All right. You’re prepared. You know all about culture shock and you’re ready to face those demons if they arise when you transition to a new teaching post overseas.
But are you on guard against Reverse Culture Shock?
What the heck is that, anyway?
Reverse Culture Shock (RCS) is the same as culture shock—only you get it when you return to your homeland.
If it seems unbelievable to you now that you could be ‘shocked’ by moving back to something that should be familiar and comforting, start believing it now.
When we go abroad and adjust to living in a new culture (and starting a new career, and speaking new languages, and…, and…) we often romanticize and idealize what it’s like “back home.” We only think of the good things, and we have an expectation that when we do return, everything will go swimmingly. But, life has been going on while you were away and upon your return things often are not how you remembered—either they’ve changed, or you have.
Just as in culture shock, when you experience RCS, you may go through periods of elation, disappointment, anger and, at worst, depression.
I’ve read some research showing that people who assimilate well into their new foreign culture are more likely to experience more severe RCS when they return home.
What I know…
For me, I know that my home country doesn’t feel like “home” any more. In fact, I feel odd there. The go-go-go lifestyle with its attendant stress just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I find it a bit repellent, actually. I watch my friends and family and think how glad I am not to have such a high level of stress.
What if nowhere is home?
I’m not sure where it came from, but there’s an old saying that applies here: Once you’ve learned to live anywhere, you’ll feel at home nowhere. (If anyone knows the source of this saying, please send the reference!) There’s a lot of wisdom in this old maxim, and it’s something to consider when you’re thinking about starting a life abroad.
Little by little
However, the more countries you live in, and the more varied the cultures you adapt to, the more skilled you will become at transitioning between your “home” culture and your adopted one – and back. You’ll deal more smoothly with the issues that come up, and, usually, it will get easier to adjust.
This is another of life’s challenges that you’ll have to work through, not worry through.
Ted’s Tips™ #1: Don’t let people back home fall into thinking of you like this: “What happened to old Whatshisname? Didn’t he go abroad?” Keep up your old contacts so that you have got a go-to list of people for friendship and job possibilities when (or if) you do go home.
Ted’s Tips™ #2: Use the same tricks to beat RCS as you would to beat culture shock: get out of your shell and get busy. Volunteer, join a community club or group. The worst thing you can do is stay at home and wallow.