back home to a similar unfamiliarity. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many expatriates. There is a popular misconception about expatriates coming home in that everything will be fine and everything will be like it used to be. Expats often expect to return to an unchanged home and unchanged individuals; however, the truth is there are many challenges expatriates and their families face upon repatriation.

Experiencing Re-Entry

RepatriationPeople experience re-entry in different ways. Some experience few, if any, effects upon re-entry. Reverse culture shock is one of the major challenges an expatriate and his/her family face. Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all of our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. Common problems include:

  • Academic problems (for students), cultural identity conflict, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and interpersonal difficulties.
  • Also, alienation, disorientation, stress, value confusion, anger, hostility, compulsive fears, helplessness, and disenchantment.

Upon return, the transferee and his/her family have to work to re-establish relationships with friends and family in the home country. They must adjust to no longer having the benefits they became used to during their assignment such as housing and schooling. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to remedy or alleviate the symptoms. These include:

  • Psycho-educational outreach modules
  • Support and discussion groups
  • Social functions such as education programs, student clubs, and peer mentoring

Besides reverse culture shock, challenges in the work field may arise, for example:

  • Repatriates’ position in the home organization may have changed or been filled by someone new.
  • Repatriates may find themselves in a job which offers fewer challenges than the job they have just return home from.

Avoiding Pitfalls

If repatriation is not handled well, the cost to the corporation can be that the employee seeks employment elsewhere allowing another company to benefit from the investment and thus valuable intelligence may go to a competitor. Successful repatriation is very important. In order for repatriation to be successful…

  • Issues need to be planned before the employee has left for their assignment.
  • Support has to be ongoing
  • Returning assignee cannot be neglected after they return
  • The repatriation process should begin at least 6 months prior to the return

Let CAI Help!

Cultural Awareness International offers repatriation services to those who are moving back. Using our services allows returning employees to focus on work while their family settles in. CAI recognizes the cost associated with relocation; our programs will help minimize assignment failures, lower attrition, increase employee productivity and assist with a healthier adjustment. From finding a new home and orientation tours to full-day repatriation training, CAI has years of experience supporting expats coming home. For more information on our repatriation services, visit: