“I felt like the world at home in Australia hadn’t changed but, I had,” says Claire Pales, of her return journey from Hong Kong to Melbourne. “No one else was any different to before but I noticed a difference between them and me. It’s interesting that I don’t feel this as much anymore, and I’m much prouder of my expat journey than I was when I first came back.”  

In 2011, a friend of Claire’s brought a cyber security leadership role that was available in Hong Kong to her attention. In looking for her next career move after baby #2, the idea piqued her interest. Even though she wasn’t searching for an overseas role, the opportunity found her. She applied for the role and landed the job, and so set out on her journey with her young family to Hong Kong.  

The move to Hong Kong meant a significant professional leap for Claire – she progressed through a series of levels of the corporate ladder from a Manager in Australia to Head of Cyber Security in Hong Kong with oversight for teams in four countries. Claire became a recognised leader and award-winning strategist with a career that went from strength to strength.  

There were subtleties of living abroad that were also challenging to navigate. Not only being away from family but working a job with long hours and living with a nanny, which Claire and her family were not unaccustomed to. There was also very little support for stay-at-home dads in the city to connect and catch up, and in the early days Claire grappled adjusting to a new culture.  

After three and a half incredible years abroad, it was a personal decision – as it is for many repatriates – to return home to Australia. After a marriage separation and having a terribly ill parent, Claire decided to make the move home.  

However, anchored to those reasons behind the decision to return, there were many positives that came with Claire’s arrival in Australia. First and foremost, being close to family and friends was a major factor in making the move – but it was also ease of communication, wide-open spaces for the children and reduced health concerns in general made life easier –integral nuances in navigating everyday life.  

Re-entry into Australia was not as simple as expected. “When I came home, I lost my career profile and had to start my network again,” says Claire. “I struggled to find work because recruiters didn’t know what to do with my Asian experience. As a leader, they didn’t know how to pitch me to companies. In the end, a contact of mine referred me for a role which was a godsend.”  

“I had changed a lot,” says Claire of how she felt upon returning home. “Having been through so many professional and personal life changes, I had grown and become more self-aware. I looked at the world differently. I’m very glad for the expat experience but also glad I made the move home. No regrets.”