Going home is hard after you’ve been abroad. Here are 10 things to know about going home after living abroad. Reverse culture shock can be a harsh reality.
It’s going to be hard to relate to people at first
All of your friends, old and new, back home have been having a completely different set of experience than you for the last year or more. Sure, they’ll want to hear about your time abroad, but after all the cool stories run out, and conversation shifts to the day-to-day, it’s normal for the newly-returned traveler to feel like an alien in their own culture.
Who has the time to keep up with the latest TV shows, movies, and pop culture back home while they’re overseas adventuring? You may find yourself connecting with new people, people who share your new perspectives on life and can relate to your experiences.
People want to hear about your experiences…but not all the time
Your friends, family, and even complete strangers, are going to be fascinated by your time abroad, but their fascination will only last for so long. While you’re still recovering from jet lag and trying to re-accustom yourself to speaking English, your friends will be ready for you to stop with the slideshows and foreign-language quotes.
You’ll find yourself wanting to say something like “If you think this bus is ridiculous, you should see what they’re like in Thailand …” or “I can’t believe how expensive this is, in China it would only cost…” and forcing yourself to stop because, even though you’re just trying to make conversation and relate, you know that your friends and family are getting sick of hearing about it.
Get rid of your expectations
If you’ve been pining for the good old days of going out with your college friends every week, or hanging out at your favorite cafe with a cool group of freethinkers, brace yourself: chances are it’s not going to happen anymore.
Especially if you moved abroad right after college, you’re coming back to a “home” that is going to look very different from the one that you left.
A year is a long time, and regardless of what stage everyone is at in their lives, lots of changes are bound to have happened. Your party friends may have gotten bogged down with work or family obligations, your favorite cafe may have closed or moved to a new location.
Get rid of any expectations you have of returning to the life that you left when you moved abroad.
You will definitely have sticker shock
When you are used to walking away from a market with a week’s worth of food for only $10, your first trip to the grocery store back home is going to be a shock. Look up the cost of living back home before you leave, and try to make up a budget of how much you’ll need to get by until you find a job.
It’ll help ease the sticker shock a little bit, and give you some kind of plan.
There’s nothing worse than watching your hard-earned savings get eaten up in just a few months by the bloated costs of living back home.
Don’t expect to land right on your feet
You’ve been off traveling the world, becoming the best version of yourself, and living through adventures that most people only dream of.
Now you’re ready to come back home and totally rock it – you’ll find an awesome job, and your unique perspective and experience will make you stand out from the crowd. True, eventually you will, and it will be amazing.
However, this is a huge transition you’re making, and it takes more time than you think. So go easy on yourself, be patient, and know that all of the changes and growth in you will come out in your future pursuits.
Your interests will definitely have changed
Living abroad changes people in very subtle ways.
A lot of people return home to find that their once-favorite pursuits feel stale and empty. Partying all night may seem superficial if you’ve been used to getting up with the dawn when the temple next door starts ringing its bells; your favorite restaurant may no longer seem as good to you after a year of foreign flavors; and you might find that even the sort of people you enjoy hanging out with has totally shifted.
Whatever the change, embrace them and let your new interests guide you to more fulfilling and exciting things back home.
You don’t have to get sucked into a boring 9-5
Just because you’re back home and “back to normal” (whatever that means), it doesn’t mean you have to chock your experiences abroad up to the adventure of a lifetime and settle for a life of boring desk work.
If you’ve got the ingenuity and skills to succeed in a foreign country, you can find a way to earn money while escaping the drudgery of the 40 hour work week.
Look into some great adventure jobs, try to find a position teaching in your home country, write and publish a blog or an ebook about your experiences – get creative and find a way to keep the adventure alive.
Be prepared for the “freshman 15” all over again
Sticker shock isn’t the only thing likely to get to you when you return. Most ESL teachers abroad enjoy a pretty healthy lifestyle.
You get used to relatively healthy food, being on your feet all day, and walking or biking most everywhere.
The relatively sedentary lifestyle in a lot of western countries, as well as much larger portion sizes and richer food leads to a big change in your overall health.
Be prepared to be very proactive in staying healthy, especially during the transition back to your home country.
You will have very different perspectives on everything
You no doubt heard before you left that living abroad would change how you view the world. And you don’t realize until you get home just how much your perspective on the tiniest things has changed.
It might baffle you how everyone takes having reliable electricity for granted, or how much water is wasted. You might be overwhelmed at how much open space there is in your home country, or wonder why so many people seem so disconnected from any culture different than their own.
You might notice some traditions in your own culture that seem silly, or that seem more poignant and meaningful, after seeing how another culture lives.
Something as simple as a trip to the mall with your family can leave you pondering the complexities life and the vast varieties of the human experience, and at first it can be a little overwhelming.
You will eventually realize you left a little piece of your heart abroad
Even years after moving back home, and even if you are lucky enough to know that it was 100% the right decision and the right time to go, it will still hurt sometimes.
You’ll never stop the occasional pangs of longing for the friends you made and the wonderful experiences you had.
You’ll never stop daydreaming every now and then, about moving back there. You’ll never stop loving your home overseas, and the friends that you made there, and that love will continue to enrich your life for decades to come.If you liked this article, please share!