May 30

Coming Home - Reverse Culture Shock?When traveling or living in foreign countries there always comes a time, when you go home. Be it for a while or for a longer visit, or simply to get back to your life or to start a new chapter of it.

Most people feel homesick after a while in foreign countries and cultures, others simply enjoy it and don’t even think about their home country anymore. Out of sight – out of mind.

Then there are others who miss parts of it, like the dark marzipan chocolate, the brown bread, home-made plum pie or the red-cherry ice cream you don’t get anywhere else. The walk in the snowy park or the street musicians who play that lonely tune which make you shed a tear or laugh about your misfortunes.

The best thing about coming home after a while is the change of perspective. Important things suddenly seem so distant and unimportant, other things or people you didn’t recognise before stand out.

Or you simply notice the difference in service quality here and there, as it happened to Firefly lately, an Australian who lives in Tokyo/Japan and came back for a home trip. It was sort of a reverse culture shock.

Another guy, coming back from Japan as well, wrote that in the comments:

“Coming back from Japan after a year and a half to a small western town was weird. Had someone used neutron bombs or had the plague wiped out the population? Where is everybody? Why the wide streets and no cars? Huge, stores almost empty, with aisles that looked like they were mean to drive through but no cars.
One of the first times I drove, on a two lane highway out in the middle of nowhere, I drove about ten miles before I realised I was on the wrong side of the road. Wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds because you could see for miles in any direction.”

Or coming back from Asia to America – isn’t it shocking to be suddenly surrounded by so many fat people? ;-)

Amazing! Reverse Culture Shock seems to happen to everybody. When I visit my home country Germany, I’m truly scared by all the grim-looking people around me. Don’t try to talk to a stranger on the train or in a pub, you might run into troubles!

When I travel in Indonesia, Philippines or Thailand, of course sometimes I miss the organised and arranged nature of life you have in Europe or even in Singapore. Almost everything works smoothly and you don’t think much about all-day things which simply work and are there. Sometimes you can’t appreciate it enough, but after a while it dims down again, as you run into the elemental conflicts of highly developed countries – be it the fast pace of life, the packed day-2-day schedules and the lack of human interaction outside business and the appreciation for what you are as a human being.

It’s just all money, money, money and how to get it the fastest and the most of it in the shortest time. Competition and envy rule.

The friendliness and open minded views you develop when traveling abroad, smack me always directly in the face, when visiting my home country. But what to do? Strangeness can be uniqueness as well and might be that thing others find most remarkable. Hah!

So, at your next Homecoming, try to appreciate the different nature of your home town while acknowledging its deficiencies. Nothing is perfect, not even your island paradise at the end of the world.

It IS a matter of perspective, so it can only be healthy to change your perspective very often, thus having the chance to hover around your life like a helicopter to see, acknowledge and use the corners and points of improvement.

Technorati : , , , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

or save article to your Facebook with 1 simple click:


written by Chris

28 Responses to “Homecoming or Reverse Culture Shock?”

  1. JennDZNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I think it is great to change your perspective as often as possible, whether it is traveling to a foreign country or just coming back home for a while after being away. I know I have experienced both ends of this home-sickness/reverse culture shock and both taught me much about myself. Very good tools! Keep changing it up!

  2. MikeNo Gravatar VIET NAM Says:

    I have had this feeling many times in my life. I miss very few things from my home country now and tend to miss more things from Asia when I am in Australia.

  3. Working NomadNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    I have a serious case of reverse culture shock coming back to England as I do every summer.

    The only way to get over it is go away again even if it is just for a short time like I did in morocco last week!

  4. ChristinaNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    I get reverse culture shock now when I go home. It takes me a few days before I can get used to people trying to engage me in “small talk”. When I first moved to Germany, I tried to fly back to the US as much as possible and for as long as possible (as an American southerner, all those “grim-looking people” were a big shock to my system ;-) ). Now I haven’t been back in a year and the last time I went I changed my ticket so I could get back to Germany two weeks earlier!

  5. digitalnomadNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I spent time in Asia, and know what you mean about coming back to “where are all the people”? Stopped by to check on you blog.


  6. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Okay, so, that’s the term for it – REVERSE CULTURAL SHOCK. That’s apparently what had happened to most of my Filipino friends who got married with Japanese women and lived and worked in Japan for so many years. When they get back to Manila, they started to complain how chaotic and disorganized the city capital of the Philippines is. It is as if they had never been in Manila before. Worst, a few would start to make comparison between two places. Of course, I have nothing against how they behave – they are entitled to it in their own way. The only thing left for me is the bewilderment of what they become after staying long period of time in a foreign land. Now I knew it – reverse cultural shock…

  7. PreyaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Reverse culture shock is the story of my life. I grew up as an “expat kid” overseas and moved to the states (home country) for college in 2000. But, to be honest, I don’t know where home really is now or where I’m from. I don’t know if I miss being expat or whether I’m an expat here because I lived overseas for so long and this “home” was never home. Crazy stuff.

  8. The DinoNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    I spent in Australia beautifull time even I was complaining about some things and was more and more upset ad always said that Czech Rep is best and everything is better home. Now I am back home and it is oposit way:) You usualy forget the bad things faster when you leave.

  9. MarkNo Gravatar ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA Says:

    Just came across your post while researching an article for my own site. Truly, I don’t think many travelers realize the impact that reverse culture shock can have on them. If you are interested, I have linked to your post and I offer five simple tips to help overcome the difficulties associated with going home.

    Please, keep up the great travel writing.

  10. NickNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I’m experiencing some nice culture shock myself after recently returning from over a year in Shanghai and coming back to the US east coast. I’d have to say the reversed culture shock hit me pretty hard this time around, I left my wife behind for a couple months so I can setup shop here in the US. I find the news here in the US is extremely irritating, cars are huge and wasteful, and I’m missing my wife and our 30th story apartment. Those things said I am enjoying the clean air, but where did all the people go? I think they were replaced by cars! In China I walked everywhere, took the subway and it became natural and healthy, here I need to force myself to work out or I’ll become 400 lbs :)

  11. RiaNo Gravatar JAPAN Says:

    I lived in the UK for about 13 year and just happened to have come back to this strange country for what I initially meant to stay just a year or so has been going on well over 5 year now for a reason. The way I found this site is my REALLY desperate search for someone in similar trouble as I have been! I no longer felt I was a japanese most of the time in the UK, and I still don’t! and I often shout at home in the air ‘I hate japan!!!!!I can’t understand them in this ‘perverted’ culture!!!”;”It’s THEM that are misfits not “I”!A normal person in a misfit culture becomes a misfit!’ ..going on 5 years has gone by now~ I felt UK was my real home first time when I landed there, and never experienced the home-sick stuff…( only missed some japanese food ). As I read several articles regarding “reverse culture shock”, it often cites that the more one fits in the host country the harder the “reverse culture shock” become. I think it’s true. How are you coping in your original country where people of your ‘look’ surround you with completely different mindset inside ? and can’t understand you…?

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    It’s really difficult to come back to your home country after living a few years abroad. I can feel with you guys, as that’s what happens to me too, when coming back to Germany.

    The people with a like-minded mindset are becoming less and less. So I basically avoid going back, if not for visiting family and friends just to say ‘Hello’.

    Thankfully my best old buddies and my family love to travel a lot as well, so we mainly can catch up at least once a year in some exotic country of our planet for a few weeks.

    It’s been more than 3 years now that I’ve been to Germany. Nothing I miss that you can’t buy anywhere else, but time really flies! ;)

  13. Ondrej KonarovskyNo Gravatar NETHERLANDS Says:

    I had to go through the reverse culture shock 2 times. First after leaving England after 7 years and having to ajust to what I thought humble and not enough confident Prague/Czech Republic. And now coming back from Taipei/Taiwan i feel right the opposit way. People here scare me as they look impolite over self confidet and rude. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only an illusion and these subtle diferences will go away in time. People are same all over the world really.We should be grateful for the experiances we had abroad cause we learned a lot. :D

  14. ThomasNo Gravatar CHINA Says:

    I have been living in China on and off for over four-and-half years, and will be going home to Vancouver on June 30 with my wife who got her immigrant visa in April. I have gone home three times since first coming to China to teach English in 2003, and it gets harder to adjust each time because of the big changes happening all over the city. New buildings have gone up while others have come down, people have either moved on or passed on, all these factors made me felt uneasy when I was home, and couldn’t wait to return to China. The only time I felt at ease was in my bedroom using my own computer, listening to my favorite radio station, and watching my favorite TV shows (I miss ice hockey while in China!).

    The good thing this time is that I will not be alone anymore. My wife will experience as much culture shock as I will be experiencing reverse shock. Also, I have been excited about going home, so I hope it will make (yet another) re-entry a lot smoother. I will probably take a week off showing my wife around the city instead of rushing into job hunting just to calm the nerves a bit.

    Thanks for reading, I stumbled upon your blog while bored and Googling “reverse culture shock”.

  15. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I can imagine that China must be really a big challenge, considering the changes and manifold developments that are ongoing. It must really seem that time is flying double as fast there than anyplace else in the developed world. All the best to you guys! ;-)

  16. NinoNo Gravatar GEORGIA Says:

    I feel the same, after a year I still exparience the riverse cultural shock
    I have difficulties with collegues, who think that I return as a little American. They have no desire to listern to my stories, I feel lonely

  17. ErinNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    I am content now knowing that I am not crazy lol. I have had a very hard time coping with my return home after living abroad. I view my once practices and lifestyle as a joke and always try to educate people on what I think is the right way.
    The funny thing is…I wanted to come back to Canada so bad, because I missed it and preached to my Taiwan friends how wonderful it was. All I know is that I cannot wait to go back which worries me a little because I don’t want this to be an ongoing cycle of always wanting to be elsewhere…eg. if I go back to Taiwan, will I want to come home again? My gut says not likely!! Erin

  18. OndrejNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Erin,I know exactly what you mean. It has bee 4 month since I got back form Taiwan and I cannot get used to it. I was also saying to everyone how it’s great to live in Europe. – You can pick your own cherries from the trees etc., but after I got back I just started missing Taiwan very much. I lived in England for 7 years before and I never had this problem after coming home. I think there’s something about Taiwan or the whole Asia? I don’t know, probably some electromagnetic field lol. Anyway I know I do want to live in Asia again. For know I will do with holidays

  19. US soldiers get the reverse culture shock blues | Notes about the world NORWAY Says:

    […] of advice on how one traveller dealt with her shock of coming home, Christian at nomad4ever has some other musings on returning home. However, although the initial culture shock may be equal for both travelers and ex-pats who lives […]

  20. TomNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:


    wonderful post. Thank you Chris.


  21. ErinNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    Ondrej, thanks for the reply. I just finished writing about my re entry and am pleased with it. Hope all is well friend!!

  22. MarkNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    I came back 3 weeks ago and I still only think of going back SE Asia, Thailand or Vietnam especifically… I dream about starting a small business or shop as much as my motivation to go back to school to finish a Bachelor Degree is going down, even though everyone around me or almost keeps reminding me how a Bachelor’s degree is *essential* to achieve career goals, etc, but how is it essential if I just flee my country only to work a few summers until the business goes up ? Heck I could make one overseas… I did not want to come back (passport duties forced me to) and it is very difficult for me to adapt, I have to say I am not motivated to re-adapt for now, and as a technically resident from an English speaking country, I can find teaching job so easily anywhere, (even tho I am aware that Taiwan or Singapore seem to be the best financial choices)

    Will read all upcoming comments for a while, really interested to survey the readers’ pulse on this matter,

  23. DianaNo Gravatar not found Says:

    I have been living in Uganda for the past 20 months. I went home to the USA a few months ago and things seemed so different. I experienced what I call refrigerator syndrome. People seem interested in you life in Africa – you attempt to describe how different everything is and live on bare essentials and even show photos. After about 15 minutes you see this glazed over stare and out of the blue someone says “we bought” a new refrigerator”. Ok, my point is that even though you may think you are sharing a wealth of information it is quite possible that your audience will have no frame of reference for what you are describing. The trick is to just try and understand that sometimes only seeing and living is believing – have patience, it could be you with that glazed over stare but be thankful you have seen the real thing. ;-)

  24. NearskiNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    Yeah exactly! Brilliant article! Just got back from Japan to germany and i agree with you entirely mate.

  25. RebeccaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I never thought I would miss Spain. I spent a year teaching English in a small town in southern Spain and was lonely and sad the majority of the time. Then at the end it all went up hill, figures. Now I am back in rural America and cannot seem to find what I thought I was coming home for. No one seems to be interested and no one seems to have changed as much as I feel I have changed. I feel really out of place. I am trying to stay positive but between Europe and before that I was in South America….I don’t feel like I have a “home” home. I am itching to get out of here already and I just got home 2 weeks ago! But, I am glad to know others feel the same way.

  26. ChrisNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    Interesting experience, Rebecca! I have that too sometimes; that I can only appreciate a location, when I’m already somewhere else. The funny thing is, you keep comparing, sometimes that can be counter-productive, as there is the danger that you are never happy in one place.

  27. lorenzoNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    well guys we all agreed is difficult to get back to what is our “homeland”. After been 5 years abroad it took me more than a year to get a bit used to Italian life stile again, but i still complain about this and that almost everyday.

  28. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    And I thought, complaining was a German invention…. ;-)

Leave a Reply

Hey, if you want a picture to show by your comment, why not get a gravatar?

;-) :twisted: :roll: :oops: :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :evil: :cry: :arrow: :?: :-| :-x :-o :-P :-D :-? :) :( :!: 8-O 8)