Many of the steps that need to be taken are similar to the ones taken when moving abroad in the first place.
This means the expat will need to prepare themselves for repatriation. The first issue is to understand that by living overseas they have changed because if they believe they haven’t, they could be facing a rude awakening when they do return home.Another big surprise might be that the cost of living in an expat’s home country has changed substantially and they may need help with planning a budget.
Also, while living overseas, the expat may have become a non-resident for tax purposes which means they will need to re-register with the taxman in their country.
Some expats, particularly those who closed a bank account before leaving, may find that opening a bank account is no longer a straightforward process since they will have no credit history for a bank to base their decision on.
For this reason alone, if the expat has an offshore bank account than they should keep it open until their new account has been arranged.
They must be aware of currency fluctuations if they are planning to repatriate their earnings and savings and appreciate the impact this may have on their hard-earned wealth.
In conjunction with having a lack of credit history, many expats may struggle to find suitable accommodation; those who have been out of the country for a long period may struggle to get references that will meet the landlord’s needs.
This means they may need a guarantor or a sponsor who will agree to pay rent should the expat not do so.
For those who have rented out their home then returning to it may be something to look forward to, while others, particularly those who have lived in a large property overseas, may find their old home is less than satisfactory.
‘Reverse culture shock’ – and learning to deal with it
However, possibly the biggest obstacle that is facing an expat repatriating to their home country is what is called ‘reverse culture shock’ – and learning to deal with it.
Whereas it’s an accepted part of the expat’s move overseas to learn and enjoy moving into a new culture, they may find that moving back to their home culture is more difficult than they believed.
This means they may have picked up some habits and traits that make them appear different from how their friend remember them, and their memories of their home country’s culture may now be outdated.
Indeed, many expats returning home may believe they will simply slip back into their old life but they will find that things, people, workplaces and the environment has changed since they left; this is a natural part of life.
This means dealing with the fact that many of their friends and work colleagues will have moved on with their lives and the expat will have to establish new friendships – and these new friends may not want to hear the expat’s stories of their life overseas.
If this element of moving back home doesn’t meet the expat’s own expectations, it may mean they will struggle to relate to their new surroundings which means they can feel isolated.
Top tips for expatriates looking to repatriate
Here are some top tips for expatriates looking to repatriate successfully:
– Prepare for the return home as if it were another overseas assignment
– Understand that the shipping of belongings will be expensive
– Remember to cancel things like health insurance before leaving for home
– And to pay bills – including any outstanding tax!
– Arrange to meet expat friends in the future
– Appreciate that while an expat has grown when overseas, so have their old friends and relations
– Spend time helping children prepare for repatriation
– Spend time as a tourist in the home country to appreciate and enjoy new experiences
– Enjoy the little things that you have been looking forward to.
In addition, there are lots of little tasks and jobs that need doing including, if the expat has a family, arranging for schools and they will need to register their children long before they return home.
In most cases, they will also need to re-register with their GP and their dentist, though if their country provides free healthcare, their eligibility may have changed since they may be deemed to be a ‘health tourist’ under new rules – this is a particular issue for expats looking to retire to the UK after many years overseas.
They will also need to speak with pension providers to see if there are issues in transferring a pension to the home country.
Also, returning home as a repatriate may be disappointing in many ways and the expat should prepare for this happening and also for the fact there may be little in the way of support from their employer once they are back home.
Like many things in life, this is a journey the expat and their family will have to take for themselves, though according to Ernst & Young, growing numbers of employers are taking greater steps in providing re-orientation when employees return home.
Indeed, HR and relocation experts say the secret to successful repatriation is to begin the planning process much earlier than an expat would expect so they are ‘up to speed’ with developments in their home office and with the life they are about to re-enter.
Essentially, while it takes time for an expat to settle into life in their new country, they must accept that they will take time to readjust to their old life as well but there will be elements from their life as an expatriate that will help boost their life back home into being the enjoyable experience they hope it will be.
Have you repatriated? Share your experiences in the comments!