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GOING HOME SERIES: 6 ways to make your expat visit ‘home’ more enjoyable (Part 1)

If this is your first time living in another country, you maybe find yourself going through reverse culture shock when you return home. It is possible that feelings of frustrations and bitterness towards friends and family who may not have kept up with your life abroad.  You may also find it hard to explain the culture and life you have lived in for the last year. Because culture and questions about everyday life usually overshadow the conversations, the harder it will be sharing the deeper more meaningful moments that happened to you. In addition, personally, I have found the longer you live abroad, the less you want to talk about the small details of culture anyways.

Because culture and questions about everyday life usually overshadow the conversations, the harder… Click To Tweet

If you are just wanting to prepare for a better return trip to your native country, preparation is key. Know that you are returning back to your native home where life has moved on without you. While you may consider your transition to be harder or greater, remember that your friends and family have also conquered their own battles. And if they have never visited your new home (or traveled much), the questions may be harder to form. Generally, the offense is unintentional.

While you may consider your transition to be harder or greater, remember that your friends and… Click To Tweet

With preparation, expats can adjust their expectations of their friends and family back home. With even more prep, they can adjust expectations of themselves and how to help the conversations move toward the direction they need as well. 

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Here are 6 ways you can help those back ‘home’ understand better:

  1. Think of what questions they will ask you when you get back. (ex. What is the best and worst thing about living overseas, etc.)

Much to Jason’s sadness, I am a reflector and evaluator – see here and here (link to review post). I love setting goals even if I can’t achieve them. I like to see what we have done over the past year. All this means that we do a lot of questions answering ourselves about the good, the bad, and the ugly. In turn, it has made going home much easier because we don’t have to think about the answers to the question others will ask us!

And now, much to your advantage, I also wrote a list of them here. Take these questions and work through them alone or as a family. If your friends or family are thoughtful with their questions, your answers should be respectfully thoughtful in return.

  1. Short answers that answer the questions swiftly.

A friend of mine spent a summer in Africa, and in 6 short weeks, she grew into such a different person. Upon arriving home, she spent the next 48 hours (minus sleeping hours) talking about all that happened and what she learns. Unfortunately for her (and us), we probably tuned out about 1 hour into it.  Your friends and family are capable of lengthy discussion, but sometimes without the context to understand all you are sharing, it could be hard for them to follow along. So instead of talking about what the 30 types of olives are at the weekly market, consider talking about the market and that there are olives there. Help build a base so later you can go deeper.

Help build a base so later you can go deeper. Click To Tweet
  1. Short stories can be powerful.

Sometimes you only have 5 minutes with friends. Those passing meeting can be some of the most rewarding conversations if you prepare for them!  The usually questions begin: “You’re back! Where are you living now? Do you like it there? and how are you?” Instead of just saying “Ummm… good. It’s great”, consider a different approach.

The company I was a part of my first international move shared a great tip for expat returning home. For more meaningful short interactions, prepare 4-5 3 minutes stories that have grown you over the last year to year. Your friend says, ” How are you?” You may say, “ok” OR you can say “Actually, I have a 2 minute story to tell you about how I have learned to…. in the past year. Do you want to hear it?” Then proceed with your story.

For more meaningful short interactions, prepare 4-5 3 minutes stories that have grown you over the… Click To Tweet

 

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  1. Plan to visit people before you get to the states.

When we first booked our 4 weeks in the states, I thought, “oh, we have plenty of time!” The first week in Louisiana felt too short, then halfway through the 2nd week in Iowa, I melted down about how we didn’t have enough time! Our problem wasn’t enough time. Our problem was not planning ahead and we assumed people would contact us or make time for us. Remember: Your friends, while they want to see you, are busy with their normal lives! If you really want to meet with people, reach out to the most important ones first. Then if there are others, meet them in groups or with other people as well.

  1. Make a mini photo book and have it ready to show people

Walgreens ran a free mini photo book (maybe 40 pictures) sale right after our wedding and I bought one for all the parents in our family and ourselves. That first summer we traveled to Turkey together for the first time and saw old friends. That photo book was so handy and I whipped it out every time we talked about our wedding. I regret to tell you I did no such thing this last visit to the states. We assume this day in age, that our social media lives are followed by everyone and that all should know what we did during our expat year. But unfortunately, that is not the case and honestly, people just forget. Having a photo book is a natural and easy way to share your lives visually with others. (Read more ways to document your time abroad.)

We assume this day in age, that our social media lives are followed by everyone and that all… Click To Tweet
  1. Give others AND yourselves grace.

No matter how long you spend visiting your home country, time escapes all of us. There will always be places we did go, things we didn’t do, and people we didn’t see.  And in fact, I would suggest that you do have that list of what you did and things you are thankful for while you visit. Your time home also needs to refresh you and help you process your time living in another country. So be ok with saying no and instead, resting for a day, going out to a movie or just staying home to spend time with your expat family.

 

  • Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?
  • What ways do you prepare before going back to your native country?
  • Which one of this 6 tips stuck out to you?

 

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P.S. – This is the first post of a 6 part series called EXPAT GOING HOME SERIES. Stay tuned for the following articles:

Going Home Series: 10 thoughtful questions to ask your returning expats

Going Home Series: 8 ways you can bless your returning expats

Going Home Series: 6 ways to make your expat visit ‘home’ more enjoyable (Part 1)

Going Home Series: 6 practical ways to destress your next expat visit ‘home’ (Part 2)

Going Home Series: Self-care and why it is important for expat returning home

Going Home Series: Managing expectations for expats returning home