8 Ways to Cope with Reverse Culture Shock

Most of us have all heard the term of culture shock. If you haven’t let me break it down, culture shock is known as adapting to an environment or culture unfamiliar to your own. Many people use this phrase when travelling or moving abroad to a new country different from their own for the first time. 

You may be thinking:

It’s an exciting time in life, what’s the big deal?

Well, believe it or not when adapting to a new culture it’s not always as smooth sailing as we think. Sometimes when we adjust to a new culture, we can feel somewhat at unease, tearful, unhappy, a sense of panic and overwhelm. This can make us confused, trigger anxiety and depression. Likewise, if it’s not dealt with, it can manifest into something much bigger. You can feel helpless. 

What about Reverse Culture Shock?

While there is an abundance of resources out there to cope with culture shock, there is also you the risk you can face reverse culture shock. This is something that hit me the first time I came to the U.K. after living in Nepal.

Reverse culture shock is when you live abroad in a foreign country for a while and then have to return to your home country.

Sometimes, after embracing a new life for some time, it can be a bit daunting to returning to the old norm, an experience you’ve been living for a long time. Returning home can make you feel lost, out of touch, lonely and down. You may feel left out from your friends in another country, or maybe your friends in your home country are disconnected. 

You may miss a lot of things and as a result, start resenting your OWN culture. It may cause you a lot of confusion, as you lived this life once and now you’re struggling to live a life you once knew. Likewise, you may have changed a lot since living abroad, or your home has changed. It may not be what you expect it to be. All of this can make you feel like an outcast from society in your own culture. 

On a similar note, sometimes when returning from abroad, you may undergo a ‘honeymoon’ phase. Where you see your family, friends and loved ones after so long, becoming excited and thrilled. After some time, the newness dies down, and the thrill returns to the feeling of normalness. Once this kicks in, you start to miss small nuances of the foreign country you were living in. More or less known as the ‘honeymoon’ period wearing off.

Please note, not everyone feels this way, and the experience of returning home may be subjective. Similarly, you may not feel anything at all and maybe completely fine.

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8 tips for dealing with Reverse Culture Shock:

1. Talk About It

There’s nothing worse than letting emotions brew and bubble up inside of you. If you’re like me, sometimes it’s ok, and it does great wonders to be vocal about them. Whether you’re talking to someone in your native country or someone from abroad, open up about how your feeling.

Just having someone there to listen to you, can provide you with a bit of clarity. Make sure that person is ok listening, as not everyone has the time or interest to listen to your concerns if you struggle to find that ‘someone’ feel free to email me and reach out through this page.

 This is something I’ve experienced before. Finally, if you want to remain anonymous about it, you can always go to forums and be anonymous. You’re not the only one going through this, and I’m sure many of your worries have been answered or can be addressed by others through the likes of QuoraFluther, Yahoo Answers or much more. 

2. Cook

Alongside technology, you can instil the best of both worlds in your life through cooking! Did you learn any particular local dishes while you were away? If not, you can learn online and make them for your loved ones. This can create an excellent channel for communication, bringing two different cultures together. That way, people who you know who have not visited that country can gain an education about it through your flavours.

3. Join Community Programmes 

Are you feeling disconnected and lonely? If you involve yourself within the community, such as volunteering your time or even a sports class, you could start to feel connected. Yes, it may be a bit nerve-wracking, and you may feel out of touch. However, remember, you stepped out of your comfort zone abroad and can do it again. Meeting new people, networking and feeling part of something, may help you integrate a bit more easily back into your own culture.

4. Stay in Touch

The people you’ve met abroad have made a mark on you in some way or the other. You’ve bonded and connected many miles away from home! Remember, these people value YOU. It may not be the last time you see them either, so why should bonds erode? Nowadays we have so much technology available at our fingertips all it takes is a simple FaceTime, Skype or Zoom call and you’re back with them! That’s not even accounting for social media!

5. Implement a Routine

Surely upon coming back home, you may have many things to deal with like bank accounts, jobs, bills and much more. That isn’t considering the catching up with old friends & family, connecting with friends abroad or your work. I’m sure you have a lot of things to do, find a way to establish a schedule and keep yourself productive. This way, you can tick off items as you go along and then feel a sense of reward/accomplishment in yourself. 

6. Seek out Positivity

It’s hard at first; however, there are ways to find positivity in your life! For instance, take time to value and appreciate all your home creature comforts. Especially the ones you’ve missed abroad, so spend time enjoying and embracing them. If you’re feeling sad, go for a run or do some exercise. Partake in your hobbies, look for ways to find positivity actively. 

7. Move Forward

You’ve lived this incredible life abroad. Go and implement the skills you’ve learnt elsewhere and apply them into your community. This way, you can generate new ideas and inspire locals around you. Please don’t resort to doing what you did previously; you have a lot of new skills and knowledge, utilise them! 

8. Acknowledge and Move on

Number 8 to cope with reverse culture shock is to move on. Yes, you’re feeling low, disconnected and sad you’re not back abroad. But this is not forever! You can return to your old life, you can connect with your friends, and you can rebuild! Time is a healer, and sure enough, things can become ok. Trust me, I’m writing from experience!

Last words on to cope with reverse culture shock…

Remember, everyone is subjective and cope with reverse culture shock differently. Similarly, you may not have any symptoms at all, and if so, I applaud you for that! If you’re currently experiencing this, comment below or if you have before share your insights here. I and many others would love to know more!


Extracts of Alex

Navigating Nepal and the World

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