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How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock and Re-Entry back into the USA

American Airlines - Los Angeles International Airport

Home Sweet Home

Being as I have done this a few times before, Reverse Culture Shock or Re-Entry Shock back into one’s homeland is not fancy euphemism that says “Look at me, look at me. I’m special because I have been overseas for a long time.”

Reverse Culture Shock is Real

Reverse Culture shock is definitely real and something that affects many people, travelers, and Expats who have lived overseas for an extended period of time.

I have experienced this a few times before over the past several years upon my arrival back into the USA.

Being as I have done re-entered a number of times before, I have become some what aware of reverse culture shock, what to expect and how to deal with it.

In saying that, reverse culture shock still affects me. I have only learned how to deal with it and keep it’s impact minimal.

Home Coming

This time around wasn’t nearly as dramatic or in your face as previous arrivals home. This may be because I have previous experience with repatriating or what may be better known as repatriation.

It probably also has to do with the fact that it has been just about one year since my last return home.

Which is great as one year is not too long and really helps with returning home and settling in a lot easier then say, five years.

How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock

The biggest thing to consider when arriving back into your homeland after being overseas for an extended period of time is that things change.

Your family and friends have grown older, matured and will look and quite possibly act different. What once was a familiar scene, sound or smell to you is most likely not anymore.

The initial feelings you may receive from this are confusion, loss and maybe even sadness or depression.

There is a huge sense of losing ones own cultural identity. Whether you know it or not. Your cultural identity is your identity. The longer you are away from your home land, the more you lose of yourself.

Some Questions may Arise

While you have been away, there more then likely were minimal to several changes. Which will leave you asking yourself some questions such as:

What happened while I was gone?

Why is like this?

Where is everything at?

Why are they doing that now?

The list can easily go on and on.

While overseas it is easy to think or feel that everything at home stays the same. Almost as if everything you know is just magically frozen in time. People, family and friends included.

It does not.

Expect the Worst

I’ve found that the best way to deal with this is to expect that everything changes.

Everything might be a bit overkill, but if you expect that everything changes you’ll find that when you do arrive back home. The things that actually do change is obviously not everything.

As the amount of change did not meet your initial expectations of ‘everything has changed’ you’ll find that the impact is far less and quite minimal.

Bigger and Older

Depending on how long you have been an expat at some strange, sunburnt far away land. When you arrive back home you’ll most likely notice that your family and friends are a lot older and wrinklier and perhaps even grayer then when you last saw them.

Brace yourself, because it’s a huge shock.

Remember, you are probably bigger, older and perhaps even grayer too!

Expect all of this and do not be surprised when you see it.

New Experiences in Your Own Culture

You may of may not find that that are some new nuances have crept up into your own culture while you have been away.

The first time you see this you will probably be quite surprised. You might find yourself asking yourself questions like, “When did this happen?” “Why are they doing this now?” or just something as simple as “What’s going on?”

These little missing ‘cultural’ links that will most likely encounter after being overseas for a very long period of time, will probably result in you feeling like you are missing out or losing on the progression of your own culture.

You are.

I know that this has happened with me several times. As mentioned earlier, it may result in a huge sense of loss and sadness. I know it did for me.

You’ll find that just like when you left the USA (or your home country) your arrival into a new and foreign land for the first time will present many cultural differences or shocks to you.

Advice for Re-Entry Back into your Homeland

Brace yourself just as you most likely did when you initially departed your home country and arrived into a new and exciting land for the first time. Things are not the same.

Be ready for some sense of confusion, loss, curiosity and a need to seek answers. Be prepared for about a week or two to get used to the flow of things and how they work in your home country again.

It’s a bit like riding a bike. If you know how to ride a bike but have not ridden one for awhile.

You might be a bit wobbly at first. After a couple of minutes, a couple of pedals and a couple of laps, it’ll come right back to you.

Repatriating is no different.

There will be different sites, different smells, different tastes, different looks, smiles, faces, foods and a different land then what it was when you left.

Welcome home.

Learn more about Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-Entry

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8 Responses to How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock and Re-Entry back into the USA

  1. Sam February 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I’m wondering what heading back home for me will be like now. Certainly does create an element of anxiety.

    I also find myself worrying that the city and cultural aspects I tend to complain about for where I’m currently living – I worry that it may not be any better back home, things could have changed, or perhaps they simply never were how I seem to remember them (I changed).

    • Cal March 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Hey Sam,

      Really interesting point you make about the cultural aspects where you are currently living and if they are any better back home. I think a lot of it is the individual may have changed to some degree – to better blend in with their new adopted culture. Then, having to readapt yet again when going back to ones homeland.

      I know for me, I tend to try to blend in with my adopted culture by not speaking or acting the way I do at home.

      I suppose it is different for everybody.

  2. Volunteer ecuador March 4, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Culture Shock creates hell of a distance from one’s lifestyle. I think socializing and spending more time doing previous activities is better method of dealing with reverse culture shock!!

    • Cal March 5, 2012 at 12:52 am #

      Definitely. Doing things you that you are familiar with, as you said and time are probably a couple of the best things you can do to help you deal with it. I think…

  3. Volunteer Work March 4, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Reverse Culture shock takes place for a person like me who belongs to the third world country. Its all about the changes which are unavoidable. Positive changes learnt abroad must be brought into practice even after returning back.

    • Cal March 5, 2012 at 12:49 am #

      I have not lived in a third world country, but have travelled to a few. Indeed, cultural shot coming from a first world country would be huge. Just spending a brief amount of time in a third world country can really be confronting.

  4. novato property management April 13, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Its all about the changes which are unavoidable. Positive changes learnt abroad must be brought into practice even after returning back.

    • Cal June 12, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      Yes indeed. But, what do we do about the negatives?

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