Coping With Reverse Culture Shock

Coping With Reverse Culture Shock

reverse culture shock chart showing culture shock timeline versus reverse culture shock timeline

the highs and lows of initial culture shock in country and then coping with reverse culture shock when returningNow that you have a better understanding of what reverse culture shock is, how do you find ways of coping with reverse culture shock? After all, it is also affecting the way you interact with your family and friends. Does everything feel the same but different? How do you navigate the different thoughts that you now find yourself with? Does it feel like your family and friends are not the same as when you left? And, how long will they be interested in your stories of service and travels?

IF No One Wants to Hear Your Stories

You come home wanting to share the stories about your Peace Corps experience. But how do you explain what you are feeling to someone who has never been in Peace Corps service? Do your friends and family really want to see the thousands of pictures you took? After a few minutes, their eyes glaze over. They smile and nod politely. Does it feel like they would prefer the 3-minute version and the top ten photos to sum up your entire Peace Corps experience?

Take some time to listen to their stories about what happened in their lives since you have been gone. It is not always all about you. And instead of trying to force your friends and family to be interested, look for an audience who genuinely is.

You can share your experiences online. And your local RPCV groups and country-specific RPCV groups are filled with people who would love to hear your stories and see your pictures. Also, RPCV Health Crusade welcomes your health stories of service or after. We are building a new Stories section on our website to share all of your helpful, informative, and insightful stories.

In the case of an evacuation or separation, there are RPCVs with first hand experience in that as well. If you want to talk through your feelings and concerns, sign up for our peer support sessions to work through those thoughts in a safe space with your peers.

IF You Find Yourself Becoming Bored

In country, you were learning new things about your surroundings, your fellow PCVs, and your host country neighbors. You felt yourself grow as a person. You learned things about yourself that you never knew. But now, you are back home. And it feels like you are not learning and growing anymore. You are no longer using your new language skills. You find yourself becoming bored or falling into a rut.

Why not continue building those relationships that you made in country? For the PCV service areas with internet or phone capabilities, your host country friends and colleagues are only a click away. And, take advantage of the new opportunities and experiences that are all around you. Consider potential projects that you can tackle to help and stay connected with your host country. Or, take the opportunity to utilize your new international experience and language abilities. Look for organizations and volunteer opportunities that would welcome your new skills. Consider joining a new club. Or better yet, start one!

IF You Are Being Critical of What Was Once “Normal”

After experiencing a new culture, you may begin to compare the two. And you may become overly critical of certain experiences and behaviors that you previously were a part of. You now see your old environment through a different perspective.

Do your family really waste that much time watching television? The amount your friends spent for dinner could have fed your entire host family for a month. Are there really fifty types of shampoo? And why is it called soccer here when the rest of the world calls it football? And now people are using the term “social distancing” when referring to physical distancing. After all, social connections are more important than ever when physically apart so why create a new term in English that is essentially an oxymoron?

Hopefully during training, you were told to not judge your host country and accept their cultural norms. Now try to offer the same patience and understanding at home. And when certain terminology or slang terms develop in the English language, it tends to stick whether or not it makes grammatical sense. But it can be difficult to translate or explain these terms to other cultures or even within your own. No culture is perfect so take a little time to get reacquainted with your new-old surroundings. Eventually you will find a balance or a new place to call home.

IF You Miss Your Host Country Friends

You may no longer feel the same connection to your old friends. They don’t understand your stories. Or, it feels like they moved on with their lives when you expected them to stay the same as when you left. Do you feel like your host country friends and colleagues understand you better?

Look for new ways to reconnect with your old friends. You don’t have to live the same life to be friends. But it is possible that the connection you once had has changed. If your main connection was a single instance like college or working at the same company, it is inevitable that you will need to evolve beyond that when you are no longer in that single connection point.

And, reach out to stay in touch with your host country friends and colleagues if possible to relive a few of those stories. Take a little time to cherish the positive memories. And also look for ways to help you through the issues and struggles you had from service.

But at some point, you need to move forward with life. After all, your host country friends are moving forward as well. Is it time to look for a job? Did you apply to that graduate program? Should you launch that business idea? Did you come up with a really great idea to continue supporting your host country friends?

Understanding and Coping With Reverse Culture Shock

First step is identifying and understanding it. Next step is recognizing and addressing it. If you have more ways in identifying and coping with reverse culture shock, be sure to share in the comments.

Don’t forget that while you may have physically returned home, make sure you also nurture your mental health needs of returning.


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