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FINDING YOUR FEET - as an Expat or Repat. The art of settling in.

Vanessa Paisley - intercultural trainer and creator of The Repat Format

This time of year is busy for families settling into new routines, especially for those who have relocated or repatriated in the summer and are now in the process of finding their feet in their new host countries.

New countries, new homes, new jobs, new schools – all of these can be stressful and especially with the added layer of Covid-19. Farewells to the old destination have been made and now it’s time to establish roots and prepare for the experiences in a new host country or back home, should you have decided to repatriate.

Relocating can be accompanied by culture shock or reverse culture shock so it’s important to be patient and explore the area around your new home. Culture shock can be quite an emotionally draining process, in fact! When families relocate, it is often the non-working spouse and children who struggle most as there are additional issues they are faced with. They may be matters of finding work for the partner, for children the fact they are confronted with new friends, new subjects at school and even a different language

If you have recently relocated or repatriated, here are my tips to help you settle:

  • Keep positive about your new host country or reentry – try to see the positive sides to life in the country and sell them to your children.

  • Explore the local area. It’s a good way to motivate the whole family, get some fresh air and physical exercise.

  • Until children have settled into a routine, don’t try to stop them from keeping in touch with their old friends via social media even if you think it is not helping them to settle. They will find their groups eventually, but teenagers especially need to feel that they are liked, and that they fit in, which they may not do at first.

  • If you are an international partner/spouse and don’t have a job to go to, think about getting in touch with an expat coach as it will give you some focus and will help you see how your skills can be used in your new/home country. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and see what you really want to do and what’s on offer – this is a bonus for sure!

  • Inject some of the things you loved about living in your previous location into your new life or life back home. If you are repatriating, you’ll see your home country through a whole different lens!

  • Try not to constantly complain to people about your new host culture or home culture as it makes it difficult to meet friends. Be selective about who you have a good rant to.

Of course, expats and repats will miss their “other” life and a sense of “longing” can often be overwhelming, but it is good to remember that there may be a selection of things that you don’t miss too much. Think of these experiences abroad as providing you with an “I can tackle anything” attitude. You become less self-oriented, more resilient and open-minded. These are all transferable skills that are a tremendous benefit to you both in your private and professional life. For you as an individual and a family.

Vanessa is an experienced intercultural trainer and coach. After living in Austria for 23 years, she’s now back in the UK and enjoys accompanying people and families through the relocation and repatriation process. She delivers training in English and German.

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