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Repatriation: tips for returning to your home country after living abroad

Returning home after living abroad can be a challenging and emotional experience. For a whole host of reasons, living as an expat doesn’t always work out. You might have decided that it’s time to pack your bags and return to the UK, but if you’ve laid down roots in your new country of residence, repatriation can be more complex than simply booking a flight.

Although we can’t guide you through the ins-and-outs of relocating, we’ve put together some tips to help make returning to your home country as straightforward and positive as possible.


Start with the practicalities

Before you make any concrete plans to relocate, you should first think about practicalities such as schooling, accommodation, healthcare, and income. If you’re a UK-born expat and want to return home, you should give yourself a couple of months to enrol your children in school, find a job, and look for a property to rent whilst you decide where you’d like to live permanently. For this reason, many expats relocate in the summer to minimise disruption.

Another practicality that you might have overlooked is credit. If you’ve maintained a bank account and address in the UK, you shouldn’t have to worry, but if you’ve been an expat for a long time, you might find it hard to persuade banks to lend you money for a mortgage. It is therefore vital that you start rebuilding your UK credit score as soon as possible, and have access to a generous savings pot in the meantime so you don’t have to depend on credit.


Be realistic about your return

One of the biggest challenges for expats returning to their home countries is “reverse culture shock”. You left the UK for a life abroad, perhaps to chase the sun or for better prospects. It can be overwhelming when you return to your roots; some expats look at their home country through rose-tinted glasses during difficult times and long for their old life. In truth, the reality isn’t always how you imagine it. Prepare for mixed emotions and accept that it’s okay to feel homesick and overwhelmed - it will take some time to readjust to your old way of life. Ideally, having some time before you get back to work will help you to re-establish relationships with friends and family and get to know your hometown once again. Things will have changed!


Accept that you’ve changed

On that note, be prepared for change. The UK didn’t stop simply because you moved to the other side of the world, and you must be realistic about your expectations. Things that you once considered normal might now be very different - communities fragmented, your usual haunts redeveloped, and your old home demolished. It’s not unusual to return home and see your country through a foreigner’s perspective - after all, you adapted to a new life abroad.

It’s important to acknowledge that your friends, family, and former colleagues will have changed, too. They’ve led their own lives, had different experiences and may have different viewpoints and attitudes to you. That’s okay. You might find that you have little in common with the people you were once close to, but you can rebuild those bonds with time and effort.


Put your family first

If you’re relocating your family from one country to another, it’s vital that you put them first. In an ideal world, everyone will be on the same page about where you want to live, but the reality isn’t quite as straightforward. If one member of your family has to give up their work, life, and relationships in order to return home, this could have an impact on your relationship and you could find that your partner or children resent you for making the decision. That’s why it’s so important to have an open dialogue and be honest about your emotions. Couples’ counselling may be required in some circumstances to “heal the wounds” in a relationship.

What’s good to know is that, as humans, we’re naturally versatile and resilient. Your partner and children will find a return to the UK a culture shock, but with the right support, it’s easy to settle down and feel at home in no time at all. As a parent, you must recognise repatriation will affect your family in different ways. Try to see things through their perspective and make compromises to reduce tension. Your eldest son might be more open to the idea of moving from Dubai to Derby if he can have his own car or a new MacBook to catch up with friends.


Think about your career 

Finally, make sure you’re confident that you’re going to secure another job back in the UK and consider applying for positions before your return. Some employers allow their staff to relocate or work remotely, but you should be realistic about your employers’ expectations of you. When you are back home, accept that you might feel demotivated and perhaps a little lost. You might feel like you have acquired skills that aren’t being utilised back in the UK, or that you’ve had to settle for a job that isn’t quite as glamorous as the one you left behind.

The best way to overcome these potential challenges is to demonstrate your skills and be committed to progression. Speaking to former expats in the workplace in a mentor role is another great way to settle in, and maintaining relationships with colleagues and bosses from your expat job will support your future career development. Network, network, network!


There’s no denying that repatriation can be challenging, but the advice we have offered above should help to smoothen the transition. To share your experiences, follow us on social media @MoneySavingXpat and check back soon for more tips on living your best expat life.


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