Understanding Reverse Culture Shock

Understanding 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 understanding reverse culture shock when returningAre you having trouble with understanding reverse culture shock? Is there really such a thing? How would you even know? What does that feel like? How do you recognize it?

After all, you have lived in the USA for a long time. For some, you have never been out of the country before your Peace Corps service. And, you have only been gone for a few years or less. It makes sense to expect to experience some culture shock at your Peace Corps assigned host country. But, could you really experience culture shock in reverse when coming home?

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

When you have been living in another country for a little while and then return to your home country, you may experience a feeling of being out of place and out of step. Does it feel like everyone else has changed since you left? You have also changed as a person. Your friends and family do not really understand what you experienced. You become critical or confused about things that were once “normal”. That is Reverse Culture Shock.

Even when you have time to plan and prepare to return to the USA, you will likely still experience it. But all of the sudden, Peace Corps immediately evacuates you back to the USA. You do not even have the time to prepare for it or even process it.

Did you expect that everything and everyone would be the same when you returned? But since you left, the world continued to move forward without you. There are new tools, different technology, and even new people in your friends’ and families’ lives.

Reverse Culture Shock Is Not a Permanent State

The longer you were gone and the bigger the cultural difference, the more likely you will experience reverse culture shock. And, the longer it could take to recover from it. If you were in constant contact with family and friends from home, that would help to keep you rooted in your own culture as you are learning about another. But if you were fairly disconnected to “home” during service, then you may experience a greater degree of reverse culture shock.

How long it actually lasts depends on the individual. There are ways to cope with it. And, you will eventually find a balance. So as you try to adjust to life back in the USA, it helps when you make the effort on understanding Reverse Culture Shock so that you can better work through it. Never forget that your mental health is just as important as your physical health!


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