Reverse culture shock and all its associated WTF moments, anxieties and pitfalls. Reverse culture shock can be defined as the phenomena of difficulties or challenges readjusting to one’s homeland. Like walking through a vortex backwards, reverse culture shock feels like a paradox.
This is an abstract concept to vacationers. But for anyone who has spent 6 or more months living in a foreign country the language, TV shows, songs, norms and customs of the adopted country start to become the “new normal”. The body and mind adjust to new rhythm and way of being- returning to the rhythm and mode of interacting back in one’s homeland can be deeply disruptive. Like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth or plunging your feet into hot water after walking in the snow.
After living abroad for the first time, after studying at the university of Havana, I was completely used to living in a tropical Spanish-Speaking Socialist country….. I was dreaming in Spanish and thinking in Spanish, listening to salsa and Cuban hip-hop and kissing everyone on the cheek.
When I returned to the USA , I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I went to college in Atlanta, a city full of goodness- trap music, Southern slang, soul food- but for a month, I was bewildered AF. Especially by the amount of consumerism in the US compared to the simplicity of a lower-income (and market-restricted) country like Cuba. Yes, it was nice to have internet again but everything revolved around money and buying stuff. I would have mini-meltdowns every time I entered the supermarket-I was overwhelmed by the number of choices of shampoos we had. In Cuba, there were 4, in the USA, there were 50!
And reverse culture shock wasn’t only disruptive to me- my guy classmates kept thinking I was interested because I’d forget the custom back home and kiss them on the cheek like in Cuba!
In some cases, reverse culture shock can make people extremely critical of their homeland, while in other, it is more of a mild alienation. The good news is that with more time and experience abroad the severity and duration of reverse culture shock have reduced, at least for me.
Share your stories of culture shock, reverse culture shock, tips or ways to deal….