How to Fight Reverse Culture Shock

Are you returning home from living overseas? We have some information that can help you readapt to your own culture.

Life after living abroad can be very difficult

BY PHILL FELTHAM

You spend a year or two overseas. You work, study, make new friends, see the world, and then come home. Sounds easy, right? Not so. Remember when you lived in your host country and all the feelings of isolation and loneliness you felt when you moved overseas? Well, it happens again when you return home. The term given is reverse culture shock.

According to the U.S. Department of State, reverse culture shock is the psychological, emotional, and cultural aspects of reentry. Sure, you’re back home with your family and friends, speaking your native tongue without the hassle of using a foreign language–but something is missing. That’s right. The time that you spent overseas getting to know your new friends and culture is gone. Now, you have to reacquaint yourself with another–yet familiar–culture. Adjusting to this “old” culture can be difficult: home has changed, you have changed, and you have adapted to another culture and now have to readapt.

RELATE TO A FRIEND
I miss my host country, Taiwan, from time to time, but I have been to soothe my nerves by conversing with friends who also lived in Asia. For example, I keep in touch with TWW’s Karli Vezina, a friend of mine who lived in South Korea for years. She even came to visit me while I was living in Taiwan. Trading conversations and experiences with her and other expats has helped me readjust to Canada.

FIND A SIMILAR ENVIRONMENT
Find yourself an authentic community where you can appreciate the sights and sounds of your host country again. Taiwan is a small country next to China, which means that the food and culture are similar. I live close to Toronto, so I will visit the city’s Chinatown to connect with Taiwanese culture. Toronto also has other cultural districts, such as Greektown, Little Italy, and Koreatown. Check out tourist sites of the closest major city near you for information on available cultural districts.

SATISFY YOUR APPETITE
In these districts, you will most likely find authentic food in nearby grocery stores or restaurants. This is the best way to experience your host country’s food again. Don’t settle for the wannabe Chinese, Italian, or Greek food at McDonald’s. Go out of your way to find authentic food, which you’ll only find in the aforementioned districts. You can’t lie to your taste buds.

MENTOR OTHERS
At some point, you’ll meet someone who will be planning to live overseas. Share your experiences and, if possible, help this nervous explorer plan his or her trip. Your mentorship might just trigger some old fond memories of when you left home to live abroad.

WRITE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES
Ever hear writing is therapy? It’s true. Writing–or blogging–about your experiences can help you resolve those repat travel blues. WordPress and Blogger are easy-to-use blogging platforms that you can use to share your experiences.

LOCATE OTHER EXPATS
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are conduits you can use to meet other expats. You can also search the web to find other online expat communities.

RESEARCH REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
The internet is full of information on how to cope with reverse culture shock. I recommend the U.S. Department of State’s website, which clearly defines reverse culture shock and provides in-depth information on how to deal with it.

SEEK HELP FROM A COUNCILLOR
Seeking help from a councillor is never a bad idea. A councillor can help you identify your pressure points and help strategize a readjustment strategy. iT!

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