Understanding Reverse Culture Shock – Challenges Expatriates Face When Moving Back to Canada

Living abroad is one of the most exciting experiences you can encounter. You get to explore a new land, with interesting people, new surroundings and the ability to grow as both a person and a professional. Most expats walk away from their adventure with tons of new memories and a new found meaning of life.

Today’s worker is a lot more receptive to working abroad than previous generations. With more people choosing to work abroad many people find returning to Canada presents challenges. There are various physiological and professional adjustments that need to be made when returning home. Reverse culture shock is an unexpected surprise for many expats.

Many expatriates moving back to Canada experience a feeling of being stuck in limbo. While living abroad it’s easy to feel that your living situation is new, exciting and temporary. Canada quickly becomes a distant place and it becomes frozen in time.

Most people are excited to come home – catching up with old friends, eating familiar food and spending overdue time with family sounds great. At first, there’s a rush, but once the euphoria washes away there can be some real challenges that appear.

Expatriates sometimes return to find that time went on and friends and family have moved on to new segments in life. People working overseas for an extended time can come home to find that the people they care about have new careers, relationships, children, mortgages and various other things. It’s also common that loved ones may be experiencing health issues, or possibly people have passed away. Finding your peers married and with children can cause an expat to feel stuck in time.

Culture shock is something that many expatriates will experience in some form, but many do not prepare for the same experience occurring upon their return to Canada. It’s important to expect and prepare yourself that things have changed since you left. There will be some constants at home, identify these unchanged things and focus on them during your transition.

Establishing a career in Canada can also present challenges and make you feel like your life is starting over again. Many people return to Canada without a job and must instantly undertake a job search when they come home. Also, you will need to find a place to live and get set up again with things such as a cell phone, transportation and various other life essentials. While overseas you may have gained new professional skills and experiences. These new additions to your resume may not translate as well to the Canadian job market.

Like most things, planning is an excellent way to eliminate stress and financial strain. Try to have your living arrangements, jobs, social life and other things planned in advance. You’ll also need to ensure your driver’s license and health card are valid, you still have a family doctor, and that your tax information and bank accounts are current.

There are many reasons why you’re thinking about repatriating into your home country and there are many things to consider before making your return. In some ways, returning home is as hard as moving abroad. Reverse shock is a real thing, moving back home isn’t easy for many people and the challenges are very real.

The good news is that the effects of reverse culture shock are temporary, and will fade over time. Careful preparation is the best way to make the move back home smooth and enjoyable.

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