How to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock When Returning Home

By Nick Wharton on 16 January 2018 0 comments

While culture shock has long been a widely acknowledged experience, reverse culture shock has taken a little more time to gain the same understanding. Returning home after a period of travel or living abroad should seemingly be an easy process, but in reality it can be extremely tough.

Everything is so familiar, but aspects seem completely foreign to you. You might feel like a totally different person, while people at home may appear to have stood still. Or alternatively, you might think you’ve come back to a place you know well, only to discover that the people you used to associate with have changed dramatically. Local slang, fashions, tastes, and even technologies could have moved on, leaving you scratching your head over how to use the new ATM.

Psychologically, all of these feelings can be difficult to come to terms with when you return home. But there are a number of ways to make the transition a little smoother.

1. Prepare yourself

One of the best ways to deal with reverse culture shock is to approach it head on before you’ve even set foot on home soil. By recognizing what it is and how it may affect you, you can avoid some of the initial shock. Reading other people’s experiences or advice about returning home, like in Craig Storti's The Art of Coming Home, will give you an understanding of what to expect and how you might feel. By anticipating that it could be a difficult transition, you’ll give yourself a head start on the adjustment period.

2. Write about your experience

Even though your friends and family may show an initial interest in your time away, they’ll soon get tired of you starting every sentence with “When I was in…” Though it’s important to talk about your experiences, you should find a way to do it without alienating those around you, and writing can be the perfect outlet.

Writing in a journal is a great way to explore your inner feelings and get them out instead of bottling them all up inside of you. If you still feel the need to share your experiences with other people, consider starting a blog about your travels. You can then send your friends and family a link to the blog and if they have time, they can read about your stories and browse your photos at their leisure. (See also: The 3 Best Jobs for Expats and Travelers)

3. Exercise

Many people who spend a long period away from home find that they exercise far more than they used to because they’re exploring their surroundings, often on foot or by bike, and trying out new activities like surfing, hiking, or skiing. Coming home can mean the end of this upsurge in physical activity.

Not surprisingly, weight gain can be a side effect of reverse culture shock. I have personally come home after a long trip away and gained upward of 10 pounds within the first week. This is a result of a combination of not exercising as much as I was while on the road, and trying to eat all of the familiar foods I had missed while traveling.

The trick is to replicate the exercise you were doing while away, or replace it with other fun, physical activities in your area. Exercise has been shown to have a multitude of positive benefits, not only physically, but also on our mental health. Boost your endorphins and harness the power of exercise to lift your mood.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for a gym membership, either. Taking regular walks or getting yourself a bike that you use as your main method or transportation will suffice. (See also: 10 Surprising, Non-Physical Benefits of Exercise)

4. Reconnect with old friends and family

One of the best things about coming home is getting to see all the special people in your life whom you missed while away. Arrange to see as many of them a possible as soon as you can, and this way you’ll offset that initial deflated feeling.

Do be aware, however, that things might have changed, the dynamics of your relationships may be different, and you might find yourself having grown apart from some people. This is both normal and OK, so long a you’re prepared for it.

It's also helpful to find friends who travel frequently, or who recently came back from a trip, so that you can connect with them through a shared love of travel. Facebook is a good way to see which of your friends are frequent travelers.

5. Join travel forums

Even though your friends and family might grow tired of hearing about your adventures, there are plenty of people out there who will relish the opportunity. Online travel forums provide a platform for you to share your experiences with people who want to hear them. Some people will appreciate the knowledge you’ve picked up, and others will be in similar circumstances and keen to reminisce. Either way, you’ll be talking to like-minded people whom you have plenty in common with.

6. Stay busy

Coming home can feel like a huge backward step, particularly if you’ve been leading an exciting life, packed with adventure. A downward shift in pace can be difficult to deal with, and the boredom that comes with it can lead you into a funk.

To avoid this, it’s important to keep yourself busy. Rather than spending days on the couch catching up on Netflix, get yourself out there. Join clubs, take up new hobbies, explore your old neighborhood again, meet new people, and stay active. (See also: 25 Hobbies You Can Start for Under $10)

7. Indulge in everything you've missed

There are undoubtedly things that you’ve missed about home while you’ve been away, whether it’s your favorite cereal, your favorite shows, or the nature in your local park. Letting yourself indulge in everything that you’ve pined for is a brilliant way of reassimilating and reminding yourself of the good aspects of being home.

Eat all of your favorite foods, visit all of your most loved places, and do all the things that you enjoyed doing before you left. You’ll quickly appreciate the positive things about being back, rather than seeing the faults.

8. Seek new experiences

You may have been meeting interesting, new people on a daily basis while on the road, regularly trying new foods, and frequently ticking once-in-a-lifetime activities off your bucket list. To stop yourself from feeling like you’re going from 100 mph to stationary overnight, keep that excitement going by actively seeking out new experiences. Just because you’re back in your old home doesn’t mean you have to slip back into the same routines. Head out and rediscover your surroundings from a different perspective, and look for new experiences you can have in your area.

9. Plan your next trip

Returning home doesn’t have to mean staying there forever. You may need to take a hiatus from traveling while you look for a job, save up money, and get yourself re-established in your old community. But if you want to travel more, make it a goal and formulate plans for your next adventure, whether it’s a weeklong vacation or another extended journey somewhere. (See also: How to Wisely Choose Your Next Travel Destination)

That doesn’t mean mentally living in the future. Do your best to be present while you acclimate to your old surroundings and re-establish your life there. But there’s no harm in dreaming about where you’d like to go next. It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

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How to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock When Returning Home

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