We Really Need To Talk About Repatriation

A few years ago, I let readers in on a deep secret of mine in a post titled The Courage to Blog Personally About Love, Family and Marriage in China:

If there’s anyone who knows how scary it is to put yourself out there, it’s me. After all, there was a time in my blogging history when I quit big time. Yes, you read that right – I quit my blog. There was a time when I lost the confidence to write, and couldn’t find the courage in myself to overcome it….

I kept blogging for a few years into late 2005, when my husband and I had a major life change. We moved to the US together to pursue our dreams.

That’s when my blog completely tanked.

The stress of transitioning back into America, along with helping my husband through it, weighed upon my harder than I ever imagined. Well, one of the things nobody ever tells you about blogging is that it takes energy to be courageous, to write and publish your writing publicly. And because all of my energy was sucked away into this extraordinary life transition, I stopped blogging.

I was reflecting on this recently because I’ve started to notice I’m not alone in this phenomenon. That in fact I’ve witnessed a number of bloggers over the years who struggle to write after repatriation. For some, their blogs go silent, as mine did after moving to America. Others might grapple with writer’s block and a host of other foes determined to keep them from putting their thoughts down.

But the bottom line is, when you’ve started to blog from a foreign country and you move back to your own country, there’s a good chance you might find it tough to blog.

So why do I bring this up? Because I wish I hadn’t stopped blogging after repatriation. Because in retrospect, I now realize that the experience of repatriation, particularly with a foreign spouse, is rife with potential for learning and sharing. Because if I hadn’t stopped blogging, I might have continued an important conversation about repatriation. I might have helped other people navigate the repatriation experience – and do better than I did.

I wonder, is repatriation and its aftermath something we don’t like to talk about? Is it the unsexy sequel to living abroad? The movie reel we’d rather hide away from everyone, after filling the pages of our blogs and social media pages with glossy photos from destinations our friends and family only dream of? My sense is that sometimes we shy away from these conversations in more public forums – such as blogs – when in reality these experiences are so valuable and worth writing about.

After all, as I once wrote in my post 7 Challenges after Moving from China to America with your Chinese Spouse, “It was only after I moved to America with my Chinese husband that I finally learned the truth — that the most challenging things happen after you set foot in American soil.”

I’m excited to see repatriation groups surface on WeChat, and also grateful for forums such as Candle For Love (where Americans engaged or married to Chinese nationals can discuss repatriation and culture shock/reverse culture shock).

Here’s hoping more of us will continue the conversation online.

Jocelyn Eikenburg
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  1. Oh my Jocelyn, I never thought about it but you’ve actually hit on something here. When I lived in China interesting things happened every single day. It was all great blog content. Then I moved back to my native country and I thought, “what do I have to write about now???” I have continued to blog but I notice my posts here in the US are of a different nature. My posts here are about the very simple beauty of ordinary things.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about. As always.

    1. Thank you for the comment Melanie — I’m glad the post resonated with you! BTW, I think it’s fantastic you’ve continued to blog, as you’ve shared with us so many important experiences, from raising your kids in America to dealing with your divorce. Thank you for keeping it real, as always.

  2. I wrote about reverse culture shock after hearing an interview by Sebastian Junger on his book, “Tribe, on Homecoming and Belonging.” He compared it to PTSD. He said that although only 10% of US military personnel engaged in combat, 50% suffered from PTSD. While they were in the military, they had their buddies and their important work and duties. When they repatriated, they had no big, close circle of friends. Everyone was busy with their own lives. He said returning Peace Corps volunteers have a high rate of depression.

    Here’s the link to my post on Reverse Culture Shock and PTSD: http://nickichenwrites.com/wordpress/culture/reverse-culture-shock-ptsd/

    1. Thank you for sharing Nicki. Those statistics are fascinating. I had no idea Peace Corps volunteers had such a high rate of depression after returning to their home countries.

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