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What Is Reverse Culture Shock?

By Edited May 11, 2015 9 12

Culture Shock VS Reverse Culture Shock

Culture Shock, of course it's to be expected when traveling to far off distant lands to experience new cultures and ways of life. Different food, different language...whole different ball game...but what happens to an unassuming traveler who ventures back home after spending lengthy periods of time in foreign countries? Reverse Cultural Shock is the experience of culture shock all over again, but this time it is bought on by returning home to your own home ground. It can be the last thing an expat returning to their country is expecting. Excitement can soon turn into fear. All that was so common and that you may have missed while being away, can suddenly become not so comforting when you reintroduce yourself into your own society. If a person has spent extended periods, adjusting and living within a new country and culture (especially one that is diversly different to your own), arriving back on home shores will probably see you needing to readjust all over again.

Not What You Expected?

Preparing to go home can bring feelings of excitement and anticipation. You may have spent a year or more dreaming of all kinds of wonderful things like... a lovely roast dinner with all the trimmings in exchange for your white rice and noodles, a shopping center that sells fresh cheese and milk that isn't of the long-life boxed variety and some welcoming ears to listen attentively about all your life changing adventures...  However the reality could well be a little more like this.

  • You suddenly find yourself back in your old stomping ground amongst friends (and some family) who have possibly hardly given you a second thought...and they're all doing and complaining about exactly the same things as when you left.
  • You find yourself wandering a little aimlessly around in shops full of over weight, over consuming people indulging in too much of everything that money can buy and find it smacks you in the face with reality.
  • You could begin to realize that fantasizing about what you can't see or have whilst you have been away... is actually much more appealing than the reality when you get home.

Your New Past-Time

Finding yourself defending your expat home will probably become one of your new past-times as you often find people who seem to like pointing out how uncivilized your other home is without being brave enough to go and experience things first hand themselves! The squat toilets that you have proudly conquered in asian countries like China... are just a thing of total disgust for anyone that does happen to politely ask about any of your adventures... and your agonizingly hard work of learning a different language... well that humongous task that you undertook actually means so little to anyone else, that you're likely to start wanting to drop in on conversations of total strangers that are traveling in your home country, from your expat country.

You will probably start to wonder how people can live their life without challenging themselves to broaden their outlook.

What To Expect

Going Home
Overcoming obstacles, seeing people less fortunate, learning a language, struggling everyday...these are all life changing experiences that an expat has grown accustomed to in their time away from home. The plummet back to earth (so to speak) can really be a mixture of thoughts and emotions.
  • Overload: It's impossible not to notice how much we have and how much people take it all for granted.

  • Feeling like you have moved on but everyone and everything has stood still.

  • A want to talk about your amazing adventures but no one to really understand or listen can be disheartening.

  • Change of diet: The intake of all the rich foods you've missed can lead to weight increase.

  • Making sense of people's complaining: Listening to people complain about busy roads, bad drivers, too many people, not enough money, no free time...

  • Many of my views and opinions have changed and no-one understands my opinions anymore.

  • Listening and taking part in English conversations all around you, all day, every day can be extremely tiring. Listening in on everyone's general conversations makes you realize just how much complaining and useless chatter is thrown around which can make you long to not understand half of what you're hearing again.

  • Boredom: the lack of everyday challenges can see boredom set in.

All of these things may not sound like much but they can leave you feeling depressed, anxious and longing to go back to your expat home. For people permanently returning to their home country, professional help certainly may be needed if these difficulties continue to cause distress.

What You Should Remember

There is no going past the fact that all those experiences overseas are character building, life changing self improving steps forward. It's important to realize that you should feel proud and don't underestimate your achievements just because of other people's lack of interest or understanding.

There are some things you can do to help, some of which are  pretty much the same things you called on to lessen the impact of the original culture shock you felt when you arrived on other shores.

  • Appreciate what is good around you - If you've been living in over populated and polluted countries you can now really appreciate the big blue sky, the fresh air filling your lungs, the vibrant colors and the peace and quiet.
  • Feel The Love - Thoroughly enjoy every minute of being back along-side the ones you love. It can also be great to stay in frequent contact with close friends you have made whilst overseas. 
  • Make new friends and use your foreign language skills by making new friends with people from your expat country... who now make your own country their new home...you have many things in common.
  • Utilize any new skills you've learnt whilst away. Cooking authentic cuisine, carry on improving your language skills etc.
  • If you are re-locating back home and you've been away teaching English, maybe you can find some work teaching the same thing to new immigrants in your own country.

Never under-estimate what you have achieved. Savour and feel great about what you have learnt (on paper and in life).

Remember this famous quote when faced with people who tend to drive you a little crazy when returning from your adventure.

He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.

~Lao Tzu

Re Entry: Making The Transition From Missions To Life At Home
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Jul 29, 2013 12:14pm
Re-entry was actually harder for me than the new culture and some of what you say here hits the nail on the head. I'm glad that there are avenues of support for people returning to their old stomping grounds and although re-entry has been full of unexpected surprises, I'm glad I went and glad I returned. Good post. :)
Aug 6, 2013 12:10am
Hey JLife...yeah that is often the case. I go back and forth every year between my home country and the country where I now work. Whilst I feel the obvious effects mostly to do with an over abundance of EVERYTHING when I go home...I always know in a month I will return to my adoptive country to work again. I think permanently locating back to home psychologically must be extremely difficult. Sorry I took a while to reply...I have been in the midst if re adjusting back into China life after my holiday back in Australia. :-)
Thanks for reading and commenting...much appreciated.
Aug 10, 2013 1:05am
Very interesting. I can't remember having experienced reverse culture shock but it could probably happen...
Aug 10, 2013 1:24am
I can assure you it can and does happen to many. Living in a second tier Chinese city, we can count the number of foreign expats on our two hands...so we all know each other...even if not particularly well. Nearly all of those that I know have experienced reverse culture shock and for the first few months just want to return back to China. Myself...well even I feel it on holidays home and I can't begin to imagine how big the impact is on a final move back home for good. There is much evidence and literature written about this. I don't think it is as likely to happen if you have been in a country that is not too extremely different from your own....ie an Aussie in England or America, but immersing in countries with completely different cultures...be prepared! Thanks heaps for dropping by and having a read :-)
Aug 10, 2013 7:58am
This is a great description! Very nice article.
Aug 10, 2013 9:51pm
Hey JestMe, Thanks for commenting!
Aug 10, 2013 7:27pm
All true...I've traveled just enough to know how tough coming home to the same old thing can be. Every time, it gets a little harder to listen to people complaining about their everyday, humdrum lives when sometimes all they need is a change of scenery, a change of careers, and maybe a nice long missionary trip to Madagascar (the real island, not the movie) so they can see how lucky they are back home.
Aug 10, 2013 9:55pm
Haha...Storyteller...how correct you are! I often say to people " I really recommend you go visit a country totally out of your comfort zone, it can totally change your perspective on life". Thanks so much for reading and leaving a great comment!
Aug 12, 2013 12:29pm
very nice article what a great read
Aug 14, 2013 4:41am
Thanks dazzie92, very much appreciated :-)
Sep 12, 2013 1:12am
Another great featured article. Many people are too self centered and too busy thinking about themselves and their greed to get more for nothing to understand what you have been going through.

Everything is about greed these days. Humans have lost the plot to a certain extent. We love traveling and meeting new people and sharing the good and bad times and try to help others less fortunate when we can.

We recently came across an old guy living in his car. We gave him our butane stove and water. He only had one arm yet he was walking 6 k's each week to get fresh water. Many people just do not care, they only see what they want to see, an old scruffy man.

I better stop now before I get on that soap box again. Great article and perspective of a culture shock.
Sep 13, 2013 6:32pm
eileen, Thanks for taking time to comment. Yes I agree, many people seem to have lost compassion and time for anyone outside of their immediate daily routine. Even other family members not living within a persons household, seems to hold little interest for a great many people these days...totally consumed with themselves only. It's very sad...
I really appreciate your comments, thanks again!
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  1. "Reverse Culture Shock." Women On The Road. 23/07/2013 <Web >
  2. "How To Survive Reverse Culture Shock." vagabondish. 23/07/2013 <Web >
  3. "Reverse Culture Shock: What, When and How to Cope." Expatica. 28/07/2013 <Web >

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