Can you be a ‘cured’ expat or do you dream of doing it again?

Adjusting to life overseas is difficult.  Adjusting to life back at home is also difficult.  While both rewarding experiences, significant energy and time is invested in both and neither adjustment is for people who crave their comfort zone.

Jumping for the first time is easy – ignorance is often bliss.

But what makes a person jump a second, even a third time when they know just how much they will need to be physically and emotionally invested both overseas and when they eventually decide to return home?

Recently I spoke with Ben Deguara who after living in Sydney for a few years after a four-year London stint, decided to jump again for a life in Hong Kong.  For Ben, the second stint as an expat was a decision made with considerable thought and experience under his belt.

So what are the considerations repatriates like Ben think about when deciding whether to jump again?  Here is my top list from conversations I have had over the last decade.

  1. Life stage

Ageing parents and family commitments are amongst the top five reasons given by expats for making the return ‘home’. However often these commitments change and former expats can once again find themselves free to consider new offshore opportunities.

Conversely, for many who head overseas early in their life / career, they reach a juncture and a sense of needing to come home to ‘settle down’ or ‘get serious’ about life on home soil. The realisation that this is a natural transition and one that requires intentional planning and a well-established network (regardless of geography) can come as a surprise. For many there is a realisation that they aren’t ready to ‘settle down’ or if they do, doing it here without the network of support is more challenging than thought.

  1. Originally coming home for the wrong reasons

“I’ll come home because I will see my family more.” Often this is the case, but sometimes people return home ‘thinking’ their life will end up one way, when in reality it doesn’t work like this.

For those returning to a different city or state to where their family is based, they can all too easily find themselves beaten by the distance or financial costs involved with traveling within Australia. As a result they don’t see their family as often as they thought or in the way they had imagined.

“I’ll come home now so I don’t ‘miss out’ out on local career opportunities” For many expats who have grown their careers overseas in larger markets the reality of just how small the Australian employment landscape is, is completely under-estimated. The size, scale and complexity of business challenge is significantly less and navigating what is often a highly networked market leads many to realise that the opportunities overseas are often just as good if not better.

“I was just ready for a change, so I figured I’d head home” It’s inevitable that we will all experience moments in our life where we crave something different. However thinking a move will ‘fix’ or address the need for something different without considering exactly what it is that is being craved is fraught with challenge. 

  1. Lifestyle

There is no doubt that we are blessed with beaches, sunshine and an extraordinary quality of life here in Australia. Many repatriates however under-estimate the stimulation, sense of adventure and community that an expatriate lifestyle affords them.

The richness and diversity of being in a new country and experiencing different cultures – and sharing it with a community of fellow expats – can be seriously addictive.

Australia is also very expensive. For many the financial reward that comes with overseas opportunities is far more than what is offered here at ‘home’ and affords many with a greater sense of independence and freedom.

  1. The opportunity is just ‘too good’ to not go again / the realisation that career is a bigger driver than anticipated

Given that many returning expats are motivated to return for reasons other than their career, it can come as a surprise just how much their career shapes their identity and sense of purpose. When new career opportunities emerge that offer greater scope, challenge and growth, many multi-boomerangers are motivated to consider a second, third, fourth move abroad – especially when they are armed with the knowledge and experience of what makes repatriation successful.

  1. Preparing for the eventual return to Australia

Knowing how you can prepare for life back in Australia while you are overseas can give many people comfort to leave.  Multi-boomerangers talk about the importance of maintaining their contacts while they are overseas.  Not only do they find ways to come home regularly, they are both strategic and intentional about how they engage with their network when they are visiting. Many multi-boomerangers have also found great benefit in establishing (formal and informal) mentorship relationships to keep abreast of market announcements, trends and events.