When travelers have prolonged journeys into foreign cultures, they may experience culture shock not only when they initially enter the new culture, but also when they return to their original culture.
It’s essentially the culture shock double whammy.
Reverse culture shock is a condition that has been studied by organizations such as the Peace Corps and the military. It describes the process by which a traveler is forced to adjust back into their own culture after a period of time spent in a different culture.
Unfortunately, the level of anxiety and confusion can be just as bad as what they experienced when entering their adopted culture.
Be prepared for re-entry
For many volunteer workers and those sent overseas for a long time on business, coming home is sometimes harder than going abroad.
When you leave for a new culture, you’re prepared simply because you know it will be new. When you come home, you bring your new perspectives, your changed perceptions, and your new learning back to find that nothing really has changed.
Much of the work done to get used to your new culture now has to be done when you get home again, including:
- Developing a new routine
- Enjoying your new perspective
- Keeping in touch with friends – this time from both cultures
- Wallowing in your native culture
Prepare for the change back by arranging to contact the friends you made while away when you return. Just like needing to keep in touch with family and friends when you were trying to adjust to the new culture, you’ll need to reverse that trick when you head home.
Note what’s different now – with fresh eyes
Instead of curling up in your favorite chair and waiting for the shock to wear off, use your fresh eyes to notice the peculiarities of your native culture in a way you may not have been able to see before.
Take advantage of the shock to:
- Appreciate the things that do work: like electricity, the Internet, the ice maker, the cash machines, and more. These are good things and things we can all enjoy.
- Note the things that don’t work. When you encounter things that bug you about your native culture, determine whether your recent experience with a new culture is the reason and honor that.
Along the way, it’s important to accept that you have changed and grown as a result of your experience with a different culture.
This page is part of our Culture Shock 101 guide.