You may think that returning home after spending a long time abroad might be a refreshing experience.
However, depending on how long you’ve been away, you might find that the cultural connections that were once customary to you now feel strange and foreign.
Just like expatriates are warned about the culture shock they might experience when arriving in their new homes abroad, they must also be aware of the psychological impact of reverse culture shock when coming back home.
What is Reverse Culture Shock
Everyone experiences the reverse culture shock stages in different ways.
Think of it like a rollercoaster ride. When returning home, repatriates commonly will go through a phase of joy and excitement – the peak of the ride. However, these emotions can be short-lived as you may begin to remember your home, jobs and friends abroad. This can often cause feelings of depression, anger, and general unpleasantness as your mood drops.
Depending on your emotional state and willingness to accept your change, this feeling of rock bottom could last for several days or as long as a few months. But once you begin your recovery and adjustment, you’ll begin to climb up the emotional rollercoaster again, eventually reaching another peak of happiness.
How To Overcome Reverse Culture Shock
Even if you are only out of the country for a few months, you will be different when you come back.
For instance, you may suddenly have strong feelings (positive or negative) about some of the aspects of the American lifestyle that you never really paid much attention to in the past.
Here are four methods that can help you cope with reverse culture shock.
1. Reconnect with Old Friends
After being away for months or years, you will have some friends that will want to hear about your time abroad.
Take this opportunity to share your stories, photos, and new favorite recipes. Your friends will help catch you up on everything you missed and help you acclimate yourself back into your old culture.
Just be sure to keep an open mind about the viewpoints you and your friends might now see differently. Don’t try to change their opinions if you suddenly no longer agree, just like they won’t try to change your mind.
2. Put Your Thoughts on Paper
You will be experiencing a wide variety of reverse culture shock emotions upon your return home; everything from elation to depression. The best way to get all of those feelings out is by writing them down.
Start a blog, create a journal, or just scribble notes on the back of a bar napkin. Whenever you feel the need to dump what’s on your mind, do it. You’ll feel better afterwards, and you’ll find this helps you remember your favorite experiences in detail that you would otherwise forget over time.
3. Get Out, Explore, and Try Something New
If returning home makes you realize you’re no longer interested in the things you used to do for fun, there’s some good news.
This country is full of fun and exciting activities.
Explore areas of your hometown you’ve never been or take a day trip to a nearby park or recreational area. You could even rediscover neighborhoods in your city that you thought you knew, but are now seeing in a different light.
Before long, you’ll find something that you really enjoy and makes you happy.
4. Speak With a Mental Health Professional
If you’re still having trouble coping with your readjustment to your old lifestyle, you might want to consider attending therapy or counseling sessions.
In this safe environment, you’ll be able to speak with someone who is professional trained to help you identify the reasons you’re having trouble transitioning and suggest methods that may remedy your difficulties.
Depending on the services offered and your employment situation, you may be able to attend these sessions at little or no out of pocket cost to you. Some counselors may even offer a free initial consultation. Be sure to speak with the professional prior to your appointment so there are no surprises about what you should expect, both financially and emotionally.
The Key to Overcoming Reverse Culture Shock
There are many methods you can follow to combat reverse culture shock, but in the end, it all boils down to moving on with your life.
Just consider the ways that make you feel happiest and provide the support that you need, and you’ll be feeling like you belong “home sweet home” in no time.