Many thanks to Kellie Nolan McCartney for sharing her valuable insights in this guest post. Kellie is a public relations professional with 25-years’ experience helping corporations effectively communicate with multi-national audiences. Kellie and her photographer husband Bryon Paul McCartney moved back to the US at the end of January 2012.
After 11.5 years living in Zurich, Switzerland, I’m adjusting to life as a repat under the sunny skies of southwest Florida. Back in home in the U.S. — but an all-new location to me — it’s interesting to see how the skills I needed to cope and succeed as an expat are equally important as I settle into this new chapter of life.
I am reminded of those first few months of expat life and what it took to get through each new day. Of course, there is less confusion to cope with as a repat simply because of the language, but there is still a learning curve to (re)adjust to a culture change and the frustrations that go with being in an unfamiliar environment.
The word “skills” might be misleading — it’s more about attitude. Skills come into play with putting the right attitude to work in each situation.
Accepting that you no longer know it all. Face it, you need to ask for help, admit you and the way you do things could be wrong in your new environment. For me, humility demands a sense of humor and a willingness to laugh at myself, even as I wipe the tears of frustration from my eyes. Ask for help and smile.
Taking a genuine interest in learning about your new home. It’s helpful for me to really seek to understand the “why” and continually remind myself that different is just that: Different. It doesn’t mean worse or better. Asking lots of questions — and listening to the answers — is helping me adjust to the many new aspects of my new home. Be interested and learn.
Adopting the motto: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If you haven’t exercised that kind of persistence before, expat life will put you to the test. What used to be simple and clear, suddenly takes on complexities I couldn’t have imagined. What once worked, no longer applies. I take a step back, take another approach, try again. Adapt and succeed.
Maybe these things are helpful anytime we make a move, whether it’s to the other side of town or the other side of the Atlantic. While the repat life may present fewer or different challenges than the expat life, this set of “soft skills” is helping me keep a positive outlook on this side of the expat/repat experience.