I read an interesting article that talked about “expat culture shock” once the expat worker returns to their home country. It mentioned that the returnee can have feelings that can “include disorientation, confusion, anxiety and even fear”. That “re-entry to a country of origin can actually be more stressful than the outward transition”.
For reference an expat is anyone who lives outside their native country. For us, Australia was ‘our native country’. Even though we had called a little island in the Indian Ocean ‘home’ for a number of years more recently. Some African countries, UK and Canada previous to that. And we had some incredible experiences that words, nor photos, will ever do justice. Face to face with wild mountain gorillas (the hairy kind) anyone?
At first, I scoffed about those feelings as described in the article. They wouldn’t / didn’t happen to us when we returned to our home country after 5 years living and working overseas. But I soon realised I was wrong. As a Boomerang Expat, both Hubby & I certainly did have those feelings when we got back.
Despite having lived in our home city for a significant part of our lives, living on an island as an expat changed us. We suddenly felt the incredible stress that comes with living in the city on our return. The traffic, traffic lights even. The hustle and bustle and busyness of shopping centres and the nightmare of carparks. We needed a little time to adjust to the noise and lights again.
Hubby & I spent a lot of time together at home in the beginning. Partly a money-saving strategy. And partly due to the disenfranchised and disorientated feeling we had, being in the company of others. We probably made a mistake thinking that people would be as interested in our overseas experience as we were in telling it. Not that our friends and family were negative or discouraging – far from it. In fact, one friend was very happy to pick up exactly where we had left off five years before. But that was the problem. I was different. And so, our friendship couldn’t, nor would, be the same.
In our quest to quickly re-establish ourselves; to feel less like refugees and more like residents; we started by making a plan, set some targets and got ourselves back on track. Jobs helped the finances and the self-esteem. Connecting and reconnecting to new and some long time friends helped us reintegrate back into a similar lifestyle we’d had five years previously. We organised ourselves, our lives. Updated our Wills. Sorted out our end of life wishes and got on with life.
But what if we hadn’t chosen to return, but stayed in our adopted country as an expat, or moved to another and then another country? A more nomadic expat life was certainly something we considered doing for a few years.
What if something had happened to us overseas? What if no-one knew anything about our lives there?
Would anyone have known what to do with the business we owned, the pets we loved, the charities we supported?
Just the thought of all the “what ifs” is enough to cause hives from anxiety.
As an expat, we want to ensure that everything is covered. That the location of our Will is known. That we have helped our family and friends with the critical information they need about our life. So when we do the expat adventure thing again (we do love the experiences and new friendships that living in another country brings), this time, we will be prepared.
First and foremost, we have our Anticipate Life account. In it, we have all the information that someone would need to be able to sort out our finances and assets, our pets, our social media, subscriptions and our business. We also have all the information about our end of life wishes. This is in case one of us, or our family, is left to sort things out. Having all our wishes recorded online, removes some of the decision making, that is so hard to do in high stress situations.
Anticipate Life also securely stores copies of essential paperwork like all the insurances, travel, health, life etc, copy of our Will and the original’s location, and a copy of any special documents like my letter to our grandson. The best thing is that being online I can update it whenever and wherever I am in the world...perfect for an expat.
So, what if the boomerang expat doesn’t come back - it’s ok - they have Anticipate Life.
Are you an expat? How do you plan for the unforeseen?