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Culture shock returning home?

Culture shock typically occurs when an assignee relocates to a new host country and is beginning to adjust to day-to-day life there. There are a number of reasons as to why culture shock may occur, including having to adapt to significant weather changes, strict Sharia laws in countries such as Saudi Arabia, and opening themselves up to a new community. Nevertheless, when a significant time is spent in their new host country, returning home could cause what is known as reverse culture shock – where the assignee finds it difficult to readjust to life back in their home country. The Cartus’ 2016 Global Mobility Policy and Practices survey stated that 78% of businesses do not track staff retention following an assignment and repatriation, but 52% of those that do, report between zero and 10 employees left within 1-2 years of returning home. Here at Santa Fe, we’re taking a closer look at how assignees can prevent reverse culture shock, and how businesses can better aid their employees with this readjustment period.

Training courses

Positivity can play a significant part in tackling reverse culture shock. It is common for individuals to feel disconnected, whether that is from their family, friends, work or just in general as a result of becoming distant from their life in their host country. Businesses can offer a number of training courses, not just for the employee but for their family also, to help improve the way in which the ‘repat’ readjusts. The training will assess any changes that the country has undergone and how this may impact the readjusting family. For example, in the UK, the Brexit vote is likely to have been a significant shock for many expatriates who were in the process of finishing their assignment and returning home. Any form of training given to the employees and their families may help them to better embrace culture shock.


Employees who have recently returned from an overseas assignment may require some form of new routine in order to help them to adjust. Whether this is integrated as part of their job role or more generally as part of their day-to-day, a routine and schedule can help to further improve the readjustment period. Expatriates returning home may face a number of challenges, including boredom, reverse homesickness, feelings of alienation, compartmentalisation of experience amongst others. Having a set routine which the expatriate can adapt to may help to improve the success of reintegration.

New experiences & opportunities

One of the major benefits of overseas assignments for employees is the opportunity to be a part of a new experience, and this can be replicated back in the employee’s home country. There are a number of opportunities to present new experiences to the employee, with opportunities to take on new projects and attend conferences. It is important that the expatriate remains focused on their role, whether it has changed or remains the same, in order to tackle the challenges of reverse culture shock.  

Speak about the experience

When returning back home after an assignment, in order to avoid reverse culture shock, employees are encouraged to speak about their experience with people who are interested in finding out what their day-to-day life consisted of abroad. By seeking out the opportunity to speak about the experience, employees are able to truly express their feelings. There may be some form of expatriate group that the repat can attend in order to re-engage with the community feel that they may have had in their host country on assignment. Reconnecting with and sharing their experiences can help to reduce the compartmentalisation of experience.

Avoiding reverse culture shock can be difficult, but with the relevant support, individuals that have returned home from spending time abroad can be confident that they can handle the change. Businesses that provide their employees with the relevant support and advice can help ensure that their employees remain in touch with reality. For more information, get in touch with a member of our expert team on 020 8963 2513, today.

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