Friday, May 22, 2009

Repatriation (Part 2)

I know, 2 posts in 1 week! I must be feeling better!! :-)

A friend from Brussels is repatriating also and as I read her blog I am reminded of some of the experiences and observations I had when I arrived back home. Here are a few:

  • Overwhelmed by choices. I was very limited in the things I bought in Brussels (mostly food) mainly because I could not read the labels or understand what things were because it was all so very different than what I bought at home. Being back, I find myself overwhelmed at the many varieties there are in the supermarkets! I vividly remember a trip to Target my first week back and noticed a whole aisle (A WHOLE AISLE) dedicated to 100 Calorie items. When I left for Brussels, there were only a few 100 Calorie items. See...
    Now on to electronics. I bought new TVs, a refridgerator, picked out appliances for my house, etc. I am really not a techy person, but I wanted to make sure I got what I needed and something that would last. Wow! That day I spent at Best Buy was a very very loooooonnngggg day! Just too many choices. I finally had to completely depend on the person helping me to decide what was best! We will see in about 5 years if something has to be replaced!

    And, then there are all the breads, salad dressings, cereals...the list goes on and on! My friend's example was bread and I can certainly relate. She mentioned there are choices between thin slice, thick slice, extra fiber, extra protein, honey wheat, oatmeal, white, rich in Omega 3, low cholesterol, extra oatmeal, 9 grain, 5 grain, buy one get one free, and wheat. She ended up sticking her hand out and choosing. The one she touched which was Grains & More, 19g of whole grains, Good source of fiber, Hearty multi-grain bread, Double Protein, A blend of wheat and rice protein, 14g of protein in 2 slices, Heart healthy! Whew!

  • Southern hospitality! Gosh, I really missed that! Customer service everywhere, people asking how you are doing and genuinely meaning it! And even asking you if you need help in stores...I know!! Gasp!!

  • We had to bag our own groceries at the grocery stores in Brussels. And, you had to pay for your bags if you did not bring your own (you also paid to use a cart, but that is another story). So, being back home and having someone else bag my groceries is a nice luxury...and they even take them to your car! I know!!! What have I done to deserve that?!?! But, it also brings up the fact that we are a very wasteful society and all the plastic bags are really bad for the environment. I will definitely be using my reusable grocery bags I bought in Brussels the next time I go to the grocery store!

  • I love being back at home and run into people I know! That is such a treat! The first time it happened was the day after I arrived home. My friend, Ginnie, had her baby the day I got home (at almost the exact time I landed...yes, I love that baby for waiting on Aunt Tippa!). I digress! I went to the hospital to see her the next day and on my out, I saw some friends walking in! It made me smile to just happen to run into someone I knew! I was so used to going places around Brussels and elsewhere and never seeing anyone I knew, better yet, not being able to understand the conversations going on around me! I felt like I lived in a bubble!

    I am sure there are tons more examples, so I will write about them as I remember them!

    Do you spot anything here funny?I thought this was sooooo funny when I spotted it in Target!! Brussels is stalking me! I wanted to also share a few pics from around my house. The ones below are not the best as the lighting was horrible. I hope to get more later as I continue to make it a home!

    Maxie loving the sun and our new patio and backyard! My living room! From the living room looking into the dining room!My friend, Cindy, and I went shopping a couple of weeks ago...and let's just say, we SHOPPED! Trying to load it all into her car! We had soooo much fun finding stuff for my house!Yep, even the back seat was full! Look at this! What a day!

  • Monday, May 18, 2009

    Repatriation (Part 1)

    It has been 9 weeks since I have been home! My goodness, how time flies! I am starting to feel better and back to my normal self. A friend from Brussels recommended that I get a couple of books regarding repatriating. I received the books earlier last week and started reading through the first one. And, guess what??!! I am not going crazy! What I am feeling is completely normal! Whew, that is a relief!

    One of the books is titled, The Art of Coming Home. It confirmed to me that coming home is much harder than leaving. I know that sounds so weird and I did not want to believe it at first, but it is so true. Books have been written about preparing to leave on an expat assignment (I read them ALL) and companies pay to help with the transition, but not many books are written on coming home nor do companies invest in helping with the adjustment process. Isn't that interesting? One study found that 64% of returnees experienced significant "culture shock" upon repatriation. 64%...that is amazing and kinda scary!

    One person commented about repatriating: "The euphoria was short-lived, however. Within a few weeks I found myself, unexpectedly, in the depths of despair instead of at the anticipated peak of ecstasy. Instead of enjoying the company of old friends and neighbors, I couldn't seem to find anything to talk to them about. Instead of enjoying driving on wide and familiar roads, I was petrified because I often found myself on the wrong side of them. Instead of enjoying supermarket shopping, I was overwhelmed by the quantity and the variety of items available."

    Amen, sister!

    This is called "reverse culture shock".

    The book talks about the meaning of home. It is familiar places, familiar people, routines and predictable patterns of interaction. All three of these make possible most of the feelings we associate with home - security, understanding, trust, safety, and belonging. Then, how does the place returnees come back to measure to these criteria?

    Familiar Places - One of the first things you notice about coming home is that things are not familiar anymore. Things have changed: new streets, new traffic lights, new shopping centers, new neighborhoods, new restaurants. Places have closed, moved, renamed. You cannot come back to a city and rely on your instincts to get from one place to another because so much has changed. It may be home, but you are going to have to learn how to get around all over again.

    Familiar People - You think that the people you know have not changed while you were gone and will not regard you as having changed either. As you expect, therefore, you will essentially have the same relationships with these people that you had before you went away. You assume that time stopped while you were abroad. The truth is, people have changed and you have changed. Some have died, married, divorced, become parents, moved away, or changed jobs.

    YEP, that is right!

    Home may include many familiar faces, but it contains very few familiar people. You won't be able to pick up where you have left off with loved ones or friends and not take any of the relationships for granted. You won't be able to relax entirely and be yourself, trusting your instincts, nor will they be able to relax and be themselves around you. You will all have to come to know each other again.

    Routines and Predictable Interactions - A routine is anything you do without thinking, without paying conscious attention to your actions or words; indeed, in its purest form a routine is something you do while you are paying conscious attention to something else. Because of routines, the predictability of so much of what you do, you feel in control much of the time and able to relax; you can trust your instincts and be yourself. Routines also enhance your sense of well-being and security and thereby contribute to feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem.

    Coming home, you are surrounded once again by unfamiliar places and people (albeit much to your surprise) and with much the same effect as when you went abroad; routines were interrupted and you have to create new ones before you can feel settled. In the meantime, nothing feels normal or comes naturally. The most mundane tasks once again require your conscious attention, and most of your interactions with people, even close friends and loved ones, will be somewhat awkward and uncomfortable, at least until you determine how much they have changed and what they may think about the new you. You are continually on edge, not able to trust your instincts and just be yourself.

    Although I am not too far into the book yet, I can already tell a difference in my attitude. I am feeling better and getting to know the new me better and not getting too freaked out as much as I used to!

    Writing about my experiences in dealing with the repatriation is helping me understand the process and it also helps you all to know that I am not going crazy...I am just going through "reverse culture shock"!!

    Exciting stuff, uh?!

    I hope you enjoy coming along with this new adventure too!

    Friday, May 1, 2009


    FYI - This is going to be a jumbled mess!

    I had lunch with some special friends this week and they asked how I was doing since being home. I started answering them, and as I spoke, things started to make sense and I could actually verbalize how I am feeling. This is something I have not been able to do before when people would ask how I was doing.

    You see, since I got home on March 14th, I really have not stopped. Yes, I have slept, eaten, been lazy, shopped, cleaned, organized, read, worked, etc...but my brain has not stopped. I feel like my life is a bit out of control and I am doing everything I can to keep my head above water.

    It is the transition back to my life in the US that is really difficult. You would think that it would be easy to get back into the swing of things since it is my home turf. But, I have found that not to be the case. Since I have been home, things in my life are turned upside down and not in order. I am overwhelmed and I am not focused. You would think it would be easy to fix (just get it done, right?!), but because everything is so different and nothing is easy, I just shut down and cannot get anything together or accomplished.

    All the 'new' stuff is my life is not helping. I have a new type of job (same department, just auditing different things), new management, new team, new director, new expectations, new house, new car, new stuff in the house...and the list goes on and on. So, I am not on top of my game. I cannot catch up and feel like I know what is going on. For example, I am a manual when I get something new, I usually read the owner's manual to learn about what this particular item is all about. Well, I have not read the first manual which makes everything hard. Nothing is easy to figure out. I cannot just turn something and it start working right. Or if something is wrong and not working and since I have no clue about it, I cannot fix it easily. I just want everything to work as it is suppose to and be easy. Nothing is easy right now. Nothing. NOTHING.

    Thank God for my family. They have been there for me since the first day I arrived. Helping with anything and everything that I needed. I could not be where I am today without their help.

    The first couple of weeks when I got home, my head was spinning. I could not sit and look at my computer screen without feeling really dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. I honestly thought something was seriously wrong with me and even talked to my doctor about it. This has since gotten better and I can actually sit at a computer screen without the need to panic thinking I was dying.

    I just want to be able to focus, to be on top of my game and to be 'me' again.

    Yes, patience is not my best virtue.