Expat Repatriation

When it’s time to leave Germany, Austria or Switzerland

Expat Checklist 1 > Expat Checklist 2 > Expat Checklist 3 (Repatriation)

RE-ENTRY: When Expats Become Repats

“Most people find coming home to be a more difficult transition than going abroad.” – Craig Storti, author of The Art of Coming Home

What do expats need to know when it’s time to return home or move on to a new expat location? Planning should begin long before that day arrives!

Flying first class

Flying home in First Class – with a glass of wine – can help ease the pain, but what does repatriation really mean for you and your family?
PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

Most expats fail to seriously consider the impact the end of their assignment can have. Why worry about returning home? After all, it’s home, isn’t it? Well, actually it may not be by the time you go back.

Even if you won’t be going home, but to another expat location, there are many things you need to do to make the transition from Germany, Austria or Switzerland a smooth one. We have a helpful checklist of what you need to do and when you need to do it.

Also see this GW BOOK: Germany for Beginners: The German Way Expat Guidebook

The following items are designed to help make your expat transition much easier.


Eight things repats need to do before leaving

  1. Give written notice to your landlord
    The laws and regulations vary, but you may be required to give at least four to six months notice to the landlord of your house or apartment. If you do not plan this well, you could end up paying rent even after you leave. Make sure you know the legal requirements where you live. If you own your home or condo (Eigentumswohnung), you need to make arrangements for its sale or renting it out.
  2. Deregister
    All the German-speaking countries require deregistration when you move away. You had to register when you moved in, so now you have to deregister before you move out. (The good news: You can often do this easily online.) In some cases, you may need a copy of your deregistration for canceling services and utilities, the next item…
    SEE: Other Red Tape
  3. Cancel your services and utilities
    German utilities are notorious for requiring long advance notice for the termination of service and final meter readings, in some cases as much as 90 days before service termination. You’ll want to give notice to your electric, gas, telephone and cable providers far ahead of your move. Don’t forget newspaper, magazine or DVD subscriptions. They also require advance written notice if you don’t want to be surprised by bills after you leave!
  4. Sell it or ship it
    You now have some decisions to make about all that stuff you’ve accumulated during your time in Europe. Some things you’ll definitely want to take with you, but many things are best left behind. Heavy furniture and electrical appliances are good candidates for selling or giving away, but you’ll have to decide. Then you’ll want to get estimates from several moving/shipping companies. Depending on which one of the many international moving companies you select, the price and reliability will vary. Be sure to do your research before you make your selection.
  5. Banking
    Many expats prefer to keep their German banking account(s) even after they have left the country. In any event, it’s a good idea to keep your account at least for several months after you leave, in order to pay last-minute expenses and take care of other financial matters. – Don’t forget to make sure you have good banking options when you return home or move to a new assignment.
    SEE > Money and Banking
  6. School Matters
    If you have children in school or pre-school, some schools require advance notice (in order to avoid extra charges) and sometimes even an “exit interview” with the parents. Do you need to order transcripts?
    SEE > Schools and Education and The German School System
  7. Social Security and/or Health Insurance
    If you are enrolled in the German public health system and/or retirement system, you need to decide whether you want to continue that or not. Expats leaving Germany can – if eligible – continue to pay into the German system. If you have private health insurance, you also need to consider your options before you leave Germany.
  8. Your Job
    Expats returning from Germany need to plan ahead for their next job offer. One experienced international manager points out that “…the expat leaves the home office as an employee and comes back… a candidate.”[1] Many an expat has returned from an overseas assignment only to discover the company doesn’t know where to place him/her now. By planning ahead, you can avoid that problem.

1. Lawrence Laier, with over 25 years of experience in human resources. See link below.


Re-entry shock and reverse culture shock
Once you have returned home, or arrived in a new place, you may be surprised by what some have termed the “repatriation blues” or “re-entry shock” – a form of reverse culture shock. It may be helpful to be aware of the following:

  1. You can’t go home again – Especially if you’ve been gone for a long period, home may be more like a foreign country for you. You’ve become used to Germany and its culture over the years, and you’ve been changed by the experience. But the folks back home haven’t had your experience. You need to treat your return like you did your expat assignment: It’s an adventure!
  2. World views – Most expats come to have a very international view of the world that their friends and family back home may not share. You could even be accused of being unpatriotic if you’re not careful about what you say. Try to adjust your attitude to reflect varying points of view – and don’t keep talking about how great or better it was in Europe (or wherever), even if it was.
  3. Stay in touch – Try not to lose contact with your friends and colleagues back in Europe. The internet makes that easier than ever today. It can ease the pain to Skype or email with the people you miss. You can also keep up with the German media on the web. You can still get the news you’re likely never to see or hear in North America.


Some helpful reading for repats or repats-to-be

Book cover

An expat book by Craig Storti.


Some helpful blog posts for repats or repats-to-be

MORE > Expat Checklist 1 (Before You Go)
MORE > Expat Checklist 2 (After You’re There)

Expat Connections


  • Going Home Again – A job-related checklist for easing repatriation – from expatexchange.com.

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