The idea that one day as an expat you have to go home doesn’t become a reality until one of your closest friends leaves the country and you have to hold back the tears from the mere thought that they won’t be physically present in the same location as you. The constant updates as they try to settle back in their home countries start off with hilarity then turns to worry. As friends and family try to adjust back to what they once knew as familiar, they will undergo what has been termed as reverse culture shock.
Reverse Culture Shock affects the psychological, emotional, and cultural aspects of repatriates. If you know one of your friends is leaving or planning on leaving soon then you can help them prepare for what lies ahead. The other scenario is that friend or family that has lived abroad and calls China home is relocating back and will need help to understand. Here’s information collected about what reverse culture shock is:
What’s reverse culture shock?
According to expatica.com’s interview, “reverse culture shock is experienced when returning to a place that one expects to be home but actually is no longer, is far more subtle, and therefore, more difficult to manage than outbound shock precisely because it is unexpected and unanticipated.”
The U-Curve of Reverse Culture Shock
Like culture shock, reverse culture shock has stages that’s a U-shape. It starts with excited at the top of the u when people return seeing familiar places and people, eating familiar food, and getting shoes that fit perfectly. After the initial euphoria dies down, the feeling of disconnection starts when cultural differences begin to weigh heavily. That is the bottom of the U and is the roughest part as it comes with various complications.
What are some of the common effects of Reverse Culture Shock?
Aside from the obvious frustrations, returnees may experience a number of mental/emotional side-effects, such as criticality, marginality, overexertion/exhaustion, and resistance/withdrawal/self-doubt/depression according to State.gov. Craig Storti, author of the famous book, The Art of Coming Home, uses these terms which can be summarized as follows:
Criticality – At the depths of reverse culture shock, you may notice yourself making a lot of critical judgments about home. Your renewed unfamiliarity with the home culture and your unfamiliarity with the routines can lead to unpleasant and frustrating experiences. Furthermore, this frustration can be displaced, often onto others. It becomes easy to be impatient with others and hard to be objective — even when the problems are actually insignificant. You may remember all of the wonderful things about your foreign post, and compare them against the least pleasant aspects of being home. Understand that it is normal to critically assess and compare your experience abroad with your experience at home.
Marginality – Your overseas experience has significantly impacted your identity. As you immersed yourself in a new culture, you broadened your perspective and opened your mind to new ideas. Once you return home, you realize that tensions exist between your new identity and mainstream society. You no longer feel like you fit in. Many families and individuals in the foreign affairs community make a life for themselves when “back home,” are able to function in and adapt to multiple settings, but do not feel completely comfortable.
Overexertion/Exhaustion – Because many of the routines, patterns and customs of your passport culture are now new to you, you must consciously pay attention to performing basic functions. Add to that the stress of the logistical tasks of your return, and you may begin to feel overwhelmed by this experience. Exhaustion is a commonly reported effect of reverse culture shock.
Resistance/Withdrawal/Self-Doubt/Depression – As you become discontented with your home culture, a common reaction is to resist adapting to it. Many returnees withdraw or escape, dwelling on fantastical thoughts of the foreign culture and avoiding contact with people from the home culture. With all of the frustrations and disillusionment of “home,” it can be easy to question and doubt yourself. Not surprisingly, then, reverse culture shock is often accompanied by a dose of depression.
Sourced from state.gov