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Dealing with reverse culture shock
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jpvanderwerf2001



Joined: 02 Oct 2003
Posts: 1117
Location: New York

PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reverse culture shock is most definitely real, though it may affect some more than others (obviously).
After 11 essentially uninterrupted years abroad, moving back to the US and communicating with native speakers all the time was sometimes awkward. I found myself choosing simpler words to explain things, for instance.
Also, as has been alluded to here, the polite, blank stares I got when going into detail about my experiences abroad led me to be more judicious about "oversharing."
I have a good job here in the US, and my family and I are doing fine, but not one days passes when I don't think about how best to get back overseas!
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 744

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jpvanderwerf2001 wrote:

I have a good job here in the US, and my family and I are doing fine, but not one days passes when I don't think about how best to get back overseas!


That's what scares me about making the move back to my home country... I fear I will regret it. I mean there's only so many times one can reset their career before it starts having unrecoverable consequences.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11441
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jpvanderwerf2001 wrote:
I have a good job here in the US, and my family and I are doing fine, but not one days passes when I don't think about how best to get back overseas!

That's because being overseas became familiar to you. If your life in the US is rather mundane, yearning for those exotic, foreign cultural experiences -- good and bad -- is normal.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15329

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One reason that I chose my current detination for retirement. I grew up on the East Coast of Scotland,. I retired to an island off the West Coast. It is sufficiently different for me to have constant reminders that even now I am "A stranger in a strange land."

I am also close enough to the main UK nuclear base that when WW3 comes I will simply disappear in a flash of thermonuclear light. Now that IS comforting. So it goes.
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Songbird



Joined: 09 Jan 2005
Posts: 629
Location: State of Chaos, Panic & Disorder...

PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I moved back to Australia in July 2015 (wow, that long already?!) after spending 10 years teaching in China. I was dreading the move back, so I planned for a year in advance- saving as much as I could as I expected to be unemployed for a LONG time, researching companies I wanted to target, hobbies & other things I might try during my downtime etc. I expected it to be really tough, and to run back to China as soon as I could. I even took myself to Europe over CYN 6 months before I left thinking I would at least have something positive to reflect on during the tough times ahead.

Well it didn't turn out that way. I got home, taught myself to drive all over again, bought a decent 2nd hand car in cash (which I still have), and landed a full time job with an international company within 3 weeks. Crazy.....I also moved closer into the city but have since moved onto another full-time job (better hours & pay) and have just purchased my first home. Now I am tying myself down for at least a couple of years before I can get out of this boring office job, rent it out & take off again- I REALLY miss living overseas & all the travel!

I think the planning I did helped with reverse culture shock- I also joined a church where there were a few people who had the same experiences as I did (1 who was in the middle of adopting from China as well) and just trying to find some adventure in the everyday.
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Mr. Kalgukshi
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 6597
Location: Need to know basis only.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MOD EDIT: Staying on topic would be a very good idea assuming you do not want your postings deleted or worse.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11441
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Songbird wrote:
I was dreading the move back, so I planned for a year in advance- saving as much as I could as I expected to be unemployed for a LONG time, researching companies I wanted to target, hobbies & other things I might try during my downtime etc. I expected it to be really tough, and to run back to China as soon as I could. I even took myself to Europe over CYN 6 months before I left thinking I would at least have something positive to reflect on during the tough times ahead.
....
Well it didn't turn out that way. I got home, taught myself to drive all over again, bought a decent 2nd hand car in cash (which I still have), and landed a full time job with an international company within 3 weeks. Crazy.....I also moved closer into the city but have since moved onto another full-time job (better hours & pay) and have just purchased my first home. Now I am tying myself down for at least a couple of years before I can get out of this boring office job, rent it out & take off again- I REALLY miss living overseas & all the travel!

You're spot on with your strategy of preplanning. So many returnees tend to view repatriation as negative, but planning for the inevitable puts a positive, assertive spin on dealing with reverse culture shock because you're taking some control of the situation... one day at a time.

BTW, when I became a bit anxious, I visited my neighbor to play with her two kittens. Their silly antics and cute, fuzzy kitty faces always had a calming effect.

**QUESTION (for anyone): Just throwing this out there...

Do you think the quality of life, level of services/products, housing quality, language barriers, etc. of your time overseas have an impact on the level and length of reverse culture you experience when you return home? For example, would someone teaching in Haiti for a couple of years have a tougher time adjusting home compared to a teacher who worked in Moscow?
.
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Mikalina



Joined: 03 May 2011
Posts: 140
Location: Home (said in a Joe90 voice)

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For me, the 'shock' has been related to what I originally adapted to in a particular country, rather, I think, than any level of amenities, etc.

On returning from Uganda, I was physically repulsed by the pasty, pale, sausage-like people with no colour in their skin that surrounded me in West Sussex and totally confused by the whole aisle in the supermarket full of what I called soap powder - now in tablets, pouches, liquids, different sizes and different brands. My world looked different and everyone else seemed to think it was normal.

Coming home from Moscow was different. Now, it was behaviour. I reached between two talking women in the supermarket to take the last loaf. Later, the scene replayed itself and I realised that they were doing the "you have it", "no, you have it" routine. You don't do this in Moscow. Also on the coach, next time I travelled, the queue had lost its shape due to a delay. When it arrived the driver called everyone to get on and I was sat on it, book out and bag packed away before anyone else moved. Lots of dirty looks.

I've grown spikes and you can disguise them and learn to live with them but, like Hotel California, you can never leave - so, like yer man in Scotland, I live in my bubble and wait for the bang.
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yurii



Joined: 12 Jan 2017
Posts: 99

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:

**QUESTION (for anyone): Just throwing this out there...

Do you think the quality of life, level of services/products, housing quality, language barriers, etc. of your time overseas have an impact on the level and length of reverse culture you experience when you return home?


I guess any kind of "quality" could potentially be an issue, such as housing, job, customer service, food, air, smoking laws (if you're a non-smoker like me that is), or how well you speak the language (a much bigger factor if the locals don't speak much English naturally). These factors could make you appreciate your home country more (or less) influencing the degree of reverse culture shock faced.

Quote:

For example, would someone teaching in Haiti for a couple of years have a tougher time adjusting home compared to a teacher who worked in Moscow?
.


It's impossible to say because it's impossible to know if Teacher A would prefer Haiti to Moscow or vice versa for a myriad of reasons.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11441
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yurii:

Can you elaborate? I posed the questions to invite posters to reflect on their own experiences as they return "home".
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reblair79



Joined: 15 Jan 2016
Posts: 103

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never experienced reverse culture 'shock' as such after my voluntary in Thailand or through my time spent in far out places such as Bahrain for 9 months at a time when in the armed forces.

I did however find a new found appreciation for very simple thinks in my home city of Glasgow such as the architecture of buildings and the opportunities on my door step such as beautiful mountains and countrysides.

I also appreciated more the simple things such as being able to speak slang again and relax my language over a game of pool and a pint etc with my friends.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15329

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The shock hit me when I came to the UK after 2 years in small-town Saudi Arabia in 1972. A psychotic episode led to me being sectioned under the Mental Health Act

I got out of the looney bin and wen back into teaching in the Middle East and Africa, Ever since then I have felt more at home in the Middle East or Africa !

No one in Zambia or Saudi locked me up in the Madhouse !
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11441
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How expats cope with losing their identity
By Laura Clarke, BBC | 6 November 2016
Source: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20161104-how-expats-cope-with-losing-their-identity

Last week, we identified an important, but often overlooked problem of being a long-term expat: how a foreign posting can affect your sense of identity, belonging and home. It prompted many of you to share your own enlightening and often surprising experiences of moving around the globe. In fact, so many of you identified with our writer’s dilemma that we thought we would both share your experiences and highlight your best tips when it comes to fitting in once you return “home” after a long stint abroad.

In a Facebook comment, Wendy Skroch dubbed the phenomenon “reverse culture shock”. “There is a form of homelessness that goes with all this,” she wrote. “The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real.”

Many people identified with the disheartening struggle to plant roots again upon returning home. Pete Jones, who left the UK in 2000 for a life in Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, wrote: “I do enjoy visiting Blighty for a few days and then feel the need to leave. It is not home anymore! I don't think I’ll ever feel Swiss but I do enjoy life here.” He continued, “Honestly, I don't know where home is anymore.”

For some, it was the reaction from the people who were supposedly closest to them that made returning a lonely and difficult experience. “Returning home to the US after 26 years in Australia was quite a shock, wrote Bruce Felix. “Being the new guy in what was supposedly ‘home’ has been difficult at times.” Having picked up new words and phrases but not an accent, he noted, communication in his homeland proved a challenge. “Without the accent, people just think you're odd.” After 20 years in America, Mary Sue Connolly felt she was treated as an outsider upon returning to Ireland. “I have changed and I feel labelled as a result.”

“Reintegration is easier by not talking about your past [as] you could be considered as pretentious,” commented Denis Gravel. Allison Lee can identify. She has been back in Australia for three years following six years in Latin America and London. “It takes so much longer to make friends now... and no one wants to hear your stories.” Eunice Tsz Wa Ma, originally from Hong Kong, still experiences culture shock even though she returns to the city every summer. “Every time I go back I just feel as if I'm left behind by time [and] the only one still living in the past.”

So after a long absence, how do you fit back in? Some of the tried and tested solutions were remarkably simple and practical. “Avoid going back to a similar job on the same site with the same people if you can,” advised UK resident John Simpson. “There will be mutual resentment and their daily issues will seem trivial.”

Vesna Thomas, who repatriated to Sydney after 16 years in the US and Singapore, found it hard to make friends in her late forties. Eventually she started a book club, worked part time and volunteered at a school. “Funny thing is, all my book club friends are expats. You are drawn to each other as they know what you are experiencing.”

Indeed, some of those attempting to repatriate actively sought out expat communities. “This was helpful because I tended not to hang out with very many other Americans while abroad and I got to re-experience American culture through their eyes, making the adjustment a little easier,” wrote Alexis Gordon. “I decided to treat the repatriation experience as if it were another expat assignment, albeit a more familiar place where I know the language. That has helped me adjust,” wrote Katrina Gonnerman. “I've been away for 30 years [and] whenever I'm back in the US I deal with it as a foreign country, [and] marvel at the conveniences and ease of doing everyday tasks,” wrote Mark Sebastian Orr.

Perhaps the most intriguing response to our request for reintegration tips was a resounding challenge of the question itself. Many readers found that resettling in your so-called homeland was difficult, but not entirely necessary. Nicole Jones has three passports and has lived in five countries. “I do not have rose-tinted glasses on for any place and can see the bad and good clearly. I feel I am a citizen of the world and am proud.”

“You don't [reintegrate],” commented Paula Alvarez-Couceiro. “You realise that by having lived in so many different cultures, your personality and way of thinking has changed, and trying to adapt to what you were before you left is a mistake that will disregard the personal growth you have done.”

These responses tell us that for many expats, defining homeland and identity is no straightforward task. For those struggling to reclaim their identity upon returning to their “passport home”, perhaps comfort can be found among these global citizens, for whom reintegration is an option, not an obligation.

(End of article)
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natsume



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 409
Location: Chongqing, China

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some of us never felt all that integrated with our home countries in the first place, and find international living to be something of a welcome bit of fresh air. If I'm going to feel/be "different" anyway, why not do it abroad? And although there were many wonderful events, friends, and experiences in my teens, twenties, and thirties in the states, I never really want to "return" to that old time and self. I've changed.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11441
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If only more US employers recognized the value of those international, multicultural experiences. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have never stepped foot outside the US, which makes it challenging to convey the concept of global citizenship or expat life many of us have experienced. This can add to the stress of reverse culture shock.
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