Is home still where your heart is? Learning about reverse culture shock

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What is reverse culture shock?

  1. It is when you go back to your home country and feel like you don’t belong.
  2. It is feeling confused and frustrated because:
    • familiar things have changed
    • people have moved on with their lives
    • you feel like you don’t belong
  3. Your home doesn’t feel like home anymore.

Who experiences reverse culture shock?

  1. Those who have been away for several years.
  2. Not everyone experiences reverse culture shock.
  3. There are many who do but don’t know that they are experiencing it.
  4. It happens because we don’t prepare for coming home. We expect that everything will be the same.
  5. The cause of reverse culture shock is not being prepared for changes.

Phases of reverse culture shock

Just like culture shock, reverse culture shock has stages:

  1. Excitement to be home and seeing friends and family.
  2. Excitement fades. You feel detached, frustrated, and isolated.
  3. Adjustment period. Letting go of expectations.
  4. Acceptance.

There is no set period of time for each phase. It can be weeks for some, and for others, months or years.

How do you know that you’re experiencing reverse culture shock?

  1. You compare your home country to your new country all the time.
  2. People you talk to seem disinterested in your stories.
  3. You have trouble joining conversations with friends. You can’t relate to the topic or understand their jokes.
  4. You have trouble dealing with your friends in general because they have changed too much.
  5. You look for Canadian food or brands.
  6. You miss your life in Canada.
  7. Some experience signs of stress like:
    • excessive sleep or trouble sleeping
    • lack of appetite
    • mood swings
    • excessive tiredness
  8. You may feel:
    • surprised
    • angry
    • lonely
    • disoriented
    • irritable
    • confused
    • frustrated
  9. It can lead to depression.

Ways to cope with it

  1. Take time to adjust.
    • Manage your expectations. Appreciate the new things in your hometown.
    • Enjoy the experience when your family or friends take you around.
    • Listen to your friends’ stories.
    • Understand that not everyone will be interested in your story.
    • Accept the truth that things change. Life goes on.
  2. Share what you are feeling
    • Tell your close family members or friends.
    • Describe the shock that you are experiencing. It will lessen the stress and help them understand.
    • Write a journal or a blog if they don’t listen. It helps to get your feelings out.
    • Somebody who is experiencing the same thing will benefit from reading what you share.
  3. Seek new experiences
    • Ask a friend to bring you to popular places.
    • Get out and re-discover your home!
  4. Maintain contact with people from abroad
    • Call your friends in Canada.
    • Catch up with things back in your host country.
    • Ask about things that you miss. Ask for updates about familiar things.
  5. Relax and stay positive
    • Relax, you’re on vacation after all.
    • Always keep an open mind and positive outlook.
  6. Be prepared the next time you visit.

Source: Reverse culture shock: What, when and how to cope, Audrey Sykes, Expatica. Accessed on March 2, 2017.

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