Going Back Home: Easier Said Than Done?iStockphoto
Children may also face reverse culture shock when going back home.
When going back home, expats often face adjustment issues which, although quite similar to culture shock, are often met with disbelief, confusion and even resentment. After all, you have grown up in this country and are thus expected to know your way around.
This phenomenon which occurs when expats are going back home does not only effect adult expats. Their children often have similar experiences when going back home to attend school and trying to make new friends after a long time abroad.
Going Back Home: Repatriation for Expat Kids
Going back home can be especially tough on expat children, particularly younger kids. Toddlers and pre-school children crave routines and stability, and the enormous changes involved in going back home can easily upset them. Perhaps they have only dim and distant memories of “home”. Places that are familiar to their parents are strange and unusual for them.
Furthermore, time seems longer when you are little and smaller children live more in the present moment than adults. Promises such as “We’ll go back to see your friends in Korea next summer!” may appear like an eternity to a seven-year-old.
Going Back Home: Adapting to a New Environment
Adapting to a new school system and the resulting academic challenges can be an additional burden for expat kids when going back home. In contrast to international or foreign national schools, local teachers are often not used to dealing with today’s nomad children and their extra needs.
Even a friendly welcome like “this is Anne, who spent the last two years in Beijing – she can surely tells us lots about life in China and say hello in Chinese,” may end up having a negative effect. The child feels singled out and insecure when he or she is far keener on blending in, adjusting to the new classroom environment and then starting to make friends.
In this as in other family matters, it is important for the parents to be not entirely preoccupied with organizing the move and dealing with their own repatriation shock. They should get involved and show their kids that they are there for them, taking their mixed feelings seriously and assist them in going back home.