When you’re an expat or traveling, you’re focusing on processing new information, building new references. You’re dealing with culture shock and all that entails. See why experiencing culture shock rocks for more information. When you get back home, you need to switch codes again to function in your old cultural environment. But switching back isn’t that easy, especially if you were gone for a relatively long time. Being away inevitably creates both a physical and emotional distance between you and your home country. In the process, two things happen:

  • The place changes: depending on how long you were gone, your home references might have changed. When I moved back to Europe after spending 4 years in California, streets had changed, freeways, stores, even the language.
  • You change: a trip or stay abroad triggers profound changes and when you get back, the way you feel about things at home changes.

Things that felt comforting are not comforting anymore, body language and other habits you’d never even noticed or thought of before feel alienating, the physical environment (streets, houses etc) just feels off, and let’s not even get started on how people talk.

How do you deal with that? One aspect is letting go.

  • letting go of the notion of home as a physical place because both it and you changed, and redefine what home means to you
  • letting go of the idea that operating within a comfort zone is how things should be
  • letting go of your definition of comfort zone and redefine what comfort means to you
  • letting go of your resistance to reverse culture shock. By fighting it we just create more pain.

Letting go in this sense can be empowering. Think of it in terms of excess baggage you can let go of because you no longer need it. The process is difficult and painful but it is also profoundly enriching and empowering.

Can you relate? How has reverse culture shock affected you?

If you liked this post, you should check out my book Reverse Culture Shock. It’s full of useful stuff!

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