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Reverse Culture Shock: what is it, and how to overcome it

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

“Returning home after studying in the UK can be a really exciting time. There is a lot to look forward to; going back to your family, catching up with your friends, eating food you’ve missed and returning back to familiar places, sights, sounds that you’ve not experienced in the UK.

You may have been looking forward to returning back to your friends and family for a long time. But now that you’re back you might be feeling unsettled and like you don’t fit in anymore. Don’t worry – this is known as reverse culture shock. It is normal and to be expected!

In conclusion, bear in mind that when you return to your home country after a long absence, there can be difficulties to begin with and it can take time to re-adapt. Be aware of reverse culture shock, but do not worry about it. Concentrate on enjoying the positive aspects of being back home, such as being with friends and family, and re-discovering your own country.”

www.ukcisa.org.uk

Many people are aware of the challenges students face in relation to culture shock when arriving in a new country and make allowances for the challenges faced by young people adapting to a new environment.  Reverse culture shock is a condition which is not as well-known and affects those returning home after living for extended periods in a different country. 

The following article identifies the main symptoms and gives our students advice on how to re-adjust and thrive when returning home.

Symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock Include:

  • Criticality: Being overly critical of your home country, remembering all the wonderful things about your time abroad and comparing them with the least pleasant aspects of being back at home.
  • Marginality: Feeling as if you don’t fit in at home anymore and experiencing tensions between your new outlook and your family/home culture.
  • Exhaustion: Readjusting to old routines and patterns that may differ considerably from the ones you were used to abroad may leave you feeling exhausted when you get back into your old routine.
  • Self-Doubt/Depression: It is unavoidable to feel a bit sad when leaving your friends and your homestay family in the UK.  It can also be easy to doubt yourself when you feel like you or your home have changed considerable whilst you have been away.

How to Overcome Reverse Culture Shock:

1.  Understand that it is normal to view your time away with a certain amount of sentimentality and try to compare it with your time back at home as objectively as possible.  Enjoying some of your favourite activities and places at home can help you enjoy the transition of returning and distract you a bit from everything you miss about your time abroad.

2.  As you have been away from home for an extended period of time and your experiences have broadened your outlook, your identity has most certainly developed since you left to study in the UK.  If you feel out of place at home or with your family, talk to your family and friends about your experiences and new perspective.  Those close to you will certainly want to hear about your time in the UK and having conversations about everything you experienced when you were away will help you to gain perspective on how you have grown as a person.

3.  Although you will certainly be busy when you return home try not to take too much on at once.  Recognize that changing homes, cultures, schools and time zones is a major undertaking that has a physical and emotional impact.  Break the tasks you have to do upon your return into small manageable chunks and don’t forget to take enough time to rest and relax.

4.  If you miss your friends/homestay family back in the UK you can always contact them and catch up.  If you are experiencing depression and extended feelings of self-doubt don’t hesitate to talk to your parents and a guidance tutor at your school who will be trained to help you.

 

Making the Most Out of Your New Outlook

Once you have settled in back at home and overcome any feelings of reverse culture shock you may have, you can start to make the most out your new skills, ideas and insights.  Here are some suggestions on how to apply everything you learned abroad;

  • Excellent Language Skills: No doubt your time in the UK has left you with an excellent set of English language skills, you can use them to succeed in your classes/international career, and even make a bit of spare cash as a tutor for younger students.
  • Increased Confidence: You have adapted and thrived in a totally different country and society and that is a great achievement.  Use your new found confidence to push yourself to do something you thought was too difficult before.
  • Broadened Horizons:  Your view of the world and yourself will have developed; now is a great time to expand your circle of friends and share your experience and outlook with other people from different backgrounds.
  • Developed Sense of Empathy:  Now you know what it is like to be a foreign student abroad you are in a unique position to help others travelling to your country to study.  Ask your school/university how you can get involved with their study abroad/exchange programs.
  • Heightened Sense of Responsibility:  Staying away from your family will have definitely challenged you as you took on greater responsibility for yourself and your studies.  If you have the time, try some part-time work in a field that you are interested in.

 

We hope that you can now identify reverse culture shock in yourself and any friends who may be struggling.  Use these suggestions to overcome the symptoms, and ultimately rejoice in the extra skills and experience you have as a student who has successfully studied abroad!

If you still have concerns, as one of our Study Links alumni we are always here to help you.

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