For my first expatriation in Tokyo in the early 90’s, I spent about two years of total immersion in the Japanese culture. Before leaving, I prepared very well my expatriation with excitement, learning Japanese, reading books on the Japanese culture or studying maps of Tokyo. Everything was different in Japan but it was such a great experience. I did not prepare my return to France thinking that it would be very easy. It was actually very difficult. For example I was very disappointed and shocked about the total lack of interest in my Japanese experience. I had no real job definition for couple of months, I discovered that my years of working in Japan would not count for my pension. I did not like the apartment that was chosen for us as we could not do the choice ourselves.
In fact, moving back home can be more stressful than the expatriation and can result in emotional distress and physical symptoms. To avoid this kind of emotional roller coaster, what I call a reverse-culture shock, it is important to be prepared mentally as well as being extremely organized to deal with the taxes, housing, money, schools, employment contract, loss of material benefits and loss of social status. When you are abroad, especially true for Japan, you are treated extremely well, you have a lot of support for opening a bank account, having your utilities set or tax management for example. The loss of social status is about loosing the opportunity to meet all kind of people that you would not meet otherwise in your home country. Just because you are part of a minority when you are living abroad, it makes you feel special, curious and eager to communicate with other expatriates or learn from people in your host country.
So to make a successful repatriation, be prepared to be on your own, plan in advance as much as you can, make an action plan with small steps to avoid being overwhelmed and look at all the positive aspects of being back “home”.