For some of you, this winter break may be your first time returning home after one semester or even four or more years.
Returning home can be a joyous occasion that is filled with reunions, home-cooked meals, and familiar sights and sounds. However, individuals can also experience difficulties with readjusting back to their home culture in what is called, “Reverse Culture Shock”.
Psychologist, Dr. Kevin F. Gaw, defines reverse culture shock as “the process of readjusting, re-acculturating, and re-assimilating into one’s own home culture after living in a different culture for a significant period of time”. After being away for even a semester, it is normal to experience reverse culture shock when transitioning back into life in your home country.
Throughout your time in the U.S., you develop skills to thrive and adapt to a new culture, routines, habits, and a new way of life. As you assimilated into a new culture, you might have also incorporated new traditions into your daily life. Shortly after returning home, you might begin to realize for the first time how much you really have changed. Or, you might find yourself comparing how things are done in your home country versus how they are done in the U.S. Furthermore, people at home may comment on how “Americanized” or changed you are based on different habits or traits you might display while communicating and interacting with others.
After I spent an extended period of time in the Czech Republic, I didn’t feel like I had changed that much. But, shortly after returning home I found that many aspects of my day to day life had changed. For example, I found myself frustrated that in the U.S. I didn’t have the ease of walking to a grocery store each day like I had come to enjoy in the Czech Republic. Overtime, I eventually readjust to life back in the U.S., but it did take time.
Inevitably, you may find yourself doing things or saying things that not everyone at home will understand. However, despite the frustration and stress you may face, remember that it is a normal part of the exchange process. As you reconnect with your family, friends, and new routines, with time you will find yourself readjusting and may even incorporate the positive aspects of your life from the U.S.
Check out the following resources to learn more about reverse-culture shock & tips on how to cope with it:
- “Reverse Culture Shock.” U.S. Department of State: Diplomacy in Action
- Reverse culture shock in students returning from overseas, International Journal of Intercultural Relations
- How to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock After Studying Abroad
- 4 Ways Reverse Culture Shock Can Affect International Students
Written By: Alayna Hutchinson, International Student Advisor