Reverse Culture Shock: It’s Real
It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed, is you. -Eric Roth
There’s 3 days left in your abroad trip of a lifetime and suddenly panic ensues. Whether it’s four months or fourteen days, there never seems to be enough time to check everything off the list. You run around trying to get your last minute souvenirs, finally get a chance to see the Vatican, and try to juggle saying goodbye to all of your new friends possibly while simultaneously trying to pass all of your finals. Did you eat enough gelato to last you until your next trip? How can you possibly fit in all of your favorite meals with the limited time (and money) you have left? Questions and nerves run through your head, but there is a daunting one that keeps coming back: where on earth did the time go?!?!
You posted your final facebook status, maybe an instagram of your passport and boarding pass, geotagged the departure airport, and headed away from the place you’ve grown to love so much. Soon you are on the plane (after seriously contemplating missing your flight) wedged between a crying baby and an old man who definitely isn’t getting up too quickly if you have to use the bathroom and it just doesn’t seem real. Maybe you are ready to go home, maybe you are indifferent, maybe you are crying your eyes out, or maybe you’re just in shock that it’s really over. 10 hours later your parents or friends are waiting for you in the international arrivals hall with a sign and your favorite American food and everyone is smiling and embracing you. Your phone can finally receive text messages and everyone who has missed you welcomes you back home. Yesterday you were on another continent and now you are expected to go back to “normal.”
But nothing will ever be quite normal. It’s true what they say: reverse culture shock is actually more difficult than the original culture shock that some may encounter at the beginning of their trip when arriving in a new country different than their own. You will keep saying euros instead of dollars, get sick from the food that you have been eating your whole life, get annoyed when your waitress rushes you to order and pay, and spend hours daydreaming and wishing you were back. Everyone is eager to hear your stories, but you may have a hard time keeping their interest with a tale that they couldn’t really understand unless they were there. Life at home might seem mundane if you go from a jet setting lifestyle back to “normal.” You may ask yourself why you live in a place so “boring” when you could be out seeing new places and meeting new people.
The adjustment can be hard, but here are a few tips that can help you deal with reverse culture shock when you return from your TFT summer:
- Write. It’s a proven way to lighten your mood. Write about how you feel, what’s different, what you miss, or just tell a story if
you don’t want to bore your friends.
- Keep in touch. You may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from all the people you met along your journey, but do not let yourself lose touch. The friendships you make while traveling can be lifelong if you make an effort. And if the travel bug really got you, start planning a visit or reunion!
- Cook. If American food just isn’t cutting it, try to recreate your favorite meals. They may not be exactly the same, but some comfort food can always help.
- Reflect. Realize that this trip has changed you, and probably for the better. Be grateful for this opportunity to grow as a person.
- Reminisce. Although it can be quite depressing, it’s fun to look back on photos every once in awhile. If a #TFTtbt from your trip makes you feel better, then so be it.
- Go back. Once you start traveling, it’s often hard to stop. Use this time to start mapping out the places you want to see again or hit the places you didn’t get to, plan how you are going to save up money, or when you want to go. The best way to deal with reverse culture shock is to have the next adventure to look forward to!
And if all else fails, remember that you are lucky to be safe and sound and have a home to go back to. When the jetlag had me up in time to see the sunrise through the trees in my backyard on my first morning back, I remembered that good ol’ Malvern, PA can be pretty too (sometimes).
Ciao for now!