The expat re-entry blues has a bad reputation. It ruins your last few days of a visit home, and then proceeds to stalk you as you readjust to your “normal” life abroad.
What if I told you that the expat re-entry blues can actually be a gift?
In part two of this two-part series, I´ll shift away from the four reasons you get expat re-entry blues to sharing effective strategies to deal with it. The best part is you can use them to make the most of your life abroad.
Hesitation Is a Sign of Growth
If just the thought of returning to your life abroad feels like jumping back into icy cold water, you know the expat re-entry blues can be no fun. Despite how difficult making the leap may be, your hesitation is a sign of growth. You´ve come a long way since the days of focusing on superficial differences, like the way locals dress, what foods are common, and how people greet one another in your new home. You´re wiser now and have gone deeper into the culture. You now have a more sophisticated understanding of how time is viewed, what is considered “private” and how communication styles differ back home.
Armed with this cultural specific knowledge, now you know what you´re getting into. You know that there are meaningful differences you need to navigate in your everyday life.
This is living an intercultural life. This is flexing your intercultural muscles.
You´re getting stronger and maintaining a life abroad can be hard work.
What you might not realize, though, is that in the process of doing so, you become a hero. Don´t believe me? Let me explain.
You Are On a Hero´s Journey
When you understand the change process, you will begin to see how heroic you really are. Dr. Martha Beck – author of numerous New York Times bestsellers and renowned life coach – uses a four-square change model to explain what happens when we decide to embark on the journey of making the most of our lives. This applies to those of us who have chosen to live abroad.
Here is a liberal translation of what Dr. Beck´s change cycle  looks like when applied to the classic “move abroad and become an expat” model.
So if you are in Square Three – your life may very well be like the classic hero´s tale. You set out to do something (i.e. make a life abroad). You´ve run into trouble. You´ve struggled.
You´re tired. You´re bruised. You are in the middle of slaying a dragon.
Every hero needs a break.
Of course, after taking a break it´s hard to jump back into this heroic story, especially if you are the protagonist.
The key to getting back on track, though, is to rekindle your sense of adventure.
Dig down for your motivation.
Remember how motivated you were when you saw your life abroad as an adventure? Seeking out adventure is the key to taking that first small step forward to making the most of your life abroad. To keep learning about the language, the people and places around you. To keep developing your skills. Without it we run the risk of staying in the place of “knowing enough” about our local context, or even worse “knowing it all.”
When you live abroad and your motivation fades, so does the learning. So does the adventure. So does joy. I want you to reclaim your happiness by regaining your spirit of adventure.
Uncover What Is Working
When you are stuck in the expat re-entry blues, it is important to trick yourself (and your brain) out of the funk. In part one of this series, you learned how the re-entry blues dances with a natural brain bias to focus on the negative. In this case, it´s time to re-establish balance and focus on what is working.
Don´t let this bias hold you back from seeing the positive.
After you´ve unpacked and rested up, make a list of what is going right.
Go ahead – take out a notebook and write at the top of the page “25 Things That Are Right about My Life Abroad.” Now hop to it.
You read that right. 25 things. I don´t care if you have to start grasping for ideas – the point is to force yourself (and your stubborn brain) to look at what is right in the world around you.
If you can´t think of enough, then ask a friend to brainstorm with you. Think about the services or opportunities that are available that weren´t before you moved there. Or simply add interesting things you´d really like to do in your region. Just get something good down on paper.
In fact, you´ll be doing yourself two favors because focusing on the positive is a strategy commonly used by resilient people , and we all know how important resiliency is when navigating expat life.
If, for some reason, you are so unhappy with your current life abroad that you cannot manage to put even a few things on the list, then it´s time for an SOS strategy. What is within your control? What can you do to make the best out of it until, say, you leave? What can you do to make the biggest difference in your happiness, right now?
Cure the Home Hangover
Sometimes the reason for our expat re-entry blues is simply because we miss the loved ones we just said good-bye to, the conveniences of life we just enjoyed, or simply the comfort of the familiar.
In the final video of this special video series, I´ll share with you a surefire remedy for the Home Hangover. Watch this to learn what´s behind this three-step cure:
- Give yourself time to recuperate
- Consume in moderation
- Use the transition time to clear your head.
Take Back Control
Expat Blues is a gift. It comes in the form of a red flag waving wildly to get your attention. It is calling you to start taking action in your life. Start making the most of your expat life by reigniting your spark for adventure.
When it comes down to it, battling the expat re-entry blues means getting more of your needs met throughout the whole year. This includes your need to feel comfortable in your life abroad, your need to feel connected to friends and family both where you live and in other parts of the world, and your interest in feeling good about the way you are spending your time and energy.
If you see any of the signs of expat re-entry blues mentioned in this two-part series, it’s the perfect time to start doing more to get your needs met. In the comments section below, tell me which strategies help you climb out of the re-entry blues. And don´t forget – if you want someone by your side during your hero´s journey, contact me!
I look forward to hearing from you!
 This change cycle can be found in Dr. Martha Beck´s book Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. See page 245.
 For more, check out Secrets of Resilient People by John Lees
Dayna Klein says
nice points Sundae!!
Looks like you were in Colorado?? I like the points you are bringing up…all helpful to all expats!!
Hi Dayna – Thanks for the feedback. You are close regarding mountains, but I was in Switzerland. 🙂