Monday, January 7, 2013

Coping with Reverse Culture Shock

So you've moved yourself and your entire family to a new country. You've lived there for two years, changing and adapting to the culture. You think you've adjusted to the culture shock. Now you find you and your family back in your home country on furlough. After a few days there, you may have realised that things in your home country don't feel like they did when you left. You may have expected it to be normal, but normal has been replaced by your life in the country you now serve in.
You might experience reverse culture shock when you return to your home country.

Image Credit
This was something that surprised me when I went back to the US for the first time after moving to England. The first big shock was how big the grocery stores were—going to Meijer after 2 days of being back in the US was a bad idea. People were also more friendly than those who live in our part of England. We would go to someone's home for dinner, and be disappointed when we didn't get offer a cup of tea afterwards. When we went to church, complete strangers gave us... wait for it... HUGS!

Through all the differences, I learned to cope with reverse culture shock and temporarily adjust to life back in our home country.

Here are some tips to help you and your family cope with reverse culture shock when you return to your home country:

Acknowledge that the culture shock is there, and expect that things are going to be different. Things in the US have changed. I have changed through living in my host country. Expect others to find that you're different, too.

Find a place that reminds you of your host culture. This might be a pub, coffee shop or a park. It'll be different for everyone. It could even be a place in your mind or having a cup of tea in a corner of a room wherever you might be staying.

Talk to someone who has recently been in your home country to find out what has changed since you were last there. If you haven't been back to your home country in a long time, you might want to talk to someone who has recently been there to find out what and how much has changed. Are there new things happening at church? New cultural norms?

Spend time with someone who understands what you're going through. When my husband and I were last in the US, we found great encouragement talking with some good friends of mine. The husband was an expatriate from Albania and the wife grew up as a missionary kid. Both of them understood what it was like to not really fit in the culture they were in, and that was comforting to us.

Whatever you do to cope with reverse culture shock, remember to run to our Saviour first. After all, he left his home to join us on earth. He probably understands what we're going through, right? :)

How do you cope with reverse culture shock?

1 comment:

  1. For me, it is probably the first few weeks when it is the hardest. Getting over jet lag and travelling. The first trip to the grocery store, the first time driving (since we don't have a car here), and going to church.
    When we're planning a trip to the US, I always list what I'm looking forward to - seeing friends and family again, dinner cooked on the grill, eating outside or having coffee on the back porch, enjoying foods we can't get here, walking for enjoyment, central air or heat, eating at my favorite Mexican or Chinese place. I do the same when we are returning to the field also, though the list looks somewhat different!