Returning Aussie expats feel like strangers in their own home

Aussie repats share stories of ‘reverse culture shock’ and lost careers in new podcast series

As a reported 400,000 Australian expats come home or prepare to as a result of COVID-19, a group of repats are warning of the impact of ‘reverse culture shock’ and of the local rejection of their international experience.

‘Boomeranging – from expat to repat’ has launched on iTunes and features six interviews with professional Australians who have returned from long periods living and working overseas.

Each interview focuses on how the expat navigated coming home and challenges with both life and career fitting back into life in Australia.

Host Margot Andersen, founder of the Insync Network, said one of the biggest contributors to ‘reverse culture’ shock was the rejection from local companies and recruiters many returning expats experienced when trying to find a new job.

“It’s common for returning expats to feel like their international experience doesn’t count locally,” Margot said.

“One of my podcast guests was told her five years senior HR experience in New York wasn’t relevant in Melbourne and she was considered ‘unrepresentable’.

“Another guest said his local networks skipped entirely over his European experience and kept referencing his last job and role in Australia before he left – 12 years earlier!”

As well as career, the podcast explores how returning expats navigate life back in Australia, often people returning with new partners and families.

“It takes time to re-adjust. Our guests have taken anywhere from three months to two years.

“And all report that in those early months, it is easy to feel like a stranger in your hometown.”

Margot said the aim of the podcast was to provide advice and a friendly ear to Australians returning home or considering the move.

“Our guests are all now settled in life and career – but probably not how they envisaged when they first arrived.  All have had to pivot – often changing career direction and expectations.

“With so many Aussies returning home at the moment, many before they probably expected, we hope sharing stories and tips will help Aussie re-adjust quicker and more importantly find a like-minded network,” Margot said.

Episode 1 – Jane Hollman left her coveted role as the head of HR for the AFL to pursue her dream of living in New York.  After five years in leadership positions for American Express and MasterCard she came home to Melbourne. She started contracting as a result of struggling results with local recruiters and now has created her own successful consulting business.

Episode 2 – Jan McGrath thought she was going to Hong Kong for two years and 18 years later she returned to Sydney from a life in Asia, the UK and the US.  She found her two decades in financial services of no interest to the big banks – but of big interest to the fintech start up community.

Episode 3 – Bryce Corbett was finishing up a two-year working visa as a journalist in UK when he applied for a job in Paris he never thought he would get. He returned to Australia 10 years later with a wife, two kids and a dangerous obsession with cheese.  He describes the first few months of the return, after 12 European winters, like ‘walking around in a daze’.

Episode 4 – Ben Degura was just settling back in Australia after four years in the UK, when he got an offer to move to Hong Kong.  Six years later he was able to tackle his return with  the experience of doing it once before.

Episode 5 – Mandy Mirghashini returned home after over a decade in the Hague and Prague with her Aussie son who had picked up an American accent from his international schooling and no memory of living in Australia.  She tells a story of coming back with the company that took her overseas.

Episode 6 –  Glen Falting landed in Brisbane after nearly twenty years in Japan, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore.  He couldn’t translate his legal career in a financial services hub – so he and his wife have pivoted and created a new path.