Imagine spending years of breezy beach time in the slow-paced life of a tropical island…
Only to return to your home: a fast-paced city where everyone is in a rush.
Imagine spending years in a country where food never goes to waste…
Only to return to portion sizes that are two times too large, and excess food is frequently thrown out.
Imagine spending years cultivating values and norms that are centered around honor and family…
Only to return to an individualist culture that values self-reliance and independence.
Returning from life abroad can feel like jumping into a familiar but cold pool of water.
Although you think you remember everything about this pool and belong to this pool, the reality hits you like ice.
The fact that you’ve acclimatized to another culture’s warm waters is startling. Your own culture’s temperature catches you off guard.
You may not know what hit you.
As we’ve been talking about the past few weeks, this is reverse culture shock.
Expect to Feel Shocked
If you want to get out ahead of reverse culture shock, knowing that it can – and likely will – happen is first things first.
You are here, educating yourself about the issue, which is a GREAT way to equip yourself with the tools to face it down when it does.
Just as you equipped yourself to adjust to a foreign culture and dealt with your initial culture shock, it’s always better to be prepared and expect that you may feel discomfort upon returning home – almost like you’ve missed a step coming down the stairs.
Step 1: Get Closure on Your Experience
Before returning home, prepare.
One essential part of this preparation is to say goodbye and gain some closure with a place and a people that has been your home.
As mentioned in a previous post, those who are ripped unexpectedly from their host culture and forced to return home have a harder time with reverse culture shock.
So, if you expect to return home and have the opportunity to gain closure, take it.
Shared by the U.S. Department of State, actions you can take that will allow you to feel closure include:
- Getting a proper goodbye in with friends and/or hosting a “going away” party prior to departure; this will allow you to gather your friends’ contact information, if you don’t have it already, so you can keep in touch
- Snapping pics and videos of your home, your place of work/school, your favorite haunts, and your favorite people
- Picking up or hanging onto keepsakes that mean something to you
- Creating an in-country bucket list of sorts and making time to hit up all the sites you’d regret not visiting
These are just some ways to gain closure from this significant experience.
Leaving can feel a bit like a relationship break-up, so be prepared for a bit of heartache and nostalgia.
Tune in next week for Step 2: Managing Expectations.