This post is a bit of a work in progress given that it is a mere three weeks since we moved back. But, in the hope that it helps people about to make the same jump themselves, here’s a list that I will probably amend several times and/or expand to 672 tips instead of 12 as we encounter new hurdles along the way. I might make myself read it when times are tricky though, to remind myself that: hey, if we have survived this move, we can survive anything! It is obviously by no means an exhaustive list, if it was we might be here all year…
Make sure everyone’s on board. As is sometimes the case when you relocate abroad, it’s often not possible (especially as a “work expat”) to choose exactly when you come home (and whereabouts you end up!) again. If a repatriation is to be a success, make sure that the whole family’s on board with any and all decisions made. Involve children right from the start, and constantly talk about any worries they might have. That might sound weird to some – they are moving “home” after all, but when children haven’t lived in their own country for a while, it can be an unsettling and worrying prospect…
Think of the positives. You might really miss your expat location, but there’s usually something good about moving home again, from the lack of a language barrier, to not having to worry about any cultural rules and regulations. From being closer to friends and family, having an almost sensory overload at the amount of choice each time you go to the supermarket – to the novelty of being able to chit-chat with strangers (even if it’s usually about the weather!!), and perhaps the best thing of all – a feeling like you “belong” somewhere again!
Consider getting a relocation agent – especially if you are moving to an area you are not familiar with. If you find someone local to your new destination, they usually have great insider knowledge on locations, schools and housing, and more often than not can help secure the latter. They typically know the local estate agents personally, and are the first to hear when new houses come on to the market etc. Most experienced relocation agents have helped families settle back home countless times, and can be a reassuring presence in what is an unsettling time (if you are looking for a Cambridge relocation expert, look no further than Clare at Relocate Cambridge, she is just fabulous…).
Visit. Once you have decided on a location, visit and spend time doing the ground work in what will be your new home – mostly to ensure that you have made the right decision on a place. If somewhere doesn’t feel right, go with your gut instinct and explore the surrounds instead. Talk to locals, and get online and research, research, research until you find what will work for you.
Be prepared to be the New Girl again. You might have high hopes of fitting right back into your old life, meeting up with the same friends etc, but as much as they are usually over the moon to see you, people haven’t been sitting around waiting for you to come back. Plus if you have moved to an entirely new area, you will need to find an entirely new network. As is often the case when you move abroad, be prepared to be the new girl for a while. Be the person that says hello in the playground. Force yourself to go to things like play groups with younger children, and consider things like book groups (more often than not more like wine groups in my experience!) to meet new people.
Schooling – If you think you will be on the move again in the future, consider keeping your children in an international school to help with the transition. Alternatively, if you think you will be at home indefinitely, then do your research about local schools to give your children the chance to put down roots and make long-term friends in a less transient environment. Talk to them about schools, and involve them in any decisions and visits (some schools do an orientation day which is really helpful).
Choose your Moving Company wisely. Before any new employment contract is finalised, stress to your future employer that you wish to have a say in who will move you. Having done both now, I much preferred getting an amount of money to make our own decisions with, rather than ending up with an unhelpful obstructive, and often difficult company as we did this time around (do email me for the name if you would like to avoid using them)! Likewise, if you do get the luxury of choosing, don’t skimp on costs, and look for as many good references as possible.
Get a Health MOT Before you repatriate, fit in as many medical and dentist appointments etc. as you can. You will be so busy with other things in those first few weeks that you will be glad that you did. In the same vein, register with doctors as soon as possible, and obviously inform all necessary parties about new additions to the family in order to be issued with NHS numbers and the like…
Reverse culture shock is an actual thing. Try not to have the same expectations of a place. Not only have you changed, but “home” may well have done too, and it’s easy to find yourself slipping into a weird kind of parallel universe constantly comparing your old life to your new one. Give yourself time, and before too long the road to adapting and feeling settled will become much simpler and clearer.
Credit Rating Resets – After you have been away for a while it might come as a shock to find your credit rating might be lower or even none existent. Get some form of utility bill with your address on it as soon as you can. A letter from your new employer giving details of your new salary is also helpful (along with a copy of your contract) as is getting on the electoral roll. Before long you should find it builds again through paying rent or through approved finances such as phone contracts, cars and the like (don’t be shocked to be turned down by some companies though, that trusty red and white phone company so prolific throughout the UK didn’t want me as a customer as I was “too foreign” having lived abroad!)…
Tie up any loose ends in your last country – Finalise any taxes and reclaim housing deposits and the like. Don’t forget to cancel insurance policies, health insurance companies and phone contracts and the like (easier said than done in Germany, believe me!). The sooner you can put all your energy in to your new life, the sooner you will feel more settled.
Fill your Calendar*. And, when it all becomes a bit too much, book a holiday! Somewhere, anywhere, even back to your previous destination for a catch up with your old life if you must! I always find having a bit of travel to look forward to helps most situations!
Great tips Emma, I especially like the book a holiday idea!
It must have been a huge amount of work finding a house and schools etc. I hope you’re all feeling settled and happy now. xx
I have been doing PLENTY of that, believe me! :D Thank you. We are slowly getting there… xx
Trish @ Mum's Gone To says
I haven’t moved house since 1994 and that was only seven miles from the old one! I have great admiration for you tackling these moves with little ones in tow. Hope you will be very happy in Cambridge xxx
Thanks Trish. Hope to catch up really soon! xxx
Cass Bailey says
Welcome back! Things must be so different for you but I’m sure you’ll be all settled in in no time at all ;-)
Thanks Cass! And then it will be time to leave again! :D x
I’m slightly exhausted after reading this list, so I imagine your must be more so.
Welcome home, well done!
I know the ‘new girl’ feeling very well. My tip would be: It really takes time, I think it’s so important to be kind to yourself during that first transitional few weeks. There were days when I felt like such an outsider in the playground, but other people have busy lives and familiar friends, the last thing they think of is slotting someone else in. It’s not personal. Reward yourself with cake and nice stuff often. Hopefully, other people (you) find it easier than I did. X
Thank you Gemma. I really hadn’t appreciated how difficult a move away from a familiar place (but within your own country) could be. I will listen to your advice and give it time. xx
Jen Walshaw says
What a great post that will be a real help to any looking at moving. Not just abroad, but also long distances too
Thanks Jen. x
I would never have thought of any of these things, especially reverse culture shock, are you coming home soon?
Have been home for a couple of weeks now. Still going through the “everything’s weird” stage! :D
Mary Louise says
You have included so many good tips that are so wise yet we tend to forget about in the midst of moving!
Thanks Mary! (:
A really great thorough post with loads of helpful tips for those looking to move back to their home country.
Thanks Sonia. I hope it helps someone else…
Wise words my darling. x
Ta Ma xxx
Jugglemum, Nadine Hill says
Wow – so much to think about when coming home. But I guess you are right – you will be the ‘new girl’ again as things can move on in your absence but I bet things like just knowing when the Post Office shuts and how to signal for a bus remain the same! Good luck with your continued repatriation – hope it goes smoothly.
Thank you. So much has changed (I bet the post office is open much later nowadays – I actually need to check :D), but I still still remember how to hail a bus! :D Thanks so much x
Nichola - Globalmouse says
Oh I didn’t know you had moved back! I hope it’s all gone well. Some great tips here…I love the idea of being an expat I have to say and I imagine the repatriation bit is quite exciting too. I hope you settle back well.
Thanks Nichola. Yes, back for a little while. Thank you, it’s going OK so far! :) x
Midlife Singlemum says
I’m filing this post for future reference. Thank you.
Thanks for reading it! :)