To Repatriate or Not? Two Expats Share Their Stories

We grow tremendously as an expatriate, learning new aspects about ourselves, our host country, its people, what works and what does not work. This makes change somewhat challenging as the assignment comes to an end when we are facing repatriation to our home country. While overseas we expand. Once we repatriate we find ourselves back in the same familiar setting which, no matter how big it may be geographically, can seem small. Two different approaches towards repatriation are being shared here.

During a recent coaching session with one of my expatriate clients an upcoming transition was the focus. As expatriates Nancy and her husband have been on the move for the last 12+ years with assignments in Kuwait, Sudan and Nigeria. Nancy was telling me about the preparations for their next and final move to Vienna, Austria, “I’m not sure how this move will affect us. We have had a comfortable life on-the-go and been very nomadic. These have been exciting times” she said with a pensive look. I agreed with her “as an expatriate, it’s often much more comfortable for us to be in a transition mode instead of settling down and forming roots.”

Nancy and her husband are putting a twist into repatriation. They are UK nationals but have decided that they will settle down and ultimately retire in Vienna. After our conversation she realized that the best way for her to mentally prepare for the move is to treat it as another expatriate adventure.

John recently completed a four-year assignment abroad and was repatriated back to his home country of the United States. Every time he is asked by family and friends if it is good to be back home he finds himself stumbling over words saying something like “yeah, uh, I think so. It’s good to be back.” Each time he listens to himself speak he realizes that he doesn’t sound convincing. He understands that people don’t quite relate to what he is saying. Truly, he doesn’t even know what he is saying.

What John does know is that he feels more comfortable on the move. He misses the overseas adventures, fruit-flavored smoke of the Middle Eastern shisha cafes, unusual circumstances and all the trials and tribulations that went along with his assignment. At first being back home was a nice break, but now it is predictable. Recently he has started working virtually and aims to work from several international locations this year. John recognizes that the nomadic lifestyle suits him and, while not a textbook expatriate, he is keeping the aspects he enjoys. The comfort of a home base and travel, new cultures and overseas adventures are now all a part of his life.

For Nancy, her move to Austria is shaping up perfectly. She and her husband have family in Vienna, a place to stay and good leads on initial prospects for employment. But, she said with a smile, this is still an expat move in her mind.

If you are an expatriate how would you handle repatriation? Would you prefer to continue living abroad, return back to your home country or design a hybrid version like John?

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About the Author

Scott Masciarelli

Scott Masciarelli is a certified professional coach and accomplished leader with extensive professional experience in the U.S., Latin America and Middle East. He has spent several years living overseas as an expatriate and brings a global perspective to his work. He is passionate about working with expatriates, leaders and busy professionals who are asking themselves "what next?" He says, "I love this question because it allows an exploration of possibilities to unfold. It's both exciting and transformational." Scott holds a BCC (Board Certified Coach) certification and an ACC (Associate Certified Coach) and GCC (Group Certified Coach) with the International Coach Federation. He is a graduate of International Coach Academy's Certified Professional Coach Program and member of the training faculty for ICA where he facilitates coaching classes for a global student body. His university education is in the field of Psychology and he has a keen interest in the areas of self-improvement, finance and business. This blend of the human side, business, leadership with a global perspective creates a highly productive coaching environment for expatriates. He is an avid world traveler who has visited and worked in over 65 countries. Travel inspired him to study Spanish, Italian and Arabic as part of his commitment to being a perpetual learner. His business strengths are in start-ups, transitions and in building engaged teams within a productive environment based on respect and idea sharing. Scott leads from the heart and he encourages and shows others to do the same both at work and in their personal lives. It is through this integration of our professional and personal goals that we can feel truly alive.

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