By: Vrinda Gupta, Managing Partner, Vazir Group – immigration consultants in Dubai
An expat leaves their home to go abroad to an unfamiliar place and life for better income and opportunities, but home too can feel unfamiliar for people who choose to return after being away for many years. Vrinda Gupta, Managing Partner of Vazir Group, a boutique immigration consultancy in Dubai, UAE, shares why repatriation might not be for everyone.
The dictionary definition of repatriation is the return of someone to their own country. If you have parents or grandparents who migrated to a country very many years ago, you may have heard them fondly recall memories from back in the days and back home. Many people migrate with plans of earning money, social security, a better passport, or better education and returning home in a few years. Expatriation and repatriation may seem like two sides of the same coin but that may also not be entirely true.
Expatriates often expect to return to an unchanged home and unchanged individuals. After all, how hard can it be to fit back into your country and culture of origin?..Well, in our experience with several long time expats who have chosen to immigrate to permanence after a long haul away from home, gave us the following insights:
1-Adult life in your country of origin: Many expats, leave their country of origin at a young age which technically means that all adult things like paying utility bills, taxes if relevant, having a job there or maintaining a family are all things that have been experienced in another country. Having to deal with these simple but crucial everyday things back home can come across as a bit of a shock for many who may have difficulty adapting to different systems especially for people moving back to a still developing country.
2-Children: If there are children who were born and raised in countries that offer a progressive social setting, are safer and more economically advanced then moving back to a developing country can be quite shocking to them. Repatriation is a big decision for families, especially if children or young adults are involved. You have to be careful when making the decision and for many immigration at the end of their expat term is a viable option to avoid adjustment to unfamiliarity in a location where they are foreigners at home.
3- Holiday vs Here to Stay: Visiting family and friends back home for a few weeks vs. returning to stay are different experiences. Post the initial few months of excitement about returning home, discrepancies start to appear. People start losing interest in the expatriate angle and you may have to start from scratch to be a part of the social fabric and this can be daunting for many. ‘Expatriates often become highly critical of their home culture and way of life’, says an article on Repatriation: Avoid Reverse Culture Shock.
4- Familiarity: Although you are technically back home, there is a routine that was set in the country you were in and things may have changed in your country of origin. Discovering and establishing a new routine, finding your way around, getting used to the different public transport systems, banking system, etc. can all be quite difficult for many people especially those who expect it to be easier. This can be especially difficult for someone moving back to a third world country.
5- Income: For an individual who is used to having a fixed source of income, it can be extremely difficult and shocking to adjust to a life of unemployment or financial dependency. In the case of planned repatriation, it is integral that individuals make plans about their living arrangements, job or business opportunities, etc. It is also important for them to be open-minded and optimistic about rediscovering things back home. While it is normal to look for the comfort offered by all things familiar it is only natural that many things and in some cases people would have changed. Repatriation will not be easy for individuals who expect to find things exactly the way they left it over 40, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.
Planning is essential when deciding to head back home after spending many years away from it. Many expatriates underestimate the potential challenges in readjusting to life in their country of origin after being away for decades. Majority of our clients fall between people looking to start afresh in a new land or expat families looking to move to a more permanent yet familiar home.