Going Back Home After Experiencing Northern California Can Be Hard for Expats

Expats can never really go back home. Those who do go home take a while to adjust. But in most cases, an expat will do anything to stay, especially if he has experienced life in Northern California. What happens is that even before their contract ends, expats talk to their employers or global mobility managers to find out if they can renegotiate their contract which involves extending their working visa. Just as a backup, they have also lined up interviews to work for other companies. And in Silicon Valley, it’s not impossible to get those transfers, because most of the companies here can afford to sponsor foreign workers.

So why do expats like living in either Silicon Valley or San Francisco? The pay is good. It’s in the six-figure range for many with the software engineering background. The employers are also trailblazing new thinking in technology. They’re innovating and starting new verticals all the time. It’s exciting for those in the tech field, although the area also attracts many healthcare professionals who get paid handsomely as well.

Expats also like the diversity in Northern California. Predominant foreign workers come from China and India. Even better, they don’t just work for senior executives. They themselves are hired for the top positions which makes staying certainly enticing.

Some expats end up in New York, but the work culture is vastly different. Employees in Northern California have a more a laid-back relaxed work atmosphere. People of different colors and ethnicities don’t see their differences. The work is the focus, not the politics, if politics is even discussed at all. Many New Yorkers are affected by national politics, because it’s where the mainstream media live. In Silicon Valley, the news is about how Microsoft bought Github. And the most you’ll hear is a groan — and then it’s back to software testing.

This vibe is not lost on foreign talents. Imagine simply working to the best of your abilities without the usual office politics prevalent in many big cities. Quality of life here means working without the unnecessary distractions. No wonder companies here excel and innovate.

New York affords so many tempting entertainment options concentrated at night, while Northern California’s charms can wait till the weekend — hikes, bikes, climbs, outdoor fun.

For those who get used to it, there’s no going back home, whether they are from India or China. And those who go back to their companies in their country of origin stay less than two years because they end up looking for expatriate work again, which Ernst & Young discovered as far back as 2013. In their survey back then, it learned that employees bolt within the first two years after a global assignment ended.

They did come back home but after their experience abroad, it was never the same. Their world back home became too small for their expanded mindset. And if one worked at Google or Facebook, where one is given challenging tasks that influence the world, their world back home ends up being too small in comparison.

The repatriation process is hard to swallow for expats. Going home appears to many expats to be a move backwards where ideas and concepts may have less chances of getting funded or or adapted, because there are constraints in budget and resources.

As a result, some companies have their talents connect with global mobility managers frequently, so they can continue to travel for work–or have options in terms of finding new locations and places to explore.

Culture shock happens too often to expats when they come home. Companies are learning from it and they are creating social networks and providing cultural training for employees to make the hard adjustments, whether they are coming home for good or staying put in Northern California.