We all know what it feels like to walk into a new culture we know nothing about. Almost all of us have experienced culture shock. By the time we return to our home countries, the last thing on our mind is how different things might feel. You may have only been away for a year. Maybe you have been gone for 10 years, but one thing for certain is that it is easier to go to a new country then return to your home country!
Here are some thoughts from our staff and teachers on reverse culture shock:
“The first thing I noticed when I got home was that everything was expensive. After a year of living in Asia you start to take for granted how much lower the cost of living is. It takes a few weeks to get used to paying five dollars for a loaf of bread and tipping at every restaurant. The second biggest trial was the waste. You quickly become aware how much we westerners waste after spending time abroad. The other tests of the reverse culture shocked traveler, in my case, were readjusting to being around people en masse all the time, and speaking and hearing English all the time”- Stephen, Reach to Teach Interviewer
“I had a hard time adjusting to all of the open space in Canada after spending my first two years abroad in Northeast China. It’s easy to get to places in Asia, but traveling anywhere in Canada requires a bit more finesse if you don’t have a car.” – Liz, Teacher in South Korea
“I was shocked by the variety of products available back home in the States. “ Sarah, Teacher in China
“It was strange to hear everyone speaking English again after I left China.” Tom, Teacher in Taiwan
Reverse culture shock can hit hard. When you return home you want to share all your new experiences with your family and friends, and you might feel like many people no longer understand you. Did you think everything was going to be new and exciting only to discover nothing has changed? That may be because you have changed. Here are some tips for dealing with reverse culture shock:
1) Expect it! Going back home seems easy, but as time goes on and you begin to realize that people aren’t as interested in your stories as you are, you may begin to miss traveling. Mentally prepare yourself, and try not to drop the travel bomb all over the place to everyone you know.
2) People are going to be jealous. Not everyone wants to travel, but lots do, and they may not want to hear all your amazing stories about teaching in Asia because they can’t do it themselves.
3) Don’t be surprised if your viewpoints have changed while your friends and family haven’t. People won’t always understand your new found openness and cultural sensitivities.
4) Not everyone will experience reverse culture shock the same way. Make sure you get out, meet new people, spend time with old friends, and keep yourself busy.
What are your thoughts on reverse culture shock? Send us some stories about what is was like when you returned home to post on our blog and in the next newsletter. Reverse culture shock is usually never talked about, but it does happen. It’s better when you can share your experiences and have a laugh with fellow travelers!