What is Reverse Culture Shock?

It’s only natural to feel a little bit overwhelmed when you start to teach English abroad: you’ll get a sensory and culture overload!   So it’s obviously going to take you a bit of time to be able to get used to your new home and culture.  Sometimes it can feel like by the time you’ve settled in and adapted to your new life, it will be time to come back home. And, what most people don’t prepare for or even think of is that when you arrive back to your home country (a country that you grew up in) that you may experience a ‘reverse culture shock’

It’s important to realise that this feeling is perfectly natural. You’re always going to be feeling sad leaving a country that you loved.  It might have had it’s ups and downs but it’s most likely going to have been life-changing for you. You’ll always fall into the trap of saying, “This time last week I was… on the beach/teaching my favourite kiddies/eating some great food”.  But try not to dwell on it, at least you know you’ve had the time of your life out there agreed?!

But be careful, because you may not only feel sad that your time overseas has come to an end, but you may also start to feel distanced from things back home.  Some things may begin to seem trivial compared to your life left-behind. In general, the more you’ve integrated into your host country, the harder it will be to re-adjust to life back-home.

Your relationship with your friends may also change. Your life has moved on whilst you’ve been abroad, but so have your friends’ lives… and not always in the same direction.  But then again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you’ll have lots of things to share and discover with your pals.  Even though they may ask you (what feel like) surface-scratching questions and make jokes about your sun-tan, it will probably feel like you’ve always got more to tell them – just try not to overdo it, as hard as it may be!

This is also a normal occurrence.  Just because they don’t want to know every single detail straight away doesn’t mean they don’t care at all.  I’m pretty sure you’ll have a lot of stories to tell them but, naturally, your trip is not as significant to them as it has been to you.  All they know is what you’ve told them: they haven’t had the opportunity to experience and understand it in the flesh, for themselves.  So try not to get frustrated if they don’t seem 100% engaged with your story-telling (they’re probably just jealous because you’ve had the time of your life whilst they’ve been slogging away in a call centre all year).

The main thing to remember is that this feeling is only temporary and things will get better.  Although it can take a long time to re-adjust to living back home, and certainly won’t happen overnight; there are a few things that you can bear in mind which may help you along the way, which include:

Recognising that you feel the way you do

Keeping in touch with the friends you met whilst overseas

Joining a group and getting involved in a new challenge, getting some career advice

Take a break and spend time with family

Whatever you do and however you cope with moving back home, remember the lessons you’ve learnt and the experiences you’ve had, and allow them to influence your life.  You will become a more patient, accepting and understanding individual; all of which will grow your personality and help you develop into a much more rounded individual.

Have you had any experience with reverse culture shock?  Tell us about it below!


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