After your stint overseas, it may be time for you to come back to your hometown, be it for a vacation or for good. Do you remember the difficulties you had when you first left home? The truth is, many people find that coming back home is just as difficult as, if not more than, arriving at and settling in a new country.
Once you come back home, you will probably look at the little details of your previous lifestyle and make comparisons in pretty much the same way you did when you came to your new country. All the differences you notice, between your original home and your new one, may become overwhelming for you. For example, having lived in Singapore for a few years, every time I came back home to Davao, it wasn’t very easy dealing with how laidback the lifestyle and atmosphere at home was. It wasn’t like it was a bad thing, it was just so… different!
You probably changed a great deal while you were away, and it won’t be easy for your family and friends to accept and comprehend these changes. Furthermore, you may find that it’s not just you who has changed—your loved ones, the people in your life, your old surroundings: you may not have anticipated that they could change too.
You now face the difficulty of re-adjusting to your old home while longing for the friends and experiences you had and left behind. Your family and old friends may not seem as keen on knowing about your life overseas as you feel they should be, and this could cause frustration especially when you are unable to adequately describe and explain your experience abroad.
Exposure to a different culture and environment, unfamiliar behavior, ideas and norms — this leads you to re-examine your own culture and identity. It could result in a slightly or even completely different perception of your home city or country, with either a more negative or positive attitude, perhaps even both.
What, then, is the best way to deal with reverse culture shock?
Every individual will have their own way of coping with readjustment and reintegration, but these are a few tips that can be useful for anyone:
1. Find a something similar or familiar. If you are missing certain activities, habits, places or a particular atmosphere from abroad, it will probably be worth your while if you look for something similar back in your hometown. It can be a park, beach or district that resembles a certain spot you used to frequent abroad, or a restaurant that serves your favorite foreign food — it can even be a video rental store that carries films from your adopted country! Of course it’s not likely that you will find the exact same thing you are missing, but it may be enough to fill this “empty space”!
2. Be interesting and be interested. Your friends and family may not be giving you attention the way you would like, and may not seem that interested in hearing about your life overseas. If this is the case, maybe you need to take another approach in telling your story. Explain the changes and adjustment you had to undergo in terms that they are familiar with and/or can definitely understand. For example, you can give descriptive nicknames for some of the friends or people you met abroad, to make them more memorable and interesting. Or, when narrating events, try to compare them to other events that your family and friends can relate to. It’s not very helpful and remarkable if all you can say is “I had a great time, you had to be there to understand.” Try your best to explain away! For example: “The first time I (tried a certain delicacy) (visited a place) it was like (this other time when you did something back home) (a cross between one familiar thing and another).” Pull your listeners into the story, and get them to ask more questions. Also, it’s very important to remember that these people have probably changed the whole time you were away too. Make sure to let them know you’re interested in hearing their own stories as well.
3. Tell the world you are coming back home. Do you feel out of touch with the new friends you left behind? Chances are, they’re probably waiting to hear from you and are eager to know that you arrived safely back home. Take the initiative: let them know you miss them, describe the things and activities that keep you busy, tell them about the unexpected difficulties and changes that you are encountering. Keep up with the times by checking our online newspapers or news sites from overseas. If you had an employer you were fond of, let him or her know how you are doing and what your plans are for the future. Don’t wait for them to contact you!
4. Meet a person with similar experience overseas. Talk to other people you know who have also returned after spending much time abroad and who may be undergoing the same feelings and difficulties you’re having. They may be able to share some advice and encouraging words.
Don’t forget, some of the tips in dealing with the initial culture shock (refer to previous Culture Shock article) are relevant to reverse culture shock as well.
Once again, solutions to reverse culture shock are abundant and unique to each individual. Perhaps the most important thing is to remember that the time and experiences you had abroad were well-spent, and have shaped you into the unique and interesting person you are now!
This article on Reverse Culture Shock is written by Katlyn Batuigas.