It was a grim day in April and I was dashing down the high street of my local town. The rain was stinging my face as I pulled my jacket in tighter around me. As I ran, I completely overlooked the deep puddle that I found my foot in. Groan. Why did I ever come home? Reverse culture shock was hitting me hard!
Returning home to pick up the threads of an old life is hard. Believe me, I should know. After flying home following months backpacking, I spent the first few weeks in a perpetual state of mourning.
I chose to come home, but nothing was right. I couldn’t stop reminiscing about the places that I had just left and struggled to enjoy being back with the people I loved. I had been on a personal journey and grown in ways I could not explain and yet here, everything had stayed the same.
Initially, I assumed I was just being melodramatic. It took a long chat with a fellow traveller until I understood. I wasn’t just a bit moody; I was suffering from Reverse Culture Shock.
What exactly is Reverse Culture Shock I hear you ask?
This relatively new term refers to the difficulty of readapting to life in your home country after a prolonged period away. If what I’ve described sounds relatable for you, then read on. I’ve outlined the warning signs of RCS and most importantly, how you can beat it.
The Symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock
You Feel Different
Travel has changed you and don’t believe for one minute that isn’t good. That is why you went remember? It can be difficult to be satisfied by routine again now that you know more of what the world has to offer. Whenever I return home after a long period away I find myself bored all the time. The same places, the same faces, the same hangouts… Where is the adventure?!
You find being at home infuriating!
You find yourself getting angry with everything from food to people. Why don’t these noodles taste right? Why can’t I buy a beer for 50p? Why can’t I get any decent internet? The list goes on… Things just aren’t the same at home and whilst you looked forward to that at first, you’re starting to remember all the reasons why you left in the first place.
Nobody wants to listen to your stories
This one sounds completely egotistical, I know. There you are, happily updating your friends on your most recent adventure and you can see them start to glaze over. Obviously, not everyone will share the same interests as you but it would be nice if they could even be bothered to pretend!
You have to stop yourself talking about where you have been ALL THE TIME
As a direct consequence of the last point, you have to kerb your conversations before they get out of hand. Naturally, no-one likes a boaster and you don’t want to be the person who starts every sentence with ‘When I was in…’ or ‘On my gap year…’. However, this can be difficult. Travel is all you’ve been doing for a while now so you don’t have anything else to talk about.
How to Treat RCS
Stay in touch with the friends you made abroad
You share a love of travel and that makes them the people most likely to understand the difficulties of readapting to life at home.
Reconnect with your old friends
It is important to remember that whilst you have been away, the people you’ve left behind have moved on with their lives. Make time for each other. Whilst it is important that you are able to tell others what you’ve been up to, don’t forget they have also been busy. Ask as many questions as you answer.
Find a new hobby
Don’t dwell on what you miss about the place you just left. There is plenty to explore even in your own backyard! Joining a hiking group or starting an online blog where you can vent your feelings can help you to adapt to life at home.
Don’t lose sight of your goals
Maybe you aim to find a career at home. Maybe you’ve just finished a gap year before starting university. Maybe you just ran out of money and are desperately saving to explore somewhere else. Whichever reason you had for coming home, embrace it. Life is what you make it – no matter where you are.