For those who live abroad…and want to go back

I have a deep respect for those who took the leap of faith and went back to their home country after many years – if not decades – abroad. I am particularly referring to those who saw opportunities to step up, make a change and “go back”, after the political changes that struck the Arab region. It takes a lot of courage and self awareness to stop pretending you can be more useful abroad and start a more effective contribution on the ground. Hearing my friends who have done it , some of them giving up in the midst of the process, it can be a very stressful endeavor, full of challenges, doubts and disappointments. Nothing seems to really prepare you for this, and it is very different from changing offices within your company as an “expat” in Mumbai or going for a fun exchange program in Bologna.
What I have noticed however is the total lack of knowledge capital, lessons learned, and support system for this segment of usually highly driven professionals. We do find thousands of courses and studies on how to start your own business, how to move in a new country, how to deal with cultural shock, and similarly difficult experiences, but nothing really targeted for this segment – let’s call them “the Returners” for the sake of simplicity.
What makes a Returner successful? What are the common features? the ideal phase or time? the success factors? what are the common pitfalls? Lessons learned? What makes a come back to a home country successful vs unsuccessful? Are there mentors who have done it before and happy to help? There are definitely a large overlap between the leap of faith of starting your own company and the one of going back to your home country after a couple of decades abroad (despite the apparent belief that it should be doable and easy). Why is there almost nothing done, prepared and taught about the latter? It involves many emotional, social, and cultural issues – internal conflicts, reverse cultural shocks,  waste of energy – that are worth addressing, hopefully resulting in concrete groups and trainings 100% dedicated to this, a ” toolkit for people with the ambition to return”, instead of letting each one of us – wannabe “Returners” – figuring it out on our own.
As with stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation, mere tax and legal initiatives with some generic talks are not sufficient. For now, it is either your are forced to go back or you do it  voluntarily but in a very clumsy way, probably picking up the wrong time, the wrong steps and recreating the wheel all over again.  I encourage diaspora networks to look at this matter more frontally and I am of course looking forward to helping.

Comments 1

  • I had these nostalgic moments, that have to do with a deep concern of contributing effectively in my home country, in education and culture, to make the children of tomorrow more able than us to develop self-awaness and make it a must that once they’ll be in our situation, being formed abroad, they’ll have already in their plan to come back. To create what can make the next generation of migrants want to come back, making it clear in their mind that moving away is not THE solution, as moving away from third-world countries, is definitely overrated.
    But once i’m back in my country, not sure what to do, having in mind that it’s just holidays, I feel like I don’t have my place there anymore, and as you said there must be training and toolkits that make us, the wannabe returners, sound less weird when we express our desire to come back and make a change!
    When you go back, you only see people who want to flee away, so not knowing if u’re right, and not having any efficient tools and systems to make you stay, you just leave.
    I want to thank you for sharing this and for calling diaspora Networks to examine the issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.