How to make a success of returning home

both for yourself and for your family

Returning after several years in development service stirs up a whole lot of emotions – ranging from sadness at leaving to joyful anticipation of re-joining family and friends at home. It takes time to settle down - again. And there are a lot of things to think about, organise, and sort out – not only for the professionals themselves, but also for their partners and any children who have accompanied them.

Nearly 60 percent of the professionals returned from service with accompanying family members and often with children. Almost half of the returnees live in a multinational partnership and about 45 percent of the children also have a different citizenship.

For many people, finding work is a major difficulty – both for professionals themselves and for their partners. Having to leave the place of deployment and homesickness for the host culture are major factors as well. And many people are also plagued by a surprising feeling of foreignness in their new former home.

This indicates that development service is a formative personal experience for professionals. Almost 40 percent of respondents rated both their own settling in and that of their partner and children as "very stressful" or "somewhat stressful”.

The composition of a returnee’s household has no influence on the degree of stress that they experience: They experience similar challenges, whether or not they have a family. And there is no difference between men and women in this respect.

Only age plays something of a role. Professionals who were between 31 and 50 years old when they began their service feel more burdened by their return than those in other age groups.

Whether or not professionals have been able to acclimate to going abroad and returning several times seems to make no difference. Those who have been deployed more than once as development workers describe the challenges of returning in much the same terms as those who have undertaken development service only once.