26 May, 2018 – While many people in the diaspora contemplate returning to the homeland to live, there is not so much information out there about the realities from those who did. We are delighted to welcome Joe Orovic to the core TCN team after a few occasional articles. Joe will be joining us in earnest from Monday, and he starts with his thoughts on the returning diaspora experience, having swapped the glamour of New York City for the Dalmatian paradise of the island of Iz.
Funny word, especially to an immigrant. Reaches beyond the familiar cozy metaphor, or a sense of belonging; it can evoke warmth balanced with pain. Home hurts for those who never wanted to leave theirs.
Those who escaped famine, conflict, or tyranny then constructed a new existence in a foreign land.
Most of Croatia’s diaspora lists one of those reasons for leaving this paradise.
Dire economics led to empty bellies. Despotism limited freedoms. Shelling threatened lives. Under better terms, fuller wallet and safer skies, perhaps some would have stayed.
Some may still fancy giving life here a second go. Why not? Croatia has entered the EU; the most recent economic recession is a distant memory. Democratic habits have progressed, at times at a halting pace.
Even complaints have been diluted; from deserted island gulags and mortars, people now complain about petty bureaucracy and corruption.
Demographic trends suggest Croatia’s quite literally running out of Croats, but maintaining its potential.
You may be among the diaspora considering a return “home”. To live and work, or perhaps your kids suggested giving it a try.
All good decisions require a balance sheet of pros and cons. Well, here are the top five cons to moving back, and how to handle them.
You will be declared mentally insane behind your back
This diagnosis, by even the best-intentioned of relatives and loved ones, is well-meaning. The headlines do, in fact, sound too dire. Young folks are leaving in droves. Economic competitiveness remains paltry and the investment climate seems awful.
A bit of perspective cures this perception. Consider the source of the criticism; those most likely harangued by 70-hour work weeks in a windowless cubicle, trapped in a rat-wheel existence lacking afternoon macchiatos and weekends on the shore.
Be “insane” enough to jump off the rat wheel.
People will welcome you home, but be wary of your intentions
The modern theory of Croatian demographics states the best leave, only to be replaced by the worst. If at all.
Your return, as a member of the diaspora, will be suspect. Chatter will include various theories about your reasons for returning, none positive.
Unless the chatterbox in question has some influence over your business or personal life, let it go. If someone asks “Why did you come back?”, smile and say, “Because you don’t know how good you have it here.”
You will lead a double life
This may rank among the hardest aspects of returning home: you’re never fully here. Much as you may try to break ties with your life back in Canada, the US, UK or Australia, some matters remain overseas.
Family, business, friends and all the sentimental issues rank high and are expected. But you may find your complaints cross into the mundane: stiff toilet paper; an inability to find a proper and fair butcher; and a strong distaste for Pelinkovac.
Remember the cardinal rule: Don’t compare. Moving back doesn’t mean universal improvement.
Every bump along the way might trigger some doubt
This one sneaks up on you: some unforeseen calamity you never anticipated lays your pristine plans to waste. Everything seemingly goes to hell. And for a brief moment, you consider the ease with which you could’ve solve this problem overseas.
This is normal. This is fair. But use the frustration and doubt to demand more of yourself and those stopping your progress.
Each minor victory will feel like a massive triumph
A decade or so away isn’t a quick sojourn, it’s a complete revolution. And like every immigrant experience, even the most minor of victories can feel like a mastery of life in this wily country.
“Returning” diaspora, especially those who have spent a prolonged period overseas, tend to forget they are, in a sense, newly-arrived immigrants. Again.
Never forget, even though you were born here, you’re still the new guy in town.