Coping with Reverse Culture Shock

Adjusting to life back home

Reverse Culture Shock. Yup, it’s lurking out there and probably scratching at your back door. It’s when reality doesn’t meet your expectations. Everyone and everything seems a little off. Home may not feel like home.

Reverse Culture Shock has 4 stages:

  • Disengagement
  • Initial Euphoria
  • Irritability and Hostility
  • Readjustment Adaptation

Stage 1 begins before you leave the host country. You make preparations for your return home. You realize it’s time to say goodbye to friends and sites you’ve been trying to call home. Be sure to take slowly the last few days abroad to reflect on your emotions and experiences.

Stage 2 usually begins shortly before departure, and it is characterized by feelings of excitement and anticipation – even euphoria – about returning home. This is very similar to the initial feelings of fascination and excitement you had about going abroad. This stage ends with the realization that most people are not interested in your travel experiences. They will politely listen, but will soon want to move on.

Stage 3 brings feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness, and you’re not sure why. You might quickly become irritated or critical of others and of your home culture. Depression, feeling like a stranger at home, and the longing to go back abroad are also common reactions. You may feel less independent than you were abroad.

Stage 4 is a gradual readjustment to life at home. Things will start to seem a little more normal again, and you will probably fall back into some old routines, but things won’t be exactly the same as how you left them. You have new attitudes, beliefs, habits, as well as personal?and professional goals, and you will see things differently. The important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience with the positive aspects of life at home.

The best thing you can do for yourself and those around you back home is to acknowledge these emotions when they come. Do this and your adjustment from life pre-departure to post-landing will be more tolerable.

Michael Radke

Study Abroad Coordinator

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