Repatriation – an expat moves back to the UK

An expat moves back to the UK

Expat life is unique and for many a wonderful way to plan ahead financially for the future. In addition, this is especially true if you have been living as an expat in the Middle East. Gradually after a period of time, you may find yourself pondering about moving back home. If you’ve been super organized (and many expats are not), you will have spent time working on your exit plan and be prepared. Unfortunately, for many reasons some expats are forced to leave living an expat life before they are ready. Whether this be through illness, death of a loved one, career move, or otherwise, repatriation can throw up a whole lot of problems, issues and challenges.

Expat reintegration

Repatriation and reintegration can feel just as uncomfortable as moving abroad in the first place. It takes time and perhaps some big clangers of mistakes made along the way.  Returning to the UK was a natural trajectory for me. Quite simply it was just the right time. Knowing when to leave expat life is different for each person. Some leave after a couple of years. Other after 20 or more. Most expats will have their own personal timeline. We ended expat life while living in Bahrain – a very special place despite its troubles.  

Ending expat life on a high note

Expat Wellbeing Retreat
Wellbeing Retreat

My personal exit was a long-winded one via Sri Lanka. I had teamed up with a fabulous Yoga teacher in Bahrain to host a Wellness retreat in this beautiful country. Consequently, my return ticket went from Bahrain – Dubai – Sri Lanka – Dubai – UK. As a result, lugging a suitcase full of summer and winter clothes with only a small luggage allowance. No mean feat! The Wellness Retreat was super successful and consisted of a diverse group of ladies from the Middle East, USA, UK, Ireland and New Zealand. More on this later. One minute I was sitting in tropical sunshine, and the next I was shivering at Birmingham airport dressed in a huge puffa coat wondering where on earth I was.

First impressions of the UK from a now ex-expat 

My husband’s job had taken us to South Yorkshire, and neither of us had a clue where to live, so we did the wise thing and rented a converted barn temporarily in a rural part of Yorkshire. Waking up on the first day slightly confused and jet-lagged to a silent house and snow-covered fields. To say this period of reintegration was difficult is an understatement because I really struggled. Dreams of leaving expat life behind and living close to my parents were shattered as both had since passed away. Another reason to take things slowly in the settling back in phase. All may feel unfamiliar, and new.

Ex expat life

What is home?

What feeling does the word ‘home’ conjure up for you? For most, it is a place where you feel happy, content, safe, and at peace. In other words, a house and a home are entirely different. A home is built with memories and family bonds. This is why big life changes such as moving home can knock people way off balance. Being able to access wellbeing tools is useful.

Be prepared to process loneliness and isolation

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be softened when moving back to a place where you have ‘roots’ such as family, and friends. A safety net of support if you like. These things bring a sense of familiarity and belonging. Once you know you’re moving back home, start to plan immediately. 

Key questions for a smooth transition

  • Do I want to live in the middle of nowhere? Or do I want to live close to people?
  • Is there a good school in the catchment area (if you have children)?
  • Am I looking for a strong sense of community? 
  • What do I need and want that will make myself and family happy?
  • What is our timeline for living in a rented property?
  • Do we have all paperwork in place for buying a property (if we don’t own one already)?

Choosing the wrong home for the wrong reason

Renting a home is not a good long term investment. In reality, you are helping pay off someone else’s mortgage when you could be paying off your own (if you have a mortgage that is). After our period in rented accommodation, we bought a lovely home in a pleasant part of South Yorkshire. I started to make friends within the community and restarted my wellbeing business and building my client base from scratch. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t because you can!

Expat starts over

Developing a positive mind-set

Expat mindset

To move forward there has to be a willingness to live in the present and stop dwelling in the past. Of course, your new life will not be the same as the old one, it won’t be for many reasons. Firstly, you are likely to be surrounded by people who may never have had an expat experience. Secondly, they will not have a deep understanding of your experiences, thoughts, feelings or emotions. Sadly many expats stop talking about life as an expat in conversations because it is sometimes perceived as bragging.  A great way to overcome this is by connecting with fellow expats either personally or online. Talking with those who share similar issues and concerns is helpful.

Reaching out as an expat

Why you may need an Expat Coach/Life Change Specialist

Reintegrating into your new life takes time, energy, perseverance, resilience, adaptability, and bounce-back ability.  Many expats struggle silently, not knowing what to do or where to take uncomfortable feelings because there is no clear label.  As a result common feelings felt by expats returning home are:

  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Feeling lost
  • Lack of direction and purpose
  • Loss of identity
Face your fears as an expat

If any of these resonate with you, then it may be time to seek out an Expat Life Change Specialist, preferably one who has stood in your shoes you are standing in now. I love to help others navigate the stormy waters of change and offer sessions both face to face and online wherever you are based in the world. There is no shame in owning the fact that you may feel fearful of all that is happening. Changes can be scary, and sometimes all you need is someone to help guide and support you.

A settled expat

Have I settled in the UK? This is a question I am asked constantly. The answer to that is yes, I am at peace with living here. Becoming a settled expat is another journey, one which requires a unique specific approach.

I hope this blog has helped you in some way. Feel free to reach out if you are relocating back home. You are not alone Help is always at hand.

Expat Coach/Life Change Specialist


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