by special guest and part-time nomad Cate Brubaker
Congratulations, you’re relocating abroad! You’ve no doubt got a to-do list a mile long and are focused on getting yourself, your family, and your stuff to your destination. So why think about moving back home before you’ve even left?
Re-entry isn’t something we tend to think about until we’re back home and it smacks us in the face. Many expats say reverse culture shock was harder than the culture shock of adapting to a new country! I don’t mean to scare you or suggest that you need to add even more to your pre-departure to-do list. My point is that keeping your return in mind before you leave can lay the foundation for a smooth re-entry, whether during short vacation trips or a permanent move home.
Here are three things you can do to set yourself up for a smoother re-entry before you even leave home.
- Nurture your network. Even if you’ll only be back for short vacation trips or don’t know if you’ll ever move back “home” permanently, it’s a good idea to actively maintain your personal and professional network. If you make a consistent effort to nurture connections while you’re away, they’ll be there for you when you need them the most. If the thought of keeping up with everyone at home and everyone you’re going to meet in your new destination sounds overwhelming, make a priority list. On the “A” list, write down the family members, friends, colleagues or clients you most want to stay in touch with. Then, decide in advance how you’ll nurture those relationships. Weekly Skype calls? Daily texts? Monthly emails? Keep this list fairly short.Then, create a “B” list of people you want to stay in contact with but on a less frequent basis. You might, for example, want to reach out to people on this list via email every couple months or once quarter. Finally, create a “C” list of people you want in your network but will stay in contact in a more informal way, such as through LinkedIn, Facebook or by inviting them to read your blog.
- Practice patience, flexibility, and being non-judgmental. These three skills are incredibly helpful when going through culture shock and reverse culture shock. When you move abroad, things like different communication styles, ways of dealing with conflict, and differing conceptions of “on time” or “efficient” can grate on your nerves. You’d think that when it’s time to go home you’d be glad to be back to what’s familiar…but a funny thing happens after living abroad. Things that once seemed so “normal” can grate on your nerves in re-entry! The more patient, flexible, and non-judgmental you can be, the smoother your re-entry will be. Fortunately, we all have a hundred ways to practice these three skills every single day!
- Learn about your own culture. If you’re about to move abroad it may sound counterintuitive to focus on learning about your own culture but it’s actually very helpful. The more you understand why you do, believe, and value the things you do, the easier it will be to understand why people in your host country do, believe, and value what they do. This understanding in turn paves the way for a less shocking reverse culture shock experience and a smoother re-entry.
How can you learn about your own culture while still immersed in it? Here are three great resources that will help you learn about your own culture.
1) What’s Up with Culture? This website was created for US American study abroad students but it offers valuable information about culture no matter where in the world you are. Best part? It’s free!
2) Cultural Detective. Get a subscription to Cultural Detective online and you’ll have access to cultural “packets” for countries all over the world. These packets describe influential cultural values that influence things like our concepts of time, beauty, effective communication, and much more. I find it most helpful when I read the packet for my home country and the country I’m going to.
3) Culture Smart Books. These little books are inexpensive way to learn about your own country and culture. They’re a quick and fun read.
Written by Cate Brubaker
As Founder and Chief Re-entry Relauncher at SmallPlanetStudio.com, Cate helps global adventurers make re-entry a positive, growing experience by using what they learned abroad to create a meaningful, satisfying, and sustainable global life.
A part-time nomad who has lived abroad, relocated 8 times, and traveled to 35 countries, Cate spends several weeks each year traveling and workationing in the US and abroad. Her favorite location is “on the road”, her #1 hobby is living out of a backpack, and she never says no to gelato.
Are you moving overseas or interstate? Or moving back home after living abroad? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below!