Expatriation : a modern luxury with appealing and blurred outlines. A whimsy venture for junior or senior executives. A dreamed land for a bunch of fresh alumni. Alright, but is expat life an end or a means? And after all, is there a life after it?
Some expat adventures last a year or two, then it’s game over and come back home. Others last longer and sometimes pile up, in an addictive process. What a diversity!
Destination… or destiny?
During such a roller coaster, the expat person is getting used to change, always being ready for the next move, including of course his family many times.
As home office and elastic commuting become commonplace, as family structures vary more than ever (another type of modern flexibility), expatriation also tends to become a new norm! Students express their desire for « sabbatical abroad« , an early form of expatriation. They long for opportunities abroad, looking for the meaning of their life.
However there’s something uncommon and specific: the return, back home (?). Obviously, expect some change inside and outside You! Expect dramatic change within your relationships, and an alteration of both individual and collective representations. Welcome…
Welcome to the cultural shock. Remember about that story of Asian tourists arriving in Paris and facing, at the airport, in the metro or in the noisy streets of « Paname », the big gap between expectations and reality! Boom! Now back to the former expats way back « home » (new home). As formerly « locals », is that so hard for them to readjust?
An american friend told me about her « honeymoon » in/with France when she was a student and came to Lyon for one semester. One semester only and it took her almost eight months to recover, when she came back to Pennsylvania, where she was born and grew up. Expect some struggle for those who spent not months but years abroad!
There’s something to do with how we perceive the environment. Something to do with our own behavior too. Such as: do we actually dedicate the same energy to, for instance, nurture our passion for multicultural relationships, as we used to, abroad? And finally, here comes the dilemma between remembering and forgetting. And don’t think it’s only a matter of professional strategy and adaptation. It’s deeper, more personal too!
Thank you modern tools for facilitating our « stay in touch » ventures. Thank you friends and relatives, advanced expats or supportive observers, for your kindness. But it’s really up to the expat him/herself to learn to land properly, after living on cloud 9. It’s time to turn the page. But leave the book well visible on the shelf, you never know! It’s probably the book of our life!