While some expats find their forever home in a new country, many will repatriate after a period of time. This might be due to the ending of a work assignment, to raise children closer to other family members, or simply because it feels that the adventure is coming to a natural end.
Whether you were hoping to stay or glad to leave, it’s important to try and make repatriation to your point of origin as painless as it can be. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider before you go, from bureaucracy and paperwork to dealing with goodbyes.
Plan your timeline
You’ve already done at least one international relocation, so you know how hectic things can get. Unexpected extras appear in your schedule at the last minute, getting in the way of the things you really wanted or needed to do.
Be prepared for as many eventualities as possible by starting your planning as far ahead as you can, and sitting down to make notes on what needs doing and when. Don’t just think about packing, flights and logistics – be sure to factor in time for your farewells.
Dinners with close friends, farewell drinks and simple emails about your departure for those you aren’t as close to are all things to consider. If you have children in tow, prioritise their wellbeing and make time to organise farewells to their friends too.
Your repatriation timeline should include everything from check-out days to immunisations, which brings us on to the next point.
Know the protocols
It’s the least fun part of any move, but it’s crucial to understand any paperwork, laws and legislation around your repatriation. How much notice do you need to give at work, if any, and to your landlord? How far ahead do you need to organise the cut-off date for your household bills, and is an international forwarding address enough?
Depending on where you’re heading back to, you may also need proof of certain up-to-date immunisations in order to return easily, and you may no longer be entitled to things like national health insurance if you’ve lived abroad for several years. Find out about any periods for which you will not be entitled to healthcare or other public services, and ensure that your international health insurance plan continues on your return until this period ends.
Other things to watch out for are the weight limits for your flight luggage, or restrictions on shipped items. If you have any pets, they’re going to need a passport of their own – and it’s likely you’ll need to pay substantial fees for their flights and quarantine before they can finish their own journey on the other side.
Be financially ready
On that note, it’s also advisable to be really thorough with checking your finances when committing to a repatriation. The cost of relocation may have increased overall since your initial move, but regardless, the price of necessary services and documents can vary from country to country. The more thorough your research and planning, the less likely you are to be caught out by an unexpected cost.
The cost of living in your home country may well be very different to your expat home, and changes in the economy and inflation can mean that things are more expensive than you remember. If you’re returning to a particular job, or are negotiating a new role for your return, be certain of how far the salary will go and any areas where you need to save or can afford to splurge.
If you still have a bank account open in your point of origin then this is one less thing to take care of, but if your lack of local address has meant that you no longer have a local account, setting one up should be on your to-do list too. If you bank with an international bank like HSBC, transferring your account should be relatively easy.
Something that’s easy to forget in the rush and multi-tasking of an international move, is the simple act of taking photos, or storing other kinds of memories. Once you’ve lived somewhere for a few years, the idea of taking photos of your day to day life might seem a bit odd. But when you’re looking back at your expat experience in another ten years’ time, simple things like photos of your home and of places you’ve visited can become cherished items.
In the run up to leaving, capture everything. Friends and family, favourite spots, local foods, anything that sparks a little joy. One of the sad truths of expat life is that unlike the goodbyes you say when you leave your original home, which are said knowing you will likely see the recipients again, often a goodbye to other expat friends really is a final goodbye.
Living a global lifestyle is an unparalleled way to befriend like-minded people from all over the world, and to share in amazing experiences, highs, lows and everything between. But if and when you, and they, decide to repatriate, accept that any goodbyes you offer may well be the last. For that reason among others, future-proofing your memory bank should definitely be on your repatriation checklist.
Understand what may have changed
Last, but not least, be ready for the things that may have changed since you last lived at your starting point. From people and relationships to local amenities, plenty of everyday details will not be the same on arrival as they have been in your memory.
Just as you will have changed and grown as a result of your time away, know that returning back to where you started from is not the same as having never left. See repatriation as another new chapter in your adventure, only this time in more familiar territory.