Happy International Women's Day!
Repatriating is often a far more difficult transition than even the hardest expatriate adjustment. Things have changed, people don’t seem to understand you, you aren’t necessarily part of the expat culture and so aren’t sure where to find your people, and the culture shock is more surprising, because it’s often so unexpected. One thing that repatriates grapple with is identity. Unsurprisingly, we have many facets to our identities, we are complex beings. Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), Nextpat looks at gender identity and how we can adapt to some of the challenges women face during repatriation. 2019’s Theme for IWD is #BalanceforBetter – a theme that Nextpat identifies with as an advocate for balance in all facets of life.
Expat studies demonstrate conclusively that personality traits, primarily emotional stability, are the lead indicator for better adjustments. Ostensibly an expatriate with strong emotional stability is likely to bring that same personality to the repatriation experience easing the transition. However, it can still be difficult to manage our expectations when returning home. Frustration at gender norms upon returning will result in likely one of two responses, either:
Why is my home country not as liberal as the country I’m returning from?
Relief that the home country is more liberal, but perhaps frustration over time that it’s not as liberal as you remembered/romanticized.
If the country’s gender norms, interactions, and rights are less equal than you expected or remembered, this can provide a significant challenge, as you re-establish your identity within a new context. Many women find that they are torn over whether they should be advocates or focus on “fitting in” or letting things slide in order to create a more positive atmosphere. As in all things, balance is key, and finding what works for you at a moment is critical.
To the idea of balance, or duality, this TED talk – When to Take a Stand and When to Let it Go strikes a humorous balance. It reminds us that we have a choice in each situation and that sometimes it’s hard to make a choice. WARNING: While not graphic, the speaker is a gay advocate and does speak about her partner. She also discusses being mistaken for the wrong identity and how to balance protecting her identity as aunt and her niece in an embarrassing situation while also standing up for what she believes in. This is what we face daily as we navigate our numerous identities and the small and large insults that we perhaps overlooked, forgot, or wouldn’t have seen in the same light before we moved that challenge our newly developed or evolving identity.