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Repat Christmas Feels Weird! International Career Couple's View


Repatriation Feels Weird

Being a repatriate this Christmas feels a little strange. We are not an international career couple anymore but it still feels like we are. The holidays come off the back of a lot of change - change of country, change of house and area of Scotland, change of school for the boys, new sports teams for all, new acquaintances, change of job for Iain, change of family circumstances for us with Iain working away for most of the week…it’s been a lot of new. There has been a lot of 'new' and 'different' for everyone in the family. It has struck me that the boys seem to be feeling the differences the most now because the run up to Christmas has been different – no visitors from overseas, no finishing school early, no packing suitcases to travel and no Christmas carols in the desert. I’m remembering that culture shock goes both ways, and it is easy to forget that it has a real impact, as a repatriate as well as when you expatriate, for all members of your household. It has been a lot of different.

Seek the Opportunities

It can be easy to get bogged down in what is different, but different offers a lot of opportunity. ‘New’ and ‘different’ has meant being able to be close when family needs us, the stability that we wanted, a home in which we can all grow, new skills, a revived appreciation for our home country, a sense of community, finding new ways to keep relationships alive and working from collaboration in our careers.

This repatriation has given an opportunity to re-assess our career plans

together. It has required us to find a new way of working and an agreement that for the moment we are both ‘taking a hit’ with Iain working away and me holding the fort at home during the week. Without collaboration, compromise and support this would not be possible. So, what are we doing through the holidays…we’re revisiting our shared vision board. An international career couple's vision board is one that can be used to underpin decisions.

Revisit your Shared Vision Using ICC Podcast Learnings

To aide our process, we will be mindful of learnings from the 2022 podcasts and I wanted to share some of these with you.

  • creating a shared vision is important – understanding and discussing your own dreams and ambitions helps to meld the two together so you can work from a shared vision.

  • understanding your own and shared values enables decision making for the whole couple/family unit and can help with consistency in planning and decision making regardless of the culture and circumstances around you.

  • working out what you want individually and then advocating this within and out with your partnership is vital. After all, how can people know what you want if you do not know and if you do not tell them.

  • reframing your perspective gives a new outlook – think about yourselves as 'side by side' rather than one 'trailing' or 'accompanying' the other. Think about how you collaborate rather than compromise.

  • companies play their part by hearing your needs as an expat couple and adjusting their offerings accordingly. It is important to keep the dialogue open with them and it is important to gain their support.

  • play with timelines – rather than deciding for the immediate and 2/3-year future. What about after that? What decisions could be taken now that move you towards your shared vision?

  • luck (and timing) has its part to play when managing two careers and you can think about how to create our own luck.

  • useful mindsets are to be willing to make sacrifices, respect each other’s careers, seek out opportunities and embrace risk.

  • remember that various factors can contribute to expat career transitions – visibility with the company, a desired promotion, finances...think about what’s on your radar and what are your blind spots?

  • keep in mind that things change and evolve - you do not always have to transition together for it to work out in the end.

  • taking time to ‘engineer’ it is time well spent.

  • think about what is in your control and what you can influence.

  • knowing yourself, working to your strengths and asking for assistance is key.

  • sometimes a couple needs outside support, and it is ok to ask for help.

  • in conversations slow down, stop second guessing each other, talk early, consider your partner as an ally and be wary of key behaviours that can negatively impact your conversations: Content, Criticism, ​Stonewalling and Defensiveness

It’s a lot of learning for one year from real life expats and experts in the field.

A key learning is to make dedicated time to talk. The holidays, with a new year ahead, are a time when you can plan for a successful, meaningful conversation. I hope these hints and tips are helpful!

There is more information in the podcast episodes found on my website or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

If you want to explore how coaching could support you as an individual or a couple then contact me for a free introductory call.

Wherever you are in the world, I am wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful time over the holiday season and a 2023 full of adventures.

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