Why coming back home is a bigger challenge than leaving

When you choose to go abroad for a few months or maybe even years there is a lot of adjustment coming your way. Isn´t this more than obvious?

Sooner or later you´ll find yourself in a discussion about this phenomenon called culture shock and you may realize that some of the common symptoms match your Situation.

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Anyways you´ll overcome this culture shock after a while, because after all, you were prepared for having to adjust. And you´re going to get lots of help from your agency, people that are or have been in the same situation as you and many others.

What I did not expect though was that readjusting once you return home can be much more of a challenge, basically, because you don´t expect it to be an adjustment going back to the same habits you´ve been used to for years and years.

I, personally, didn´t really experience a culture shock, neither did I get homesick abroad. Therefore I got the full load of culture shock and “homesickness” back at home. A big reason for that in my opinion is, that when you go abroad you know you´re going to come back to your old life in a while. But when you return home you might never have that exact same life again, that you had for the past months or years. 

 What used to appear “normal” to you, won´t anymore after you´ve gotten used to different customs, habits, ways of living. I´m talking about food, festivities and just anything you do in your everyday life. There will be things you notice at home, that you´ve never thought about earlier.

For me for example it was super difficult accepting, that the service in stores etc. is VERY different here in Germany. I got super sad andangry at times, when employees in shops etc. treat you like you´re not existing.

There are so many things – they can be tiny aspects of life-  that you might experience as unusual, as you´re not used to them anymore or maybe you even forgot about them –  had my parents tell me everything about going to a restaurant in Germany, before I went out for dinner again.

It might be being surprised because you see a squirrel running through your yard that is red, not grey.

It might be telling the driver to turn right on a red light while sitting in the car and not noticing that this isn´t allowed anymore.

It might be switching back to your first language – I still think in English a lot and just yesterday I wrote the grocery list in English without even noticing until my mom asked me what I was doing.

This readjustment can easily end up as a reverse culture shock and that can be super challenging. Obviously at first everything will be very exiting back at home. Everyone will want to see you, you´re going out, meeting old friends, doing the things you loved to do and weren´t able to do abroad. But suddenly you´ll find yourself in the random, sometimes boring everyday life. That was, when I started getting very unhappy and emotional. All of a sudden I had time to think about everything that was happening around me and about my routine back in my home abroad. I started comparing. Comparing habits, people, behaviour and lots and lots of other things. Sometimes all I wanted to do is hop on a plane and go back. Dealing with it is important. Start thinking about how you could improve the things you don´t like anymore back home. Appreciate, what you have back, that you missed when you were abroad. Share the good things you´ve learned abroad with friends and family.

I still miss how friendly and open people were in my town abroad, I miss getting a hug from my host children, jumping in leaf piles with them and being with them all the time. I miss tiny things like lemonade or my hostmom´s homemade chocolate chip cookies. I want to celebrate Thanksgiving and take the train to downtown Chicago whenever I want and so much more.

But then on the other hand I am so glad to have my family back, to see my best friends at least a couple times a week, to not have to calculate with miles, cups and °Fahrenheit and when I have a typical German breakfast with great bread. I`m looking forward to spend with my grandparents and get together for a coffee with my friends back home. 

Appreciating those things and how good it is to have all those people around you again can help a lot getting over the culture shock back home.

What experiences have you made regarding (reverse) culture shock. I´m very curious!



Author: Carina

20 year- old without any intention to travel less just yet. Why settle, if there is still so much beauty to explore out there?

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