HOW TO PREPARE AND DEAL WITH RETURNING TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY AFTER LIVING IN DIFFERENT CULTURES
Returning to your home country after living in different cultures can be an exciting yet challenging experience. While you may be looking forward to reuniting with family and friends, readjusting to your old way of life can be overwhelming. Reverse culture shock is a common phenomenon that many people experience when they return home after living abroad. It can cause a range of emotions, from confusion to frustration, and make you feel like a stranger in your own country.
I never knew there was a name for what I was going through whenever I returned home, and I just felt like a foreigner there, also. Usually, I was just visiting for a shorter time, but later when I would spend more time back at “home,” I had a more challenging time than with my shorter visits. Now that I know what it is called and that there is a way to describe reverse culture shock, I can better deal with it! I embrace going back home and appreciate all that it entails now.
One of the best ways to prepare for reverse culture shock is to anticipate it before you return home. By acknowledging that the transition may be difficult, you can take steps to make the process smoother. It's important to remember that everyone's experience of reverse culture shock differs, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, some general tips can help you prepare for and deal with the challenges of returning home.
Understanding Reverse Culture Shock
Definition and Importance
I have a post about Culture Shock, which is the shock of entering into another culture. I explain how to deal with it as I have faced it many times in different cultures.
Reverse culture shock is a common psychological phenomenon that occurs when you return to your home country after living in a different culture for an extended period of time. It can be defined as disorientation and discomfort that can arise when faced with your home country's familiar surroundings, but everything feels different or strange. I felt lost and didn’t know where I belonged.
Experiencing reverse culture shock is a normal part of the repatriation process, and it is essential to understand that it can affect anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time living in a foreign culture. It is necessary to be aware of the symptoms and effects of reverse culture shock to help you prepare for and deal with it.
Symptoms and Effects
Symptoms of reverse culture shock can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:
- Feeling disoriented, confused, or lost
- Difficulty readjusting to your old routine
- Feeling isolated or disconnected from friends, lacking something in common besides our past together
- Frustration with the pace of life in your home country
- Missing the culture, food, and people of the country you left behind
- Difficulty communicating with others due to language barriers or cultural differences
- Feeling like you no longer fit in with your own culture
The effects of reverse culture shock can be significant, and it is important to be aware of them to help you prepare for and cope with the experience. Some effects of reverse culture shock include:
- Emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and homesickness
- Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, and stomach problems
- Difficulty adjusting to work or school
- Difficulty making decisions or feeling unsure about your future
- Difficulty connecting with others or making new friends
Understanding the definition, symptoms, and effects of reverse culture shock can help you prepare for and cope with the experience of returning to your home country after living in a different culture. It is essential to be aware that this is a normal part of the repatriation process and that with time and patience, you can successfully readjust to life in your home country.
Preparation Before Returning Home
Besides the initial excitement of returning home and seeing everyone you missed, eating your favorite foods, and taking some time to decide what to do next, it's essential to prepare yourself mentally before returning home after living in a different culture. Here are some tips to help you mentally prepare for reverse culture shock:
- Manage your expectations: You may have idealized your home country while you were away, but it's important to remember that things may have changed. Be prepared for things to be different than you remember.
- Stay connected with your host culture: Just because you're leaving your host culture doesn't mean you have to cut all ties. Stay connected with friends and acquaintances from your host culture through social media or email. This will help you maintain a sense of connection and continuity. It does take work but make the time, as it is so worth it.
- Prepare for the emotional impact: Returning home can be an emotional experience. You may feel a sense of loss or sadness over leaving your host culture. Be prepared for these emotions and know that they are normal. Be kind to yourself.
- Be open-minded: Try to approach your home country with an open mind. Be willing to embrace new experiences and ways of thinking. This will help you adjust more quickly to your home country.
- Learn about your home country: Take the time to learn about any changes that have occurred in your home country while you were away. This will help you avoid reverse culture shock and make the transition smoother. Rediscover more towns that you knew. Discover new places to visit. Get out and explore!
By mentally preparing yourself before returning home, you can help minimize the impact of reverse culture shock. Remember, it's normal to experience a range of emotions when returning home, but with the right mindset, you can adjust more easily to your home country.
Coping Strategies After Returning
Returning home after living in a different culture can be a challenging experience. You may experience various emotions, including sadness, frustration, and confusion. However, there are strategies you can use to help you cope with reverse culture shock and make the transition back to your home culture smoother.
Reintegration into Home Culture
Reintegrating into your home culture is one of the most important things you can do when returning home. This means adjusting to your home country's customs, norms, and values. Here are some tips to help you reintegrate:
- Take time to reflect on your experiences abroad and how they have changed you
- Try to find common ground with people in your home country
- Be open to new experiences and opportunities in your home country
- Seek out support from family and friends
It is good to remember that you don’t have to do everything the same way you did before you left. If you love diversity now, find a job in a city that fulfills your need. Maintain the interests you had while abroad and keep growing with them.
Keeping Connections with Host Culture
While it's crucial to reintegrate into your home culture, it's also important to maintain connections with the culture you left behind. Here are some ways to stay connected:
- Keep in touch with friends and acquaintances from your host culture. Now with social media, it is easier and possible!
- Continue to engage in activities that you enjoyed while abroad
- Stay up to date on news and events in your host country
- Join cultural groups or organizations in your home country that relate to your host culture. Whether it is maintaining your language skills or continuing cooking classes from the culture where you were, keep it up!
Seeking Professional Help If Needed
If you are struggling to cope with reverse culture shock, it may be helpful to seek professional help. Here are some options to consider:
- Talk to a therapist or counselor who specializes in cross-cultural issues
- Join a support group for people who have lived abroad
- Attend a workshop or training on cross-cultural adjustment
Remember, coping with reverse culture shock takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time. With the right strategies and support, you can successfully navigate the challenges of returning home after living in a different culture.
Maintaining a Global Mindset
Returning to your home country after living in different cultures can be a challenging experience, and it can be easy to slip back into old habits and ways of thinking. However, maintaining a global mindset can help you adjust to life back home and continue growing. Here are some tips to help you maintain a global perspective:
Continuing Cultural Learning
One way to maintain a global mindset is to continue learning about different cultures. Even though you are back in your home country, there are still opportunities to learn about other cultures. You can try new foods, attend cultural events, or even take a language class. By continuing to learn about different cultures, you can stay open-minded and appreciate the diversity around you.
Appreciating Cultural Differences
Another way to maintain a global mindset is to appreciate cultural differences. When you were living in a different culture, you may have experienced culture shock. However, now that you are back in your home country, you may notice cultural differences you didn't see before. Instead of feeling frustrated or annoyed by these differences, try to appreciate them. Recognize that these differences make the world a more interesting and diverse place.
Maintaining a global mindset can help you adjust to life back home and continue growing. By continuing to learn about different cultures and appreciating cultural differences, you can stay open-minded and appreciate the diversity around you.
Returning home after living in different cultures can be a challenging experience. You may feel like a stranger in your own country and struggle to adjust to the familiar surroundings. However, there are steps you can take to prepare for and deal with reverse culture shock.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that reverse culture shock is a normal and expected experience. You are not alone in feeling this way, and it is okay to take time to adjust. Be patient and kind to yourself during this transition period.
Secondly, stay connected with the culture you have just left behind. Keep in touch with the friends you made while living abroad, continue to practice the language you learned, and stay updated with news and events from the country. This will help you maintain a sense of connection and ease the transition back home.
Thirdly, seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking about your experiences and feelings can be helpful in processing and understanding your emotions.
Finally, try to focus on the positive aspects of being back home. Reconnect with old friends and family, rediscover the comforts of home, and explore new hobbies and interests. Remember that reverse culture shock is a temporary experience, and with time and effort, you can successfully navigate this transition back home.
Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, stay connected with the culture you left behind, seek support, and focus on the positive aspects of returning home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What are some common signs of reverse culture shock, and how can you deal with them?
A1: Common signs of reverse culture shock include feeling disoriented, experiencing a sense of loss or nostalgia for your previous culture, feeling like a stranger in your own country, and struggling to adapt to your old routines. To deal with these feelings, it is necessary to acknowledge that reverse culture shock is a normal part of the repatriation process. Stay connected with friends and family, seek support from others who have gone through similar experiences, and practice self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or journaling.
Q2: How can you prepare yourself for reverse culture shock before returning home?
A2: To prepare for reverse culture shock, it is best to maintain connections with your home country while you are abroad. Keep up with news and events, stay in touch with friends and family, and plan for your return by setting goals and making a list of things you want to do when you get back. It can also be helpful to learn about the culture shock cycle and to anticipate the challenges you may face when returning home.
Q3: What are some examples of reverse culture shock, and how can you cope?
A3: Examples of reverse culture shock include feeling overwhelmed by the pace of life in your home country, struggling to adjust to cultural norms and expectations, and feeling like you have lost touch with your identity. Coping strategies include seeking out familiar activities and places, connecting with others who share your interests, and practicing self-compassion by acknowledging that it is normal to feel out of place after living in a different culture.
Q4: What steps should you take when experiencing reverse culture shock after living abroad?
A4: When experiencing reverse culture shock, taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is important. This may include seeking professional help if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, reaching out to friends and family for support, and engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or journaling. Setting small goals and gradually reintegrating into your routines can also be helpful.
Q5: What is the duration of reverse culture shock, and how long does it typically last?
A5: The duration of reverse culture shock can vary depending on the individual and the circumstances of their repatriation. Some people may experience symptoms for a few weeks or months, while others may struggle with reverse culture shock for a year or more. It is important to remember that everyone's experience is different and that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
Q6: What are some practical ways to deal with depression caused by reverse culture shock?
A6: Effective ways to deal with depression caused by reverse culture shock include seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor, practicing self-care activities such as exercise or meditation, and connecting with others who share your interests or have gone through similar experiences. It can also be helpful to set small goals and gradually reintegrate into your old routines while exploring new interests and activities that can help you feel more connected to your home country.
There always is hope. I found that after I realized what reverse culture shock was, I then had the tools to work through it. I love being able to go “home” now and appreciate it so much more. Also, I embrace the differences I have learned by living in different cultures and feel it adds so much to life no matter where I live!
I find that when I go home, I want to discover my native country. Learn more about the city where I came from, although I don’t spend much time there. Visit more cities I have never been to. Enrichment from both national and international travel!