By Kathryn Stewart
It’s normal to feel homesick when you are away from home, but what not many people realize is that when you spend a long time overseas, home might not feel like home anymore. This feeling is often referred to as “reverse culture shock”, or in other words, the process of readjusting to your own culture after being away for a long time.
While abroad you make new friends and the kinds of connections you build with the people you meet are unique and unlike any relationship you have at home. On one hand, you have a lot in common because you’ve all decided, for whatever reason, to live abroad. Ultimately, the reasons people choose to live abroad vary greatly and you find yourself being friends with people you may not have chosen to befriend at home. Still, you build a new version of home. You create new holidays. You become like family, you take care of each other. And then, ultimately, you leave.
After returning home, some friendships might not work anymore.Yes, your friends and family love you, but they were living their lives at home while you were gone. As much as everyone wants to see your travel pictures, they also want to tell you about what they have been doing.They will still relate to you the same way they did prior to your initial departure, meanwhile your perspective on the world has changed significantly.
Too much time may have gone by and your interests and values might have changed.
Reverse culture shock follows a similar pattern to culture shock. Initially people feel excited to be home and back in familiar surroundings, but this is often followed by apprehension with the realization that not everything is perfect, and you may start to miss living abroad
After returning home, some friendships might not work anymore. Too much time may have gone by and your interests and values might have changed. Divergence happens as perspectives change.
When you live abroad, you often feel special because of the attention and interest the local community gives you. Once you land back home, you are no longer special, you feel like you are just like everybody else. As a friend commented after returning to Canada from Indonesia, “the weirdest feeling was seeing people that looked like me everywhere.” As my mother commented on my arrival home, “you can’t pretend you don’t understand people when you don’t like what they are saying.” During my overseas experience, people let me move in front of them in the grocery store line-up, readily forgave serious social gaffes and in general treated me like a welcome guest in their home.
Reverse culture shock follows a similar pattern to culture shock. Initially people feel excited to be home and back in familiar surroundings, and then there comes apprehension with the realization that not everything is perfect and you may start to miss living abroad. Eventually acceptance occurs and you are able to readjust…
Until, of course, you find a great job and get ready to move overseas again!
Kathryn Stewart is a Placement Coordinator at Teach Away. Stewart lived in Turkey for two years where she taught English at a university