10 tips for expats returning home (repatriation)

So a few years back in New Zealand and I’m definitely not settled, but I’m thinking of things that have helped me bit by bit feel a little more comfortable back home, after spending most of my adult years living abroad.

So, here’s a little list of my own thoughts, but I’d really appreciate anyone’s input in the comments below to help both me and others feel a bit more settled/comfortable during the repatriation process!

1. Manage your own expectations

Oooo easier said than done right? Ha! I thought I didn’t have expectations returning.

Relaxing by Nelson Lakes

Relaxing by Nelson Lakes

I knew everyone would have moved on and my life has taken turns in some many directions that people just wouldn’t understand.

This is so true in many ways, but it also doesn’t make it any easier, not ‘hoping’ that you’ll have those amazing connections that so many other people have.

Still trying to find my best recommendation on this one, but all I can think of is take it one step at a time and try to look at things from other people’s perspectives, not just your own. It can be a powerful skill to have in life.

Learning to snowboard

Learning to snowboard

2. Find new things to do that you never thought about before

Someone mentions a bush walk you’ve never heard of? Jump on the bandwagon. Heck, what’s the worst that can happen?

Go down that road you’ve always passed and wonder where it leads, could be a new viewpoint across the ocean or somewhere different. Take a tiki tour somewhere!

Just like visiting Russia or Bosnia, think of places outside the square. They can grow you in ways you could never imagine!

3. Try make new friends

Hardest thing as an adult for someone that doesn’t feel super outgoing and enjoys a good cosy home cooked meal… but with new hobbies, jobs and venturing out to new places it’s always good to keep friendships on the radar.

Communities are one of the most important things and having people to see and call on in times of need can be invaluable. So, never count something out. Give it a go without putting too much pressure on yourself for outcomes.

Alpaca and sheep

Alpaca and sheep

4. Try rekindle old friendships

Yes people change, you’ve changed. Some people have settled down and have a huge family of screaming kids. Some people have loving partners. Some people will pity you. Others will ignore your situation and complain until kingdom come about their own. 

My point is don’t give up.

The timing for some friendships may not be right, but it’s worth trying again once in a while. You’ll change again from your expat/traveller self into someone you never thought of as you try to get comfortable and in that you’ll find commonalities with people you didn’t think of before too.

Sometimes history is worth holding onto and just trying to open both parties up to each others experience to show empathy and friendship where needed.

My friend Cate and I, enjoying the view

My longtime friend Cate and I, enjoying the view in Wellington

5. Stop and relax

With all this you can think you need to be go go go all the time. But it’s okay to take a step back and just enjoy your own space. Rome wasn’t built in a day and friendships, money, jobs and lifestyles take time to grow and flourish. And that’s okay.

Me enjoying the golden sand beaches

Me enjoying the golden sand beaches at the Low Isles, Great Barrier Reef

6. Look after your health and wellbeing

Relaxing breakfast to start the day

Relaxing breakfast to start the day – weekend retreat

When you’re under the pump with work and trying to make friendship and improve your lifestyle sometimes exercise, eating well and keeping a healthy mind and attitude can fall by the wayside.

If there is anything I’ve learnt in the past year, it’s that I can’t do anything to improve my lifestyle and relationships if I’m not looking after my own body and mind too.

Park bench at Pauanui beach

Sunshine in Pauanui on a Winter’s Day

7. Find new hobby

Up until recently I didn’t realise how incredible this point is. It’s winter, its cold and lonely and miserable… until I jumped onto the bandwagon on my ski trip with my sisters family. I now have a new love for snowboarding.

It’s something so fantastic to throw myself into and see myself learn and progress each time I’m at the snow. Off the snow I can exercise to help my snowboarding skills and it fills my time brilliantly! I love winter now!

Whakapapa Skifield - Happy Valley at sunset

Whakapapa Skifield – Happy Valley at sunset

Turora Skifield, Mt. Ruapehu

Turora Skifield, Mt. Ruapehu

8. Keep planning places to travel to

Moving from somewhere like the UK where you could pop over to somewhere in Europe at the last minute for a fun weekend without too much cost to a country like New Zealand where even a visit to the South Island can leave you eating bread and butter for a week (okay maybe not quite that bad, but you get my drift)….

Last glimpse of Little Kaiteriteri

Last glimpse of Little Kaiteriteri

It’s hard to comprehend.

So, I’m all about planning those long weekends, the public holidays and adding the odd annual leave day onto it. Though I haven’t ventured out of New Zealand much in the last few years, I’m still considering places in Asia once a year and planning around the seasons and the main point I want to visit those spots. I haven’t ruled out big travels further afield yet, it’s just a matter of priorities and money. 

Keep planning, keep dreaming and start doing!

Snorkelling in the Low IslesSnorkelling in the Low Isles, Great Barrier Reef

9. Visit place you’ve always wanted to go to, but never have

View over Queenstown

View over Queenstown

I can’t believe I travelled all over the world, but had never been to the South Island of my own country until I returned a few years ago. The South Island really is as beautiful as Lord of the Rings portrays it. I’ve so pleased I finally had the chance to visit and experience a place that now reminds me of Chile, Argentina and the UK all in one!

Queenstown lakefront

Queenstown lakefront

10. Appreciate the things you have

It’s easy to look back at all the travels and things you’ve done and wish you could be there doing those things again. Or, seeing the friends you haven’t seen in so long. Or, wishing you’d done more, spent more, brought more in places you may never get to again.

Friends in Venice

Friends in Venice

It is easy to look at others and get jealous of the things they get to do or the people they have in their lives.

Yet, if you look really hard at what you have and start to genuinely appreciate those moments with the ones you love, you’ll see what’s really important in life.

Me and my Dad at the top of Mt. Maunganui

Me and my Dad at the top of Mt. Maunganui

Thinking about all the things you’ve made happen to be in your current situation and appreciate the things that really count towards that situation in a positive light can help put things in perspective.

Those are my 10 tips for people returning to their home country after living abroad. I’m sure there are plenty more great ideas out there, so please share them below!

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