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mid-week Connect: 7/6/23 ~ Cultural Repatriation and Rematriation


It’s July already, so let’s enjoy another Word Connect today. We do this once each month to remind ourselves that words do totally connect us cross-culturally and in so many other ways.* This topic will fit right into the Applications component of our Global SKILLs PROACTive Framework, since applying the dynamics of the two related words we’ll explore to one specific cultural context gives us a broader insight into preserving cultural connections.**

Today’s word pair is repatriate (a familiar term, especially for us expats and global nomads) and rematriate (which I came across for the first time recently). Check out their definitions below (in LINKs). The difference I want to focus on that repatriation means a literal return to one’s homeland while rematriation signifies a return to an ancestral way of life including being connected with one’s natural and spiritual surroundings.

What I want to focus on today is something which always struck me when I lived in Africa: the fact that people who had spent their lives living and working far away from their homeland dreamed and often spoke of returning there in their old age, and indeed many did just that when they retired. That intentional return would fall into the repatriation category and usually involved moving from urban back to rural environments.

What I like about the deeper meaning connections that rematriation brings to this concept can be illustrated by what my dear friend Aida did, when she retired after working for our family for over 20 years. Aida had worked for us initially when we all lived in the village in her Jola homeland, and then moved with us to the city and lived there for many years. Once we decided to base our work back in the US and we repatriated, Aida stayed on briefly in the city but then went back to the village. She settled into the house she was able to build using savings from her years of faithful work for us, soon thereafter became a grandmother, and today, almost 20 years later, is the Matriarch of her extended family (including her son, his 2 wives and 9 grand children) who live together in her compound.

As I continue to interact regularly with Aida by WhatsApp and we share our experiences as we age (the adventures of our parenting and grandparenting, as well as pursuing our own interests), I embrace the spiritual/sacred dimensions of rematriation in which Aida finds herself! I note that her son works in the city to this day to help support his family there in the village - while his beloved mother helps keep the home fires burning (literally) while the next generations (wives and kids) are very much ‘living off the land’ of their ancestors. I won’t romanticize their lifestyle - it is not an easy one, with extremely limited financial means and little to no access to “modern conveniences’ (except for example one electric outlet, which either charges phones batteries or powers a borrowed fan). But life is affordable and Jola cultural surroundings are rich and supportive - much more so than if the family were to be in an urban environment. Aida is content there in the village, and even when she travels a bit, she’s always glad to get back home and settle in.

When thinking of these two terms and how they can enlighten us about cross cultural dynamics,, I’d like to suggest that we dig more deeply into examples of rematriation when we encounter repatriation scenarios - I think we’ll gain insights we can then apply in other contexts!

How about for you ~ what is one personal example of rematriation you can think of?

Share about that with a friend or note it here.

And check out the Global SKILLs LINKs below for more on this topic.

Thanks for being part of this Connect community.

Until next week,



~ The Words repatriation & rematriation: “So while repatriation means a literal returning to the land of your ancestry, rematriation carries a deeper meaning of returning to a way of life, one that lives with reverence for Nature”.

~ one Native American take on rematriation:

~ articles on Rematriation:


* Previous words we’ve explored together (scroll down here to find these by date): 1/4/23 - tapestry; 2/1/23 - lizards; 3/8/23 - slang; 4/5/23 - mien; 6/7/23 laissez-passer

** Through my business Global SKILLs and several partner subsidiaries I offer unique cross-cultural consulting and training including:

3 Dimensional Dynamics Model: 1st dimension = HOME ; 2nd dimension = HOST ; 3rd dimension = HARBOR)

PROACTive Learning Strategies: PRO = PROfile, PROcess, PROgram

ACT = Applications (which we explored this week), Collaborations and Transformations

~ contact me for more information on this model and these strategies and how you might use them in your current programming:

2023 ~ Celebrating 40+ years of working in

intercultural communications and global community building

“It takes a community to build a community”

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