8 Things no one tells you about going back home

Photo by Alex Pepperhill (CC by 2.0)

These days, more people are seeking employment opportunities abroad, joining their spouse for a new adventure or pursuing an education in another country. With this trend reaching new heights, we often have InterNations members willing to contribute useful and insightful articles that resonate with expats on different levels. The following article was submitted by an InterNations member, sharing their own personal thoughts, views and tips on life abroad.

Living abroad is an incredible experience. It changes your horizons, your expectations, and who you are. For most expats, there’ll come a time when for one reason or another, home starts calling. Here’s what to expect when you book your one-way ticket back:

  1. Keeping in touch with friends and family may — weirdly — be harder. Being abroad you’re forced to put aside a time that works for both countries and the weekly Skype becomes part of the routine. Without the impetus of being away you’ll have to make more an effort to figure out how you find into each other’s lives.
  2. Don’t be the “gap yah” kid. When you’re living abroad, people want to hear what’s going on, but when you’re back, it’s done and dusted as far as your friends are concerned. It’s tricky when it’s all you’ve known for a few years, but avoid constant references that people can’t relate to.
  3. You’ll get strange cravings. Seaweed, ramen, dumplings — takeaway will not fill that craving, and you know you didn’t learn how to cook it! You’ll be surprised how many things that were once new and different are now normal. Speaking of food…
  4. You will put on weight. When you came home to visit you had an excuse for eating all those things you couldn’t get overseas. That last supper syndrome doesn’t disappear overnight: your favourite cereal you missed? You’ll finish the box. Those cute cake things they didn’t have abroad? Gone.
  5. You’re no longer an expert on your home country, from the great little restaurant that used to be down the street to which mobile contract provider to pick. This was one of the strangest parts about going back for me — I was supposed to gain the familiarity of being in my ‘home’, but despite regular visits, things had changed. The comfort blanket of familiarity that was supposed to make moving home so easy, wasn’t there — and I definitely got ripped off on my phone contract!
  6. You’ll have to try just as hard to make friends as when you moved abroad. People aren’t where you left them, and now they’re used to you being out of the loop. It’s up to you to make the effort to catch-up with old friends, and to find new ones. Some people and places will still fit with the new you, but not all.
  7. It feels like… going back, particularly if you return to the same city. This is the hardest bit to get your head around. Suddenly you have all these new experiences and you’re used to the excitement of being somewhere different. Try and find new activities and get trips booked so you have new adventures to look forward to.
  8. It might not last. Full disclosure — I lasted just over six months back in the UK. Of four Brits who moved back, only one is still in London, with the rest of us headed off to Australia, New Zealand and a little closer to home for me in Munich.

If you love to travel, being an expat can be a hard thing to give up. Once you’ve lived and worked abroad rather than just visiting, it becomes hard to go back to being a tourist.

When you’re thinking ‘where next’, make sure you’re not picking your home country by default, and that you’re confident going home is the right move.

If, like me, you find your wanderlust can’t be cured, pick a new country to explore: the latest survey by expat network InterNations found the best countries for expats to be Ecuador, Mexico and Malta. Happy travelling!

Roanna Mottershead is a British freelance writer and travel blogger currently living in Munich. A serial expat, she uses the experience of living in four different countries in five years to pass on travel tips and share the highs and lows of life abroad.