Reverse Culture Shock

Of all the posts people visit, and of all the questions people ask me via the Contact form, the most common topic travellers want to discuss is this:

REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

It’s an awful feeling to have, and it’s one that is nearly impossible to discuss with someone who’s never experienced it. It will usually hit you when you return home from an extended time abroad, especially if you’ve lived and worked in another country, but it can even happen after a short trip. Some of the signs of reverse culture shock include:

  • You’re not really interested in catching up with your old friends, and if you do, you feel like you don’t have so much in common with them any more.
  • Nobody wants to hear about your experiences but you’d really love to tell them.
  • You find it hard to accept some of the ways people do things at home, and you find yourself questioning habits and customs that have been a part of your life for a long time.
  • You wish you were back on your trip or living abroad, and you spend a lot of time keeping in touch with the people you met during that experience.
  • You might even start to feel depressed and anxious – and if you do, please seek counselling.
Obviously, it’s unlikely to go down well if you start complaining to your family and friends around you that you wish you weren’t home – that’s what can make it hard to deal with. Should you just (like me below) put on a happy face?
reverse-culture shock
There are some strategies you can use to deal with reverse culture shock, so see if some of the following might help you:
  • Celebrate your experiences by cooking foods from different cultures, by watching movies and reading books from the countries you lived in or visited, and by displaying some photos somewhere you’ll see them regularly.
  • Keep in touch with the people you met abroad – it’s much easier these days, but even if they are not regular emailers, make the effort to send a snail mail letter.
  • Plan some short trips from your hometown and rediscover places you haven’t visited for years – “play traveller” at home.
  • Find a way to make another trip abroad – even if it won’t be for some time – and wallow in the delight of planning it. Alternatively, if a friend is about to travel somewhere, offer to give them whatever help they’re happy to accept.
  • Take a course that keeps you in touch with other cultures – learn a language, or find a cooking class for a cuisine you love to eat.
Reverse culture shock will pass, but it can literally take years – especially if you don’t have the chance to chat about it. So do feel free to leave a comment below so you can chat with some fellow travelers who know what you’ve experienced.

Reverse Culture Shock Resources: