If you frequent long term traveller groups or know a lot of long term travellers personally you may have heard the term “reverse culture shock” before. Reverse culture shock is a real thing and it can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially after many months (or even years) on the road. Read ahead for what you need to know about reverse culture shock and how you can help avoid letting it run your life when you get back from the trip of a lifetime.
What Is Reverse Culture Shock?
Reverse culture shock is a very real emotional and psychological state that arises from a person who has just recently returned home from either a long trip overseas or from a period of time living abroad. If you think in terms of culture shock that is experienced when you first set foot in a country that is significantly different to your own, you can expect something similar, yet far more subtle in terms of reverse culture shock when you return home. At first you may feel elated to be home, to see old friends or to go to your favourite restaurants and be able to get a Starbucks coffee or the like if you want to. But soon the elation wears off, you come to realise that you have changed significantly but the world you knew has stayed the same, and so has everyone in it. You may find that people become exasperated by your stories of travelling and just plain don’t want to hear them, and people may not have time for you as you hoped or expected. People may even get annoyed with you when you try to convey your feelings of strangeness and not belonging, and being told “You’re just sad you have to be normal again” is a common theme.
How Can You Tell It’s Reverse Culture Shock?
Unlike regular culture shock, reverse culture shock can be harder to pinpoint. You may be confused about your feelings of being home, feeling good some days and really down on other days. You may find that going to your old haunts and favourite spots doesn’t bring you the same happiness it once did. You may also find that where you used to traverse your city (such as a big, North American city, for example) without fear, you are now significantly more unsure, shy, or outright scared to do things like take public transportation. You may also get frustrated easily, especially if people want to see you or go out with you and you may withdraw and become more isolated and want to be left alone. You will also experience conflicting feelings and an inability to describe what is wrong.
How To Combat Reverse Culture Shock
There are a number of ways to combat reverse culture shock and it depends on the situation and individual as to what approach you take. You can retain your international identity, the food you ate, clothes you wore and language you learned. You can start a blog and seek out other repatriates who have experienced similar things. If you work in a particularly international company where people are constantly being sent overseas, you could even start a repatriation support group. Finding friends and family who will listen to your stories with intent interest is an important aspect of combating reverse culture shock. Take your time and do what feels right. You may even find that making new friends in your town or city helps you to reintegrate, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So there you have a rundown on reverse culture shock and how you can identify it and combat it. It can be one of the most difficult aspects of returning home after a long period of time abroad, but by knowing you aren’t alone, you can really help yourself to reintegrate and find your footing back home again.