Returning home after living overseas one thing is inevitable, reverse culture shock. This is completely different from culture shock and sometimes can be a lot worse. Culture shock is a very well-known term in the expatriate community. Changing cultural environments, hearing new languages, navigating new spaces, and being far away from home are things you must get used to if you want to travel. Often, you can find communities to help ease the tension that comes from culture shock. Reverse culture shock, on the other hand, isn’t as popular as culture shock . It is not something many people think about when they are in the midst of returning home.
Chances are that if you are reading this blog post, you or someone you know will be going home soon or just came back from abroad. If you fall in the former group, great for you! Many people don’t think to plan for reverse culture shock the way they do for culture shock. If you fall within the latter group, no worries, it is not too late to level out the emotional roller coaster you may be on.
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
I’m going to take a moment to define what Reverse culture shock is so that we are all on the same page. Reverse Culture shock is the feelings that develop when you leave a place you were living/visiting and go back to the place you came from. It is the exact opposite of what culture shock is. It comes with a slew of emotions you weren’t expecting to be dealing with. I would also recommend reading the way Insider and the U.S Department of State describes it on their site for more clarity.
Reverse culture shock can be slightly more difficult than culture shock. When you go to another country to live there will be other expats there. These expats will have (more than likely) formed small communities to help deal with these adjustments. On the other hand, when you come back home from another country, you come home to the friends and family you left. Unless they’ve done a bit of traveling themselves, there is a good chance that many of them don’t know of the emotional roller coaster that awaits you. So culture shock is a lot easier to deal with in some respects, because when it hits you can find things and people to help you cope a lot quicker than with reverse culture shock.
What to Expect with Reverse Culture Shock
- You don’t fit in
Whether you’ve been abroad for 6 months or a few years, other people or things have filled the spaces you used to occupy. This can be subtle like your room being turned into a storage room in your house. To more extreme things like, you not having a room at all.
- No One Cares About Your Travels Stories
The first thing you want to do when you are back is to tell stories, show pictures and trinkets that you acquired from other countries. But you will soon find out that this is probably the last thing you should be doing. Your enthusiasm will be met with disinterest from some (or many) people. This will result in you feeling some kind of way, because you take this to mean that they don’t care. You are not the superstar you once were in the country you came from. There, they wanted to know all about your native country and stories. But when you come back the reverse doesn’t happen. Don’t take it to heart. Save yourself the disappointment and only share with those who ask.
People who leave their native country to live in a different one like adventure to some extent. And even when things get familiar to you, there is still adventure in everything that you do. This is because of culture differences. A simple trip to the eye doctor can be really interesting when things are done completely different from what you are used to. Now that you’re back things seems a bit boring, and you’ll find yourself needing to take a trip just kill the restlessness you feel.
This one seems weird to have because you’ll be back with friends and family and all the food and activities you missed. However, the depression comes in when you find yourself comparing work environments of your new job to the one you left overseas. Or, you the time you planned to take to think about next steps, aren’t coming or the ideas aren’t working out the way you expect. This might tempt you to go back overseas
- People Moved On.
You might expect to pick right up where you left off and start those Friday night outings with your friends again. However, these friends now have other things to do. You slowly realize that people aren’t available to talk or hang out like they use to be able to.
- You Changed.
You may not realize it, but a lot of the views and ideas you have aren’t yours. They are your parents, friends, and things you’ve read in the media. You’ve taken them on to be your authentically formed ideas. When you leave for another country you will not be with those friends, family or other outlets. You might even be alone for a while until you found some friends. Your ideas will be challenged by the things you see and experiences you have firsthand. When you come back, because of what you experienced and saw, you have different views about a lot- thus making you different from the person you were when you left.
Identify with any of these? Share your experiences below in the comments. There are more than what I am sharing but these are the ones that, to me, are most important. You can also check out part 1 and part 2 of the video.