Reverse culture shock is an experience of disorientation and unhappiness upon returning to your home country after an extended period abroad. It is common for reverse culture shock to be a more negative and challenging experience than culture shock itself. The following are illustrative examples of reverse culture shock.
AdaptationYou may adapt to a foreign country more than you expect such that you feel like a foreigner in your own country upon return. This isn't necessarily noticeable on short trips back but occurs with reintegration into society.
ExpectationsPeople who return home may have inflated expectations. This tends to lead to disappointment with the experience. For example, you may intensely look forward to grocery shopping in your home country but may find its not the peak experience you anticipated.
ChangeGoing back feels like time travel as you may imagine resuming life where you left off years before. It doesn't work this way. Your home country changes while you are gone and friends and family go on a new path without you around. You have also changed making it unlikely your new life in your home country will be anything like the past.
Falling BehindYou may fall behind your peers in your time away meaning that you have difficulties adjusting to your own country. This is particularly true for school children who can have problems with language and differences in social norms and expectations.
ConnectednessIt can be just as difficult to make friends in your home country as abroad with people you meet already cemented into existing social relationships. If you are unable to resume old social connections you may find it difficult to establish a sense of connectedness with the place you live upon return.
IdentityWhile abroad, you may strongly identify with people from your home. When you return you may feel that you don't identify with your nationality as strongly and may start to see your home country in a more realistic or negative light. This may be disorienting.
DisillusionmentReturning "home" tends to be an emotional experience that is linked to feelings of belonging, meaning, nostalgia and safety. This may not be the moment of self-fulfillment you're hoping for leading to a sense of disillusionment.
Moving BackwardsGoing abroad may feel like an adventure. Returning may feel like moving backwards. This may lead to questions related to life direction and purpose.
NotesSymptoms of reverse culture shock include boredom, withdrawal from social situations, a feeling of isolation, a longing to leave again and unduly criticizing your home country.Knowledge of reverse culture shock can help to reduce its impact as it tends to be rooted in inflated expectations. If you expect it to be difficult, things tend to go better.
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ReferencesStorti, Craig. The art of coming home. Hachette UK, 2011.
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