For many Irish people living abroad Christmas is a great milestone. Tickets are booked well in advance to avoid soaring prices. The build-up involves excitement, the prospects of meeting family, of where we will go, who we will see. Once we have reached our destination, we are rarely disappointed, friends, family, festivities, warmth and merrymaking re-establishing a sense of connection to where we are from.
On the return flights, emotions are in another place, empty feelings of loneliness, all kinds of questions arise. Should we just go ahead and give it a shot?
Returning for good and “fitting back in” seems to be a lengthy process, that involves multi-faceted challenges. Many returning emigrants can have a hard time finding a job and a place to live, but often the biggest challenge they face is the emotional readjustment.
Initially in the idealised phase we are enthusiastic, excited, have boundless energy, disbelief that we finally bit the bullet, and have come home. If lucky enough to have secured employment, we wrestle to understand ever evolving red tape. We begin accommodation hunting, to discover that the media were not exaggerating the housing crisis. Next up, difficulties opening a new bank account, car insurance, dealing with electricity, phone bundles…the list goes on
It doesn’t take long for us to realise that our Christmas trip expectations of what day to day life would be like back in Ireland, are falling short.
Even though we considered ourselves to be “Irish away”, our communication style may have changed, we may have become more direct, a bit rusty on efficient “Irish communication”, we may find ourselves irritated, or at odds with things we found so comforting on our trips home.
We may experience “reverse culture shock”, similar to when we first left home and had to readjust in order to integrate into a new culture abroad. We slowly realise a lot has changed in our absence, but many things have actually stayed the same, this can seem confusing. Even if we have visited regularly its challenging to adjust to day-to-day life.
We can feel strangely lonely, and cut off in our own country. With all the practical challenges of resettling. We may not have had time to go out and rebuild a social life. We can find it difficult to slip back into a circle of friends.
We can feel the need to silence our stories and experiences abroad. Even close friends and family seem to grow quickly disinterested in our stories from abroad. We can move into a resentful state of mind, feeling that our own country doesn’t have a place for us. Often at this stage we start to miss things and people in our other home. We can feel disheartened and isolated, “neither here nor there”. We also may question, our choice to return, regret our decision, worry that things are not going to work out, and that we may have given up a better lifestyle.
Finding a space, where you can talk to a psychotherapist about your struggles and frustrations in this adjustment process, can help to work through and gain clarity, in terms of how you would like to move forward.