Many Foreign Service families agree that returning to the US can be the hardest move of all. Certainly the internet has gone a long way towards shortening the distance between countries and cultures and makes it much easier to stay in touch with friends and family. Amazon and internet shopping have helped families maintain access to foods and products from home.
Nevertheless, traveling the world, attending small overseas schools, living among a community of expats and transient people and having unique, and often exotic-sounding experiences, can set you apart from the typical American and make it challenging to fit in and find your niche.
The whole family can sometimes feel the strain of returning. Due to the relative expense of living here, parents might feel the added pressure to work, and are probably responsible for more household chores than they did overseas. Families in DC no longer have a GSO to help arrange the telephone, electricity and gas service. Moreover, Foreign Service families are spread out over a large area of DC, Maryland and Virginia so the tight-knit community you may have enjoyed overseas is decentralized here. Schools here are usually a lot larger and many of the kids seem to have known each other a long time. Finding your way in what is supposed to be your home country can be confusing, fatiguing, frustrating and maybe even depressing.
Go easy on yourself and know that you're not alone.
Resources - State Dept. support
Guidance and Resources for Returning to Washington, DC
Video: 'Making the Transition - the Hardest Post' plus additional Guidance and Resources
Resources - Books
These fascinating vignettes show Foreign Service personnel in action, heading off problems with other nations, reconciling differences, negotiating workable agreements, defusing conflicts, and generally steering Americans out of harm's way while at the same time coping with the myriad unexpected yet often deeply fulfilling aspects of overseas living.
Just like a space shuttle struggles and strains to re-enter the earth's atmosphere, so those returning from living overseas can find themselves confused and in a state of panic at coming home. While people anticipate that going overseas will require major changes in their lifestyles and thinking, few anticipate the difficulties they will face upon return. Intended to aid the re-entry process, this encouraging, and insightful book deals with these important subjects:
adapting to the passport culture, identifying areas of potential struggle, dealing with the emotional challenges, finding a new job, a new place to live, learning the social mores
returning is not coming home it is leaving home, facilitating a smooth transition for those on the receiving end. Expatriates, missionaries, mission executives, mission pastors, mission communities, and supporters interested in easing the re-entry experience will benefit greatly from this book.