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Reverse Culture Shock

How Do You Handle Reverse Culture Shock When Going Home?

When we leave our country for a long period of time, we are usually prepared for a big transition and culture shock. This is often combined with a lot of excitement and curiosity about the new place we are exploring. When it all ends, we head home and expect to easily go back to our own culture.

We expect to be comfortable and for things to feel familiar. However, you may discover that the transition back is sometimes in fact harder than adapting to a new culture. This is called Reverse Culture Shock.

Have a look below to learn more about this experience. Why is it so difficult to transfer back to your own culture, and how do you deal with it?

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

Reverse culture shock refers to the difficulties you might experience when you return to your home country after spending a long period of time abroad. Perhaps you will feel like you do not fit in to you own culture. You might feel out of place, shy or uncomfortable. You may even feel that you don’t like your country anymore. This can be extremely difficult. Many people are not at all prepared for this reaction. However, know that it is very common, and it will get better with time.

Why does this Happen?

Whenever we leave our home country, this is when we learn the most about the culture that we come from. We discover things which we have not been aware of before. Indeed, when living abroad, we gain distance to observe better. As we get a wider perspective, we might even discover things that we do not like. Such as, why do people not share their food and drinks? Why do we not greet people on the street? And why are people scared to stand out where I come from?

You are not only experiencing a change in cultures, but also in your role. Expectations to your role in one society change from the expectations to your role in a different one. For example, the expectations people have to you as a girl/boy, adult/child, an employee, a friend or to strangers are all different. You adapt to a set of expectations for your roles. As you return to your home culture, reverse culture shock happens, and you have to readapt to your old habits.

It is quite common to feel better about yourself when you are abroad. You have less expectations towards yourself. Indeed, people are not familiar with behaviours from where you are from. They therefore do not know what to expect. This provides you with a freedom of behaviour that feels new and liberating. At home you feel more expectations from other people towards your behaviour. Returning from a time abroad might therefore feel limiting and at times narrowing your feeling of freedom. You have changed during your time abroad. Therefore, you feel like you stand out now in your own culture, which can be challenging.

Also, it is understandable that you miss your wonderful adventure, a culture that you have fallen in love with, and friends you have made along the way. A nostalgic feeling is normal to have.

Tips on How to Handle Reverse Culture Shock
Acceptance

Accept that this is a difficult transition. Go through your feelings and take your time to acknowledge that it is sad to move on from a great experience. Also, because you feel different now, perhaps it is possible to enjoy this. That it is, in fact, kind of cool to be different.

Address the problem

What is it that you miss from your time abroad? Is it possible to address what limitations you are experiencing back in your country? Perhaps it is possible to bring that good feeling back to your country as you adapt to your old culture once more? Remember that it is actually all within you. What can you do to not be affected by the expectations and limitations in your culture? This might also be the opportunity to change your habits and use the best of both worlds from what you have learned during your experience.

Routine

As you come home, it might be helpful to find a routine to make the days go faster. Keep yourself busy as you adapt to coming home. Go for walks, find a temporary job, orr catch up with friends. Try and do things that make you comfortable and feel happy.

Lean on your friends

Call and text your friends from abroad; together you can reminisce about your good memories. See that you can still keep the connection and bond between your friends from a distance. Also, take time to reconnect with your old friends from home. Tell them about your adventures, and perhaps share what you are going through.

Appreciate the changes

Even though this transition is difficult, with time, you will be able to see this as something positive. You have gone through changes and learned new things about yourself and others. Appreciate these changes and try to see them as an advantage. Also, remember that people back home are also changing constantly. Perhaps they have learned some new things while you have been away as well?

Looking forwards to New Adventures! 

As difficult and sad it might seem right now, you will feel better with time. You will make new good memories in your country. Also, remember that you have many new experiences ahead of you. Take your time to go through this transition. And, with time you can start looking forward towards new and beautiful adventures! In the end, don't be afraid of Reverse Culture Shock, but embrace it!