Visiting your home country, maybe for the first time since you moved overseas, and how to plan it so you don’t have a nervous breakdown or fall out with everyone!
For many expats this is the first opportunity you’ve had to visit your home country since the world turned upside down: since it shut down due to the COVID pandemic. Now the world is rebooting and you’re planning a visit to your home country – maybe for the first time since you moved abroad and will see your families and friends for the first time in about three years.
Sharing tips for success from seasoned expats.
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Welcome aboard the Expatability Chat podcast, helping expat parents navigate moving and living overseas with their families. With Carole Hallett Mobbs, expat life mentor and consultant and founder of Expatchild.com.
I'm Carole, your resident expat expert, and I'm here to help you live the expat life you dream about and deserve. If you're planning a move abroad, or if you're already living your expat life, or even if you're planning a move back home, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I'll offer you experienced insight, sensible advice and practical information, along with some sugar-free, no bullshit tips and tricks to help you on your way so that you and your children can live your expat experience to the full. There are so many layers to this expat life that you need to know about, but often you don't know what you need to know. And that's what I aim to help you with, because knowledge is power and I want you to have the best expat experience you possibly can. So let's get straight into today's episode. Today I'm going to talk about visiting your home country, maybe for the very first time since you moved, and how to plan it so that you don't have a nervous breakdown or fall out with all your friends and family. For many expats, this is the first opportunity that they've had to visit their home country since the world turned upside down.
Since it shut down due to the Pandemic. Now the world is rebooting and the expats are planning a visit to their home country, some for the first time since they moved abroad, and some will see their friends and family for the first time in about three years. I do realise that me publishing this episode right now is probably a bit too late for most of you planning a trip back home due to my own personal lack of planning and stuff, but let's just skip over that for now, please, thank you. I hope it will help you either understand what's happening or help you plan for future trips. And to be fair, half the world's population is in the winter season right now, so not having their long summer holidays at the moment, so at least it will be valid for them. Anyway, enough of my waffling, let's just get down to it. First, I want to talk about your first visit home after relocating overseas. So that first visit back to your home country can raise a load of emotions and is often approached with mixed feelings. While you obviously look forward to seeing your family and friends again, you may also worry that it will throw your decision to move into doubt.
This is especially true if you have been finding it hard to settle in your new home country. And this is something I've definitely been hearing from those who braved a move abroad during the Pandemic. If this does apply to you, then just take note of your feelings and understand that we are still living in really weird times and don't make any hasty decisions. Sit with your emotions a while and just see what transpires. The next bit really applies to those who have recently moved overseas and plan to visit home during those long school holidays. Don't go home too soon. Sorry if you've already booked your flight or already there, I don't mean you right now, but this episode will obviously always be available for future new expats. It's recommended that you try not to return to your home country too soon after relocating overseas. While it usually does remind you that your decision to live abroad was completely the right one, for some people, it has the opposite effect. Particularly if you are struggling to adapt to your new country. You may well find that your first trip back home makes you feel even more homesick.
I have actually heard of a couple of occasions where one half of a couple absolutely refused to get back onto the plane to their new country, which, as you can imagine well, just imagine. My recommendation is not to visit home for at least six months after you've moved abroad, preferably longer. It's better to try to establish yourself more deeply in your new country first, and this is true. Even if you are extremely happy in your new home, just leave it much longer. If you are having difficulty settling down, I want to talk about how to minimise the homesickness potential. If this is something that you think may happen to you, perhaps make that first visit home during an unpleasant time of year. So, for example, if you've moved to a warm country from the UK, you may find it easier to remember why you moved away in the first place, if you go and visit Britain in the winter, a short, gloomy day and damp, cold weather can make it very easy to get back on that plane again and head towards warmer climbs. It will help you appreciate your new home more. And for all of you, make sure that you have something fun to look forward to when you get back to your new country.
Plan some trips or days out and organise to have visitors come to stay with you so you have something positive and exciting to plan for now. Is that trip back home really a holiday? I personally would say no. Many expats don't consider those trips back home as holidays. They certainly aren't holidays or vacations in the usual relaxing, exploring sense. Sometimes we refer to them as the guilt trips. Sorry, naughty but true. They can often be felt as a duty trip. A tour of duty and tour is the relevant word here. For some reason, many people expect you to visit them rather than them come to wherever you happen to be. There can be a lot of expectation and pressure for you to trek around the country, visiting each and every friend and relative, leaving you very little time for yourself. It sometimes seems to be borne out of a kind of resentment that you have the audacity to move abroad in the first place. But this is something I'm going to explore in a future episode. As I said, this will not be a relaxing holiday. It's living out of a suitcase and staying with friends or relatives for a day or two here and there and spending a lot of time on the road.
Be prepared for your trips back to be an exhausting schedule, but you do have options. They may not suit all family setups, but please don't feel that you have to please everyone all the time. Consider if you would normally see each and every member of your fully extended family every year. Or are you the kind of family that sees each other occasionally at what I call hatches, matches and dispatches that's christenings, weddings and funerals? If the latter, then you certainly don't need to visit everyone on your one trip back, so planning is vital. Before your visit, decide what your most important goals of this trip are and remember, there will be other trips in future. Decide how much socialising you're prepared to do and who you can reasonably meet up with and let them know your schedule. How hectic do you want it to be? I know some people who get a real thrill from seeing tonnes and tonnes of people when they go back home and then they come back to their new country to relax. Personally, I would find staying in a different person's house each night exhausting beyond belief. So what are your main goals of this particular trip?
Are they to see your parents? Are they to see your best friend, your siblings? Or to see as many of your family and friends as possible? Are you perhaps hoping to visit a certain town, such as where you went to university or where you lived before moving? Do your children want to visit a certain place, meet their friends from school or kindergarten, or perhaps go to a certain attraction in your home country? You cannot do it all, so please prioritise. The trick is to decide what you want from your trip back home and plan for that. It's easy to get sucked into the whole people pleasing thing. You can't say no to Auntie Jean. It's a bit like planning a wedding when everybody else gets involved in deciding who you need to invite, who you need to see. So be strong and decide before you go. Now, where are you going to stay when you're over there? If you've moved overseas, and I presume your home is either sold or rented out, so you can't really stay there. If you don't have somewhere to stay, then the most important consideration of all is where you're going to base yourself while there.
If you're going to stay with relatives or friends, take a moment to consider the impact of this on you and your family. It can end up being a bit claustrophobic or overwhelming when you're always staying at somebody else's house, so you may want to combine it with the old night in a hotel for a bit of freedom. One fabulous option used by many seasoned experts is to base yourself in one place and persuade everyone to come to you. You can either rent a house or a caravan somewhere or a wonderful new invention, since I was an expat, Airbnb. So you stay there and have a bit of a holiday, while inviting your friends and family to visit you at your temporary abode. Obviously this works even better if it's based near them, as it will be easier for you to visit and you won't have to live out of your suitcases and sleep on sofas and in spare rooms. Alternatively, a range of family get together at a central location, such as a big restaurant or something, and everybody then travels to meet up in one place at one time. This saves hours travelling around, visiting people one by one, and you all get to have a great party as well.
Whichever option you choose location wise, tell everyone where and when you'll be there and let them come to you. You can then obviously set aside additional time to see anyone special on a one to one basis, otherwise you may spend the entire time speeding about from one visit to another, which is really exhausting. I just want to point out some of the things that you'll notice when you're in your home country for this short visit. You'll notice that it's the same but different. It's the same place, obviously, but it's slightly different from how you remember. You'll notice a certain comfort in knowing how to get around how things are done, the familiarity, the homeliness, and yet you will also notice the differences. New buildings, old buildings that have now gone. It's home, but it's also not quite home. It can feel really quite surreal at times. Often like time hasn't passed at all. The same goes for people too. Depending on how long ago you last saw them, you may notice some big changes, especially after COVID, which has had a devastating effect on many, many people. You will discover that many people will just look the same as if you'd only seen them last month.
Others, though, may have aged visibly, and I can promise you, it really can be quite shocking. I just wanted to prepare you for that. It's absolutely fascinating to see your kids catching up with their friends too. They have an innate sense of just being in the present, so they're much more likely to simply just pick up where they left off without any sense of real time passing. They'll talk about whatever they're into right now gaming, sports schools, favourite music, current pin ups. Do we still call them pin ups? Crushes, that's the word. And just general kids stuff. It's really about the here and now to them and perhaps something we could do more of ourselves. When my daughter was small, she always liked to go back to visit her kindergarten, which was quite a trek from where we stayed at our base camp. But seeing her favourite teachers and the joy on everyone's faces was well worth the trip. She also regularly went back to her boarding school to catch up with friends and teachers in person. So catching up with schools and school friends may be something that you'd like to factor into your trips back home, if relevant.
One of the first things I always did on my visits home was to head to the supermarket to gorge on my favourite treats that I actually hadn't realised that I'd missed. And I hate to admit it, but clotted cream was one of them. Really not good for the figure, but, hey, who cares? You can only get clotted cream for real in the UK. You may also want to stock up on certain things to take back home while you can. There's just something about expats and food. And as I mentioned just now, the other suggestion I have is to always have something to look forward to on your return to your new country. This is especially true if you've not been living overseas that long and this is your first trip home. Putting it plainly, consider it planning for a reason to look forward to going back. Most probably the reality of your country hasn't really set in yet and it can be very tempting to want to stay put where you're at home, where you feel familiarity. It can also be an emotional time too. When it comes to going back, you're saying goodbye to friends and family again and that really sucks.
So you do have to have something to look forward to, whether it is an event, a new project to get stuck into, or a course to do. Perhaps make sure you put it in place so that you have something to look forward to. Obviously, it takes some arranging to make sure you get to see all the people you wish to see, so it's well worth planning out in advance. Perhaps there are certain friends who are better to visit but not to stay over with. But because of geography, you won't get to see somebody if they live too far away. It gets really tricky and chances are you will offend somebody. Like I said, it's a bit like the whole wedding invitation thing. Bear in mind that lots of people will want to catch up with you, so you will need to prioritise who you want to see. And don't feel bad that you don't get to see everybody. The point of a trip home isn't to run yourself ragged. Ultimately, it comes down to doing what is best for you and for your family. It's worth recognising that when you live overseas. One of the consequences is that your children will have a different relationship with their grandparents and other relations.
Not worse, just different. More distant relatives tend to become even more distant. Relationships change. People you think would want to see you regularly may decide that it's just too much bother to travel to you, which is of course hurtful, but it does happen. Others who you wouldn't expect to be able to visit manage to pull out all the stops in order to do so. And then of course, there are the distant friends who suddenly become your best mate, as you can provide them with a cheap holiday in your new country. Being an expat certainly does show you who your real friends and true family are. Trips back home are expensive and hard work, and if you have too many of them in your calendar, that means proper holidays elsewhere will be fewer and shorter, or even nonexistent. However, it is good for your children to build a relationship with their family and to understand where they're from. But please just try to balance it all out with allowing yourself time for a true holiday, exploring new places in the world closer to your new country. So use your trips back home to refresh your connections with family and friends.
Visit favourite places, eat favourite foods and reminisce about fun times. Create lots of new memories, particularly with your children and especially if you will all be moving back home at some point in the future. Oh, and do please make sure to plan something fun for when you're back in your new country, as you may feel a bit low and exhausted when you get there. Enjoy seeing your friends and family and everything your home country has to offer. Don't overthink it too much and just have a fantastic time. I wish you all the best and I'll catch you again soon, as ever. Thank you so much for being here with me today. I hope you found this episode useful and interesting. If you found this podcast helpful, I'd be really grateful if you could subscribe, share and give me a review. It really does help other people who may need to know about this stuff to find it and I really, really do appreciate it. In the show notes that accompany this episode, you'll find information about my website, about my downloads, I've got lists, I've got ebooks, I've got master classes, all sorts and these will help you with every step of your expatting journey.
You'll also find details about how you can work with me, one to one if you wish, so that you can get personal advice tailored for your life and your move abroad. Because everybody is different. And of course, you can find me on your favourite social media, I've got a presence on most of them. Tag me, message me, tell your friends about me and I look forward to learning more about you and your move overseas. Please do get in touch. Please.
Check out expatchild.com for more free information and resources. Don't forget to join me next time for another episode.
Until then, goodbye.