Reverse culture shock sucks. I suppose there is a more scientific yet adequate way of describing reverse culture shock, but I haven’t found it yet. When I came back to the country I was born, America, after five years of living in England, I felt like a fish out of water. Everything was so weird — the food, the music, the humor, the adverts and especially the attitudes. This is reverse culture shock.
The thing that really got me was seeing half a pizza in someone’s trash can. Half a pizza! What a waste! I actually went home and cried, remembering nights when I was homeless in England and would have killed for just one slice and here someone was throwing HALF A PIZZA AWAY. My American family members couldn’t understand why I was so upset.
When you experience reverse culture shock, you see your homeland through another people’s eyes. It’s like the covers have all been lifted off of the things you took for granted as a kid. You start to wonder why people in your native country act the way that they do. But if you start asking questions, others can get nervous. So you stop asking.
This is a great time to see a professional therapist or go online to find others who suffer from reverse culture shock. These can be foreign exchange students, veterans, missionaries or people who worked overseas. You may also discover (as I did) that my previous therapist also experienced reverse culture shock when she went back to visit her native country.
As many Americans sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, any non-Americans in the country are probably stunned into silence at this country’s holiday of consumer greed and endorsed gluttony. Those Americans who have returned to their home soil after many years will also feel the same way. It can drive a person into isolation and worsen depression.
But more people than you may think have dealt with reverse culture shock and they know exactly what you are going through. Although I’m an atheist, I found some good advice about dealing with culture shock from Southern Nazarene University. They recommend that you:
- write down your feelings
- try to ignore what you can’t control (such as another person throwing out a ton of food) and focus on what you can control (by personally making sure you do not waste food)
- don’t avoid getting done daily tasks, even if they seem a bit weird