Moving to another country, even for a short while, is like a dream come true for many of us, since it gives us the opportunity to experience a whole new culture and way of life, as well as career prospects that we may not otherwise have had. As a foreigner, you are likely to move out of your comfort zone, meet people that are not like you, work in an unfamiliar environment, adapt to a new lifestyle and be open to accepting differing opinions.Some may also have to learn a new language and revise their style of dressing to fit in and integrate themselves into the society they have chosen to live in.
While all these changes may seem a bit daunting in the beginning, many people enjoy the challenge and in fact, believe that it is one of the best parts of leading the expat life. A few of the most common advantages or perks of living and working in a foreign country are:
– Increased compensation and relocation packages, which include you and your family
– More career opportunities back home, thanks to your overseas education or work experience
– Exposure to diverse people on the personal and professional fronts
– Higher potential for growth and professional progress
– Improving your language, overall communication and networking skills
– Wider horizons because of a global mindset
– Adaptability and flexibility in working style as well as your personal life
Of course, these are just some of the benefits of being an expat. Your life may change for the better in many other ways once you settle down in a different nation. However, do keep in mind that not everyone leads a “happily ever after” after packing their bags, hopping onto a plane and moving to a new country. In fact, you may come across numerous stories of people who decided to go back to their home countries after spending a few months or years overseas and each of them could have different reasons for ending their expat dream.
Below are some of the top reasons why people return home after living overseas as well as the ways in which you can avoid them.
Home is where the heart is and most of us will always consider the place where we grew up as our home! No matter where we go, a majority of us jump at the first chance we get to go back to our home town or country, even if it is only for a short period of time.
Settling down in a different place is not easy for everyone; some people give up even before they can make the complete transition. Others enjoy the novelty of the new location for a couple of months or even years but start missing their old surroundings after a while. Some claim to have simply fallen out of love with their new place of residence. Excess interaction with people back home will create a bigger problem. The feeling of homesickness gets even worse if you don’t get the chance to visit your country in a while.
Things are likely to be easier if you have someone help you through the initial phase. Try to make friends with people at work or school as well as your neighbors, and let them know that you are new to their country. Interacting with people should help abate the feeling of homesickness to a great extent. Going through a bucket list of experiences you should have in your new country will also be very useful. If possible try to make a trip home every one or two years.
Missing family and friends
No matter how much you are enjoying your new life, the distance between you and your loved ones is bound to put a damper on your happiness (and theirs too) in the long run. Even the new friends you make will be no replacement for the ones you have left back home. Birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and other special occasions can be even more difficult than everyday life. Many people give into the desire to spend personal, quality time with their near and dear ones and make the decision to return.
Being physically far away from the people you love doesn’t have to mean that you can’t be there for each other. Technology has made it possible for us to speak with people in other countries, without paying huge bills. It is possible for you to bridge the physical gap by being there emotionally. Work out a schedule that helps you keep in regular touch with the people who matter, regardless of the time difference.
Difficulties in adapting
Culture shock is a real phenomenon! Even the most flexible people occasionally have a hard time getting used to a new place or surroundings, simply because things are so different from what they have been used to all their lives. Of course, this does not mean that one place is better than another.
Fortunately, it is possible for you to avoid getting a severe culture shock by gaining awareness of the country you will be moving to beforehand. Read up as much as you can about the place, the people, their beliefs, culture, customs, traditions, laws, etc.
Getting to know about the place isn’t enough, though. Give yourself some time to get acquainted with the people and their way of life in the new country. Try to understand their perspective and reasons for doing things differently.
Never compare yourself to others who have been in a similar situation; just because someone else settled in faster or easily adapted to the differences, doesn’t mean that you have to do the same thing. First, acknowledge how you feel and then work towards accepting the differences between the two cultures. Many expats really come to love their new place of residence just because they stick it out and manage to overcome the shock.
Problems related to employment
No one can be too sure of the economy and the job market, regardless of which country they live in. At times, negative political situations also have an adverse effect on a nation’s trade and commerce. As an outsider, you are likely to be among the first to lose your job if there is any kind of problem in that country.
Moreover, when companies go through a financial crisis, they usually terminate the contracts of expat managers and employees (because of higher packages) before letting the local workforce go.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid getting laid off if such a situation arises. However, many expats sign a bond with their employers before taking up any offer. This will ensure that your company has to give you prior notice as well as a certain amount as compensation if they terminate your contract. Do keep in mind that this bond applies to you too and you are liable to pay a penalty if you want to cancel your contract without serving the stipulated notice.
Lack of financial viability
It is quite common for expats to take up a job offer that seems lucrative on paper, only to be sorely disappointed when they actually get their paycheck, after taxes and other deductions that they never considered. Things get much worse if the cost of living in that country is higher than what it is back home. Some workers return home after struggling to make ends meet for years.
The only way to avoid this problem is by being cautious. An overseas offer is tempting for most of us but before you jump at it, ask the company to let you know (in writing) exactly how much you will draw in their currency, after taxes and all other deductions. Also look at the rate of inflation in the last few years. Then, calculate what your moving expenses and monthly expenditure looks like. If you still end up saving a fair amount, the move may be worth it. If not, renegotiate your package or wait for a better opportunity.
End of contracts and work permits
Students and young professionals are known to take up short term job offers in other countries, just to get some foreign experience on their resumes. However, once their assignment, work agreement or employment visa comes to an end their companies refuse to renew the offer.
This is one of the most common reasons for the younger expats to return home. You can avoid this by looking for companies that have a reputation for hiring people on a long term basis.
The expat life doesn’t always help you experience the best of both worlds; in fact, sometimes it may be the exact opposite. You may be treated as a visitor not just in your country of residence but also at home. If you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, rest assured, you are not alone.
The identity crisis only lasts for as long as you allow it to. Stop looking at others for approval or acceptance. Understand that it is alright for you to be different. It is important for you to accept the way you are even if others don’t. Try to make yourself at home in the new country.
When people realize that you are different from them, based on the way you look, think or talk, they might change the way they interact with you. Most foreigners have experienced at least some form of racism, ranging from mild to severe. For some, this could be so bad that they may decide to return home instead of facing humiliation on a daily basis.
Surviving racism isn’t easy. Try to mingle with people who are open-minded and have a global mindset. Ignoring racial slurs and remarks is the easier way out, but don’t be afraid to stand your ground assertively if someone goes overboard.
Not being able to communicate properly with the people at your new place of residence can be a major setback to your expat life. Some British and American citizens have moved back home after living in France, Spain, Italy or other countries, simply because they could not overcome this barrier.
There is only one way to avoid the language anguish and that is by learning at least a few important words even before you make the move and expanding your vocabulary over a period of time.
It is quite common for expats to face health issues because of the hectic and stressful lives they lead. Those who are alone or need extra may care choose to come back so that their loved ones can look after them. Moreover, most of them are likely to get cheaper healthcare if they undergo treatment at home. Private healthcare can be very expensive in certain countries, especially when the public facilities are not up to the mark.
While it isn’t possible to avoid all types of health problems, do try and take good care of yourself. Follow a healthy diet, get adequate exercise, engage in activities that alleviate stress and go for regular medical checkups.
Try to sign up for private insurance (or get your employer to do that) so that you can meet your medical requirements in your country of residence instead of having to go back home.
Moving back isn’t necessarily a bad thing for everyone. Some people decide to return home after spending several years overseas, only because they get a much better offer. This often applies to young professionals who have overseas education and experience.
Do keep in mind that not all foreigners face the concerns mentioned above. Yet, they may still make the decision to go back home, taking into consideration the feelings of their partners, family members and loved ones. It is therefore essential that you discuss all these aspects with the people who will be affected by your move, before you take any step. Battling and overcoming adverse circumstances becomes a lot easier when everyone is prepared for them.