The Art of Coming Home

Our friendly UPS driver just dropped 25 more copies of Craig Storti’s practical book, The Art of Coming Home, on my front porch.  For the 8th year in a row I look forward to giving this book to a group of people preparing to return home to their respective countries in Asia after living and working in the U.S. for 7 months. This book has become a cornerstone of our final cultural integration sessions together in this particular corporate training program.

For me this book, and it’s clear explanation of the typical stages of “reverse culture-shock,” falls into the (rather large) category of “things that sure would have been helpful if they’d existed when I needed them!”  Things that I can’t wait to share with other people, so they can avoid the ignorance and bypass some of the mistakes I made along the way.

For example, while we were getting ready to move home from Holland in 1995 (before the first edition of this book was ever published), a friend invited me to meet for coffee once we were settled into our old house in Portland, and talk about how my “re-entry” was going. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: “Let’s meet for coffee sometime when you’re back in Portland. I’d love to hear how your re-entry is going.”

Me: “My what?”

Her: “Re-entry.”

Me: “What’s that?”

Her: “You know, ‘repatriation.’ Your adjustment to life back in the U.S.”

Me: “Hmmm, well, OK, I’d love to have coffee” (thinking at the same time that I couldn’t imagine having something interesting to talk about—after all, how hard could it be to move back into the same house in the same neighborhood and go back to work at the same place I knew so well?)

Well, my friend is a cross-cultural consultant and has lived overseas herself, so of course she knew some things that I didn’t know. I soon learned that “re-entry” and “reverse culture-shock” were very real experiences, and we had plenty to talk about over coffee!

It’s because of those conversations, and my own re-adjustment experiences, that I now love giving Storti’s book to people and helping them create simple strategies for anticipating and dealing with their own re-entry experiences.

In some cases I simply give the book as a gift, but with this particular group from Asia each year we actually get to do this in a formal workshop setting. We have time to work together to outline plans for leave-taking and departure, helping to solidify their new personal and professional relationships, and say their “good-byes” during the last few weeks in the U.S.

They have time to brainstorm together, to help each other prepare for the inevitable challenges of reverse culture shock, and anticipate ways to deal with the doubt, anxiety, and feelings of being an outsider that often settle in once the initial, joyful honeymoon stage has faded away (and friends and family members have grown tired of looking at their pictures and hearing stories about life in the U.S).

Finally, we talk openly and hopefully about what readjustment might look like, and which aspects of the U.S. experience they would really like to integrate into their future lives back home. They envision ways they might achieve more balance in their lives, spend more time with their families, keep up with the exercise programs they started in the U.S., or incorporate some American management practices into their daily work.

I’ve always believed that this was time well-spent, but had no idea how truly meaningful these sessions were until I crossed paths with several graduates of this program during a trip through Asia last Spring. In each country, several people pulled me aside and told me something about their experiences adjusting to life back home. They all talked about the book, and about our discussions during those final workshop sessions, and they thanked me for both.

They’ve also become sort of an informal pool of mentors for each subsequent group of people who come home from this program. Like my friend did for me so many years ago, they meet for coffee or tea and listen to each others’ stories and share their experiences and ideas for making the reentry experience less of a struggle and more of an art.

I think Craig Storti would be proud…









  1. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have been thinking about this very issue lately, and am glad to know of this book as a resource!

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book, Ann Marie. I’m not sure if I could live in England now. It has changed so much since we left in 1999 that I would definitely need help with my ‘re-enrty.’

  3. Beautifully written. I was engrossed reading and this has nothing to do with my life! Very nice Ann Marie.

  4. this article shows that being a readers can be a writer. You inspired me to write my own blog. I really like your site. :)

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