My first experience away from home was when I went to study abroad in the UK at the ripe old age of 20. It is probably fair to say that this was one of the best experiences of my life. So when it came time to come home I had mixed feelings.I was so used to living abroad and doing my own thing that moving back home was hard. And so I experienced reverse culture shock. The definition of reverse culture shock or re entry culture shock is a period of difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of your home country. This is because what was previously familiar has now become unfamiliar.Here are some of the points that I struggled with upon coming home and that led to my reverse culture shock. Please feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section.
I had changed as a person
What made it especially difficult for me was the fact that I had changed so much in my year living abroad. I made new friends and I learnt to be independent. I had also become a different version of myself. One that had to fend for herself. Who fell in love and had her heart broken for the first time. Someone who could do anything and only had to answer to herself. So falling back into old routines became really difficult. My friends had all carried on and I felt I was supposed to slot back into my place in the group. I kind of felt that before I left my role was the loveable chubby girl who said really stupid things and got a laugh. When I returned I was no longer comfortable playing that role.
You have to adjust to losing your independence
Moving back home with my parents was difficult as well. In the UK I was free to do what I wanted and invite whoever I wanted around to my house. Back in Australia I had to explain where I was going, when I would be home, and who I would be with. If I wanted to invite friends over I would need to check with my parents. Yes it is fantastic that I have loving parents but after a year of late nights and freedom it was hard going back. I think after about two days I slammed my bedroom door after my Dad asked me to clean my room. “You don’t even know me” I remember screaming at him. Yup I had turned into a teenager again. This loss of independence was probably one of the hardest adjustments I had to make.
You have to understand that life goes on with or without you
When I was away I sort of expected everything at home to stay the same. Even now I no longer live in Australia and it is strange when friends and family have kids or get married and I am not there. Some of the things I missed were my sister in law’s pregnancy. I left and she wasn’t pregnant, I returned and she had a baby by her side. Yeah I had updates from my parents during this time but it’s not the same as being at home and experiencing these things with your family. It sort of felt a bit unreal.
I also had friends who had gotten into new relationships which I had missed the beginning of. It was bizarre having to accept these new partners in our friendship group. This life has been going on without you and you have to catch up really quickly.
Your study abroad stories are not as funny as you think they are
No one cares about Steve being a liability on nights out. Or how funny it was that time he threw his shoe at a taxi when you were all drunk. Or even that story about going to that house party in Leeds and sleeping in the bath. People might politely laugh the first few times you tell the story but people get sick of these stories really fast.
You get FOMO (fear of missing out) for your new friends overseas
You start hearing stories about what your old English friends are doing and it sucks. Suddenly the story of Steve passing out in a taxi stops being hilarious and makes you think of what you are missing out on. It’s hard. Especially as you have to work so hard to reconnect with your friends and family at home. Eventually your new friends will stop calling as much and it does get easier. But then you also have to deal with letting go of some relationships.
You have to learn to let go of relationships at home or abroad
One of my hardest lessons was learning to let go of relationships. There were some relationships I had overseas that I knew were terrible. I knew they wouldn’t last and that really they were jerks but I struggled to let go. You know who your real friends are. They are the ones that you arrange to meet up with after so much time has passed and you can just chat about anything.
There are also the relationships at home that you have to let go of. I had learnt so much about myself whilst I was away and l didn’t have time for negativity. This was a hard lesson, but ultimately the best one.
Once the excitement of coming home has worn off reality sets in
Once the excitement of seeing your family and friends has worn off reality sets in. For some people there is an ultimate happiness that they are home again. Others get itchy feet and cannot wait to go again. For me it was more the latter. I stayed home to finish my degree but I wanted to go out and adventure again. I also wanted to be more like the person I was when I was living abroad. Basically I wanted to be adventurous and I wanted to explore the world. It has been almost 8 years now. If I ever do go back at least I am prepared for the reverse culture shock.
Want more travel advice? Check out these links: