How expats cope with losing their identity

After years away on a foreign posting, coming ‘home’ can be overwhelming and isolating. Here’s how many people cope with fitting back in.

Last week, we identified an important, but often overlooked problem of being a long-term expat: how a foreign posting can affect your sense of identity, belonging and home. It prompted many of you to share your own enlightening and often surprising experiences of moving around the globe.

“The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real”

In fact, so many of you identified with our writer’s dilemma that we thought we would both share your experiences and highlight your best tips when it comes to fitting in once you return “home” after a long stint abroad.

No place like home

In a Facebook comment, Wendy Skroch dubbed the phenomenon “reverse culture shock”. “There is a form of homelessness that goes with all this,” she wrote. “The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real.”

Many people identified with the disheartening struggle to plant roots again upon returning home. Pete Jones, who left the UK in 2000 for a life in Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, wrote: “I do enjoy visiting Blighty for a few days and then feel the need to leave. It is not home anymore!”

“Honestly, I don’t know where home is anymore”

“I don’t think I’ll ever feel Swiss but I do enjoy life here,” he continued. “Honestly, I don’t know where home is anymore.”

You’ve changed

For some, it was the reaction from the people who were supposedly closest to them that made returning a lonely and difficult experience. “Returning home to the US after 26 years in Australia was quite a shock, wrote Bruce Felix. “Being the new guy in what was supposedly ‘home’ has been difficult at times.”