29 April 2021

Results survey n°4 : Return from expatriation

We often forget that the return from expatriation is a step in the expatriation process. And even more so during the Covid period. This is what this fourth survey of the 2021 expatriation barometer demonstrates. Here are a few key elements.

Often considered more difficult than leaving , the return phase is not always well anticipated or prepared. In 2020, many returns were made in haste following border closures and travel restrictions. These travel bans still persist and at a time of great expatriate crossings, Expat Lab takes stock of the issue of returning from expatriation.

Are more people returning because of the pandemic ? Is it easier to leave than to return ? What should we expect and should we prepare in advance ?

Are we waiting for huge returns ? 

When in 2020, a large number of people were stranded following the closure of borders to limit the spread of the virus, the shock was brutal for all. An implicit contract underlies expatriation: "to be able to return whenever you want". When "the shortage becomes difficult to manage, expatriation is called into question".

The results are clear : 42% of expatriates would like to return sooner, "I have three children studying in France whom I haven't seen in 18 months. Among them, 12% consider returning only part of the family "the children are in e-learning 9 months out of 10 here".

This geographical celibacy is not desired but imposed by an external context. "The coronavirus crisis was an additional ordeal that had to be overcome in addition to the return of a husband who was still not home and on the other side of the world.

The return of the whole family is also subject to the professional situation "return desired but impossible without losing my job".

Is it more difficult to return in 2021 ?

45% of them have returned to their country of origin in the last 12 months. Even if 70% of them chose to return, they also consider that it is imposed by the situation. "We returned in 2 months, it was a dizzying experience". Others did not have time to prepare for it: "Returning from Shanghai in February 2020 because of Covid without knowing that I would never be able to go back. Borders closed even to residents, blocked in France while my husband stayed behind to work. He could only join me in France in August 2020. 6 months involuntarily separated".

The return is already a difficult stage of expatriation. This feeling is even stronger in 2021.

Fifty-nine percent believe that it is easier to leave than to return. And 22% think that both are at the same level. They know that difficulties await them upon return for 67% of them.

So what to expect and what to prepare for ?

Yes, they answered 91%. A return is a transition that must be prepared in advance. And 71% believe that it would be preferable to be accompanied during this phase of international mobility. "When you leave, we carry your bags, when you return, you are a problem that we don't know what to do with".

What are the main difficulties encountered in general and during a pandemic ?

Social life is difficult, even very difficult for 54% of them. Between the successive confinements and the restrictions in force, it is difficult to resume a social life that will allow them to integrate upon their return. The complexity of administrative procedures is also a reason for difficulty for 56% of them.

As for those who are looking for a job, the process is "worse than they imagined" and difficult or very difficult for 63% of them. With an atypical profile, the feeling that expatriation is not valued (37%) and a tense job search, professional integration is a difficult experience. Added to this is the feeling of isolation and loneliness of those who no longer feel "in tune" with the work organization in their country of origin for 43% of them.

Fortunately, some aspects are easier to live with : the living environment (75%), family life (69%) and children's schooling (60%).

  • " The only interest of the return for us is to have found the family. Even if you return home, it is a new expatriation and you have to start all over again..."
  • " It is more difficult to be a foreigner at home".
  • "I had heard so much about the difficulty of returning that I did a lot of work in the months before our return to anticipate everything ".

Returning is compared to a new expatriation : the major difference is that one can feel like a "foreigner" at home and lose the feeling of "belonging to a community of expatriates or French people living abroad".

These elements constitute a brief summary of the data shared with our barometer board.

To go further and work on concrete solutions to facilitate the return of your employees and their families, contact us.

The members of the 2021 barometer board 

Together, we care for international talents

Sabine Garnier-Posez

After her studies and a professional career in economics and accounting, Sabine moved with her family, first to Morocco, Brazil, Germany and now in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Sabine is part of Expat Communication as Project Manager of the Expatriation Barometer.

Our articles on this topic