Reverse culture shock: How Agata dealt with returning to Poland from Italy

I’ve always had a lot of people visiting the blog to talk about reverse culture shock: the problems they face when they return to their home country after spending time abroad, perhaps studying or working, or just travelling. I know it hit me pretty hard when I returned to Perth after more than five years working and travelling. This is the first of an occasional series of interviews with other travellers who’ve experienced reverse culture shock.

How does Agata deal with the reverse culture shock returning from Italy to Poland

 

Agata Mleczko is a travel blogger who spent six years studying, working and living in Italy, before returning to her home country of Poland two years ago. Reverse culture shock soon set in. I think she’s really lucky in one respect though – the distance from Poland to Italy isn’t too far and she’s able to return now and again and stock up on her favourite foods! Anyway, here’s Agata:

What were your symptoms of reverse culture shock?

Three things that were most striking to me when I returned to Poland from Italy were as follows: the change in climate, food and the way people spent their time.

For a couple of months after I got back I was so cold! No matter what I did it was always cold. I remember people around me were wearing summer skirts and I had wool socks on my feet!

Food was also an issue as Polish and Italian cuisine is so different. I had to cook for myself and get used to the Polish food gradually to avoid stomach problems. I also visit Italy every few months and bring back some food that is not available here (parmiggiano, anchois, flour, budino, wine etc.).

Lastly, I had to switch my biological clock because in Italy people tend to sleep longer and stay out until late at night. It’s not what happens in Poland but at least that process was quick and reminded me of flying back through few time zones.

Agata Mleczko talks about reverse culture shock on returning to Poland from Italy

Agata from the NullNFull blog during her time in Italy

How did you find people who understood your re-entry shock?

Honestly, I don’t believe that people who’ve never lived in a foreign country can understand my situation. It is so particular and so complex that I found it difficult to share and get understood. On the contrary: the more you say the less people understand. There is a certain level of becoming isolated by this experience.

What are your recommendations for travellers returning home soon?

Stay in touch with people from your previous place of residence and find a community of people who have just returned from living abroad. And don’t struggle with the closed-minded ones who never travel. They will not understand and it will make you worse.

My thoughts on Agata’s reverse culture shock experience

Agata’s last point about finding a community of people who’ve also just returned from living abroad is exactly what made my re-entry a whole lot easier than it could have been. After working around the world teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), I quickly got work in Perth as an ESL teacher and that was (by chance!) such a smart move! It meant that I could quickly make new friends – most of my new colleagues had also come back from overseas within the last couple of years – and I could still have the feel of travelling by meeting all my new students from dozens of different countries around the world. Perfect!

 

Thanks for your time, Agata! Some bio info: Agata Mleczko is founder and editor of the Null&Full travel blog, focused on off-the-beaten-track destinations. She currently lives in Poland, but had lived in Italy for more than 6 years and has traveled to more than 20 countries all over the world. Agata recently visited New Zealand for the first time and became fascinated with this country. She enjoys reading travel books, jogging, trekking and cooking.

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