Reverse Culture Shock

I don’t have a job, but apparently, I have Reverse Culture Shock.
I’ve begun moving back in with my old roommate, back to Indianapolis, closer to my old life. The best part of this move is that I’m talking with my roommate again, someone who’s traveled a significant amount.

Today she asked me if I was experiencing any reverse culture shock.

“Oh, naw…I mean the first week was kind of rough. I’m just kind of tired of everything, not really in reverse culture shock. I just need to keep busy, because people here are so frustrating. And I’ve been so isolated up in Lafayette. It’s not that bad, I can function just fine, you know. My family had to deal with a lot of stuff from me, but I’m doing fine now…just ready to move on.”

“So. It’s been pretty bad, huh?”

“I’m not covering very well, am I?”

“It’s like I explained to my sister, ‘Reverse culture shock is when you just hate everyone around you.'”

Since I’d just finished meeting up with some old friends, and spent more than a decent amount of time during the visit thinking about how unhelpful and meaningless the conversation was, I couldn’t argue.

I’d like to think that Reverse Culture Shock refers to not being able to function. That if this were really happening, I’d be incapacitated. Suddenly start acting strange, even strangers would comment on unconventional behaviour, I’d have some extreme stories. That’s not what actually happens, though.

Basically reverse culture shock just means I’m out of patience, energy, and interest in anything around me [most of the time, not always. So if that’s not happening when  I see you – it doesn’t mean everything’s perfectly fine]. And I think it’s your fault. Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not always such a jerk, because I forget and no one physically close to me has seen me recently enough to remember.

Sorry.

Some things help…Being helpful. Deciding to be grateful. Making plans. Mostly being around people who aren’t surprised. Spending time with friends who have traveled, or whose families travel. I don’t need to be near these people because we talk about Thailand, or I get nostalgic. I need to be near these people because my complaints don’t surprise them, my confusion over the juxtaposition of these two cultures and lifestyles is understandable. They’ve heard, or voiced, the same reactions. Those relationships, are like a warm cup of tea on a blustery day. I don’t migrate there for the nourishment, I cling for the comfort, for the ease and the peace that comes from these conversations.

Leo's mom comes from a family of traveling fiends...we may not talk about Thailand, but knowing I have the freedom to ramble is so very, very good

Leo’s mom comes from a family of traveling fiends…we may not talk about Thailand, but knowing I have the freedom to ramble is so very, very good

According to this Study Abroad website, I’m textbook.

Reverse Culture Shock, or “re-entry”, is a term associated with the phenomenon of returning to one’s own country and culture. Very similar to culture shock, a person entering into their home environment will have to make adjustments to reacquaint themselves with their surroundings. Unlike culture shock, most do not anticipate feeling like a foreigner in their own home. However, it should be expected. If you have made any cultural adjustments while abroad, you will have to readjust once back home.

Experiencing reverse culture shock is extremely common and may include any to all of the following emotions:

  • Restlessness, rootlessness
  • Reverse homesickness-missing people and places from abroad
  • Boredom, insecurity, uncertainty, confusion, frustration
  • Need for excessive sleep
  • Change in goals or priorities
  • Feelings of alienation or withdrawal
  • Negativity towards American behavior
  • Feelings of resistance toward family and friends
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2 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock

  1. Yep. I couldn’t remember what it was called. Take comfort in the knowledge. You will get past this, but you won’t be the same, and that is good and O.K.. I’m glad you have those understanding friends who can be patient with you in the process of readjustment.

  2. Megan- I haven’t read your blog in a long time. While playing Candy Crush Saga I accidently hit the favorites link and saw this about Reverse Culture shock. As one who lived with my parents overseas twice and then once a an adult, I know what you’re going through. Consider this time to be a life lesson and write the lessons down for future reflection. Adjusting to the US culture having lived overseas for a period of time is shocking. We as American’s take so much for granted and you are lucky to have experienced other cultures that have much less than we have here. Your grandfather, Frank would be very proud of what you accomplished. If you want someone to talk with you can always get in touch with me to chat.

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