the process or act of
returning to one's native (passport) country after living or working abroad.
Re-entry /Reverse Culture Shock
“Culture Shock is the expected
confrontation with the unfamiliar; reentry culture shock is the unexpected confrontation with the familiar.”
-Michael Paige, PhD
Occurs after you have returned home. Perhaps the most “shocking” because it
is unexpected. You are a different person than when you left.
Had new experiences Gained new understanding Developed new skills Learned new words or language Possibly developed different way of dress Have different interests and different
Meanwhile, life at home has not
People are older. Important things happened in their lives.
People may not care about your
experiences. They may feel that your experience has spoiled you, or made you snobbish or rude. They keep waiting for you to get back to “normal.”
Upon returning from…
…studying or living abroad, some common
Everything will be the same. Everything will be great. I will fit back into life with no problem. I can pick up my relationships where we left off. I have the same needs and goals as before. People will be open minded. People will be interested in my stories. People around me will recognize and applaud my personal growth.
Initial excitement: enjoy being at home Balanced Re-adaption: integrating the experience abroad with living at home or finding other ways to cope with re-entry
Judgemental Stage: Nothing at home seems good, finding fault
Realisation stage: Noticing significant changes at home and in oneself REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK Frustration
Just as initial culture shock has definable stages and a predictive progression, so does reverse culture shock.
The “Honeymoon” phase of initial
euphoria or relief at being home is present. Followed by some degree of irritation and alienation. With an eventual readjustment.
Reverse Culture Shock
Arrival Adaptation Return Home Reintegration
Sense Of Satisfaction
Reverse Culture Shock
10 Immediate Re-entry Challenges
After the novelty and stimulation of time abroad, returning to you family, friends and old routines (however comforting) can seem dull. It is natural to miss the excitement and challenges which characterise living in a foreign country.
2. “NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR”
It is common that no one is as interested in hearing about your adventures and experiences as you are about sharing them. This should not be viewed as a rejection of your achievements because once they have heard the highlights further interest is less likely.
1. YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN
It is likely to be frustrating trying to explain all the sights you saw and feelings you had while abroad, as it is difficult to convey this kind of experience to those who do not have similar frames of reference or travel backgrounds, no matter how interested or good they are as listeners.
5. REVERSE “HOMESICKNESS”
Just as you missed home when you first arrived overseas, it is natural to experience some reversed homesickness for the people, places and things you grew accustomed to while living overseas. This can be reduced by keeping in contact, for example by writing letters, but feelings of loss should be anticipated and accepted as a part of moving back home from overseas.
5. RELATIONSHIPS HAVE CHANGED
It is inevitable that when you return you will notice some relationships with family and friends will have changed. Just as you have altered some of your ideas and attitudes while abroad, they are likely to have experienced some positive or negative changes. It is unrealistic to expect no change, however the best preparation is flexibility, openness, minimal preconceptions and tempered optimism. It is helpful to realise that however keen some of your friends back home are to listen to your stories, sometimes they just wont “get it.” Some of your experiences may need to be internalised, processed and integrated into your own life in ways that make sense for you, without being able to fully share them with anyone else. Other students who live near you at home can relate to
1. PEOPLE SEE “WRONG” CHANGES
Sometimes people may concentrate on the small alterations in your behaviour or ideas and seem upset or threatened by them. Or they may ascribe “bad” traits to the influence of your time overseas. These incidents might be motivated by jealously, fear, or feelings of superiority or inferiority. To minimise these, monitor yourself and be aware of the reactions of those around you, especially in the first few weeks following your return. This phase normally passes quickly if you do nothing to confirm their stereotypes.
7. PEOPLE MISUNDERSTAND
•A few people will interpret you words or actions in such a way that makes communication difficult. E.g. what you may have come to think of as humour (particularly sarcasm, banter, etc.) and ways to show affection or establish conversation may not be seen as wit, but with aggression or “showing off.” • Also, a silence that was seen as simply polite overseas might be interpreted at home incorrectly, as signalling agreement or opposition. New clothing styles or mannerisms may be viewed as provocative, inappropriate, or as an affectation. • Continually using references to foreign places or sprinkling foreign language expressions or words into an English conversation is often considered boasting. •Be aware of how you may look to others and how your behaviour is likely to be interpreted.
8. FEELINGS OF ALIENATION
Sometimes the reality of being at “home” is not
as natural or comfortable as the place you had constructed as your mental image. When daily life is less enjoyable or more demanding than you remembered, it is natural to feel some alienation.
Many returnees develop “critical eyes”, a
tendency to see faults in the society you never noticed before. Some even become quite critical of everyone and everything for a time. This is no different to when you first left home. Mental comparisons are fine, but keep them to yourself until you regain both your cultural balance and a balanced perspective.
9. INABILITY TO APPLY NEW KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS
•Many returnees are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to apply newly gained social, technical, linguistic and practical coping skills that appear to be unnecessary or irrelevant at home. •To avoid ongoing annoyance: adjust to reality as necessary, change what is possible, be creative, be patient and above all use the cross-cultural adjustment skills you acquired abroad to assist you own re-entry.
10. LOSS/COMPARTMENTALISATION OF EXPERIENCE (“SHOEBOXING”)
• Being home, coupled with the pressure of
job, family and friends often combine to make returnees worried that somehow they will “lose” the experience. Many fear that it will somehow become compartmentalised like souvenirs or photo albums kept in a box and only occasionally taken out and looked at.
• You do not have to let that happen:
maintain your contacts abroad, seek out and talk to people who have experiences similar to yours, practice you cross-cultural skills, continue language learning. Remember and honour both the hard work
Tips for coming home…
1. Focus on how you are better now from the experiences you had. 2. Don’t get isolated. 3. Read a lot about everything. It will get you brain working. 4. Stay spontaneous. 5. Rekindle your spirit of adventure. Explore home. 6. Go out of your way to make new friends, just as you did abroad. 7. Don’t let failures in your home culture be any less a learning experience than they would have been while you were abroad. 8. Continue to reflect on what you learned abroad, allow yourself time.
2. 4. 6. 8.
More tips for coming home… on the past. Don’t dwell
Exercise. Endorphins kills re-entry sadness. Look for the good in the present situation. Write down what you thought was great about the GHANA while you were abroad. shoe box. It wasn’t a dream and it was important.
10. Keep your memories alive – don’t store them away in a
12. Accept that you have changed and that things are not
going to be the same as when you left and that’s a good thing.
1. Don’t be upset if people seem indifferent to your
3. Recognise that things at home have changed while you
were away and respect those changes. No one’s life went on hold just because you were gone and their experiences are important to them. “resume” them.
5. You will need to “rebuild” relationships, not merely 7. Talk with others who have come back from abroad and
share you experiences, frustration and joys. These are the people who can help you though it. and judgements about people’s behaviours when back at home. Most returnees report gaining major insights into themselves and their home country during re-entry, but only after allowing a sufficient time for reflection and selfanalysis.
9. Reverse judgements – try to resist making snap decisions
To what extent have I adopted new (American/European) values and behaviors (i.e., personal independence)? How do I expect this change to affect my interactions with my family and friends?
Values & Behaviors
The following is a list of possible new
values and behaviors that you may have picked-up during your time in the United States.
New sense of autonomy. Feel more self confidence. Feel more responsible about my lifestyle
choices and their global impact. Feel more concern for international politics. Greater awareness of other behavior patterns.
Greater awareness of different male/female
relationships. Feel less consumer-oriented. Feel more interested in social, justice and/or political issues. New ability to think more critically about current issues. Higher tolerance for ambiguity in situations. New ability to suspend judgment on others Source: and their actions. Paige, R.M., Cohen, A.D., Kappler, B., Chi, J.C., & Lassegard, J.P. (2006). Maximizing study
abroad: A student’s guide to strategies for language and culture learning and use. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota
Skills & Qualities
The following is a list of possible new
skills or personal qualities that you may have acquired during your time in the United States.
Skills Understand cultural differences and similarities Adapt to new environments Learn through listening and observing Establish rapport quickly Function with a high level of ambiguity Take initiative and risks
Skills continued Identify problems and utilize available resources to solve the problems Accept responsibility Communicate despite barriers Learn quickly Handle difficult situations Handle Stress Manage and organize Lead others in formal and/or informal groups Conduct research despite language and cultural differences Cope with rejection
Qualities Self-reliance High energy level and enthusiasm Appreciation of diversity Perseverance Flexibility Open-mindedness Assertiveness Inquisitiveness Self-confidence Self-knowledge Independence
Source: Paige, R.M., Cohen, A.D., Kappler, B., Chi, J.C., & Lassegard, J.P. (2006). Maximizing study abroad: A student’s guide to strategies for language and culture learning and use. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota
Coming Home “In a sense, it is coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we come back to where we were – only where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become, which after all, is why we left.”
Bernard from “Northern Exposure”, upon returning from Africa
Bringing it Home
As part of the small percentage of the world’s citizens who have had the opportunity to live on another culture’s terms, you have probably found that the experience awakened your senses and led you to new understandings and personal growth. Coming home might feel like a let down after all that excitement. But it is also an opportunity to put your new skills to use. The challenge now is to take both your new knowledge and you exploration skills and integrate them permanently into your life ahead. It might sound like a daunting task, but supported by you horizontal roots, the new you is destined to thrive.