I read an interesting article that talked about “expat culture shock” once the expat worker returns to their home country. It mentioned that the returnee can have feelings that can “include disorientation, confusion, anxiety and even fear” and that “re-entry to a country of origin can actually be more stressful than outward transition”.
At first I scoffed that didn’t happen to me/us, but I soon realised that as a Boomerang Expat I certainly have and I’m sure PK has had those feeling in the short time since being back.
Our biggest worry of course, like everyone, was money. The business closure and repatriation hit us hard in the hip pocket – Paul’s description is always “the GDP of a small country”. Perth’s cost of living was unrealistically inflated as a result of cashed up (but no longer) consumers but would take some time before the prices would be back to what was affordable for the non-mining consumer. We soon realised that what we could get by on in Mauritius would not be enough. Anxiety and fear were regular visitors in our table discussions of how we would manage.
The employment situation was also not good with Perth’s unemployment increasing nearly 25% over the year compared to 13%, 12% and 5% for Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. This was as a direct result of the downturn in mining. Paul’s concern trying to get back into that industry was quite valid and the flow of rejections was disheartening and demoralising. For a while it looked like he would have to take a role that would send him back overseas to a country that no-one in their right mind would want to go to. My employment or lack of was no less demoralising when you can’t even get an interview for a front desk receptionist job let alone anything like what you have been doing for the past 5 years…rejected for being over qualified, not qualified, no experience in Australia, and my personal favourite, “very confident and strong”. The fall back position for me was teaching but however much I loved my 20+ years shaping and moulding young people, going back would have eroded all the positivity I felt about my previous career.
We spent a lot of time together at home in the beginning, in part what we were comfortable doing, in part a money-saving strategy and in part due to the disenfranchised and disorientated feeling we had being in the company of friends we had had in Perth prior to our adventure westward. We probably did make the mistake in thinking that people would be as interested in our overseas experience as we were in telling it. Not that these friends were negative or discouraging – far from it. In fact, one friend of mine was very happy to pick up exactly where we had left off five years before. But that was the problem, I was different and so our friendship couldn’t nor would be the same. I made a decision to go out and meet new people beginning with a women’s networking event, Power of Circles, that lead to my joining BookChats which has continued to be a regular anticipated and inspiring event.
In our quest to quickly reestablish ourselves to feel less like refugees and more like residents, we began by making a plan, found some great budgeting tools, set some targets and got ourselves back on track. Finally gaining a job in mining and some relief teaching helped the finances and the self-esteem, connecting and reconnecting to new friends, some long time friends and some of Paul’s work colleagues, taking advantage of the range of free events put on by groups like WASO helped these Boomerangs come back.