Disconnection and expatriation
As an expatriate, we go through new challenges without the support of our family and friends around us and we can often feel lonely.
Perhaps we contact them when we are looking for support and it is hard for them to grasp our challenges. Or we return home and we want to discuss our difficulties, and they don’t understand us leaving us feeling misunderstood.
We can then begin to feel a certain disconnect with some of the people we have left behind.
The disconnection when you leave
There are those who do not understand our desire to live this adventure. "But what are you running away from? Don't you feel good here? You don't love us anymore? Why are you leaving?”
Those who worry. "Are you sure it's not dangerous to live there? With what we see on the news... It's stressful isn't it? I wouldn't do it..."
Those who envy you. "Ah I've always dreamed of going abroad! What luck!
Those who are jealous but will never admit it. "Well, I would choose another destination, it's not really where I would go, there are better options”.
Not to mention those close to us, like parents and friends, who are sad… And yes, the family lunches and the coffees after work are not part of our daily lives anymore...
Your departure leaves no one indifferent.
It takes a lot of energy to not be affected by remarks and judgments, to carry on in our expat lives, to leave with peace of mind, and to move forward, for yourself, your partnership, and your family.
It’s important to know how to surround yourself with those who are happy for you, and to ignore the remarks that could shake your fragility; you already have enough to deal with your own questions about this expatriation without having to deal with those of others.
The disconnection when we return to our home country
We leave on expatriation with grand ideas in mind and our eyes wide with anticipation: discoveries, travel, exploration and adventure. When the homesickness of our former home shows its face, we plan to return to our native country, happy to see our loved ones again. We look forward to it. We fill our suitcases with little gifts and we are excited to tell and share our new life with our loved ones.
But how many of us have been disillusioned by the reunion?
The friends who are not available or who don't really make an effort (you have just crossed an ocean or a continent with a time difference but to take a 50min train ride for them is too much). You will soon learn to give advance notice of your return so that they can be available (they too have a busy schedule) and you will sort out the people who make an effort to see you and those who never do.
The lack of curiosity about your new life: "So, how is it going in xxx / in xxx?" and the conversation ends there.
Don't take it the wrong way, your daily life may seem very far from theirs and their daily concerns. Maybe they don't know what to ask because your new life is so unclear to them. You can talk about your life through little anecdotes here and there in conversations. You can show them what you like about your new life but also that you have your share of stresses and worries. Life in expatriation is also a normal life with its ups and downs, its joys and difficulties like everyone else.
There are those who find that you have changed, and there are those who find that they have changed. We were best friends, we laughed a lot and we had a great time together and now... we don't have much to say to each other... It's a bit sad, but that's life. Each one lives her experiences, our lives separate, we meet again, we lose sight of each other... and maybe we'll come back together again one day. And…maybe we won’t.
The life paths of each one of us evolve in time and this is normal - expat or not. But being an expat might make this even clearer to us than if we had stayed in our home country.
3 tips for a better return home as an expat
1- Prepare your trip as far in advance as possible.
Book your plane/train tickets, rent a car, plan your itinerary, and tell your family and friends about your dates... You will maximize your chances to see the people you want to see. Moreover, if you leave with everything already organized, you won't have to organize anything on the spot or at the last minute, which will take away a lot of stress and mental load.
2- Don't have expectations (neither positive nor negative).
Don't make a movie about how your stay will be, because it will never be as you imagined. Live your stay as it comes, and accept the unexpected. There may be cancellations from some people because the little one is sick or the husband is held up at work. You may feel let down by the fact that you didn't get to see so-and-so, or you didn’t get to see them long enough. There might also be reflections of others that are not easy to hear. "Oh but you are not coming for long" or "you could come more often…”
3- Take some time for yourself while you are home.
Go for a walk in the neighborhood or forest that you love and where you used to go. Go to your favorite restaurant for a romantic meal, sleep in or go for a run. It doesn't matter if it's two hours less with your family or friends. This is also your vacation and one of the few times you can spend time in your home country.
Going back to your country is not only to see your relatives but also the atmosphere, the culture, the food, the places, the nature etc... Enjoy it!
Disconnection and expatriation often go together. The distance we may feel from some of our loved ones can be a great source of discomfort and questioning when we leave for expatriation. Was it a good idea after all? I miss my friends. Will I lose my relationship with them? How can I keep in better touch with my loved ones back home?
These questions are normal, accept them and take the time to address them.
This will allow you to:
Define what is fundamental and indispensable in your relationships (what are the values you wish to share, what type of relationship do you want, how often will you reach out...)
Sort out your relationships (perhaps some relationships were not really sincere or pleasant for a while, the departure can allow you to become aware of it, to accept it, and to take some distance).
Develop new relationships that are healthy, balanced and aligned with your personal values in your new life.
If you need support on these topics - social life, making friends, dealing with feeling disconnected, keeping in touch with loved ones in your home country, etc. - contact us, we can help you through these particular challenges of expatriate life!
Coaching in English with Karly
Coaching in French with Chloé