If you’ve returned to the US from living abroad, you probably know all too well about reverse culture shock. Many people say it’s harder than the culture shock you experienced in your host culture, and for most of us those people are right. “...coming home means losing the life [you] built...” Because reverse culture shock is so difficult, I specially welcome American returnees to my practice.
Reverse culture shock is usually characterized by a feeling of loss and “in-betweenness.” When you got on the plane home you may have been excited about returning to comfort and familiarity, but after all that powering through culture shock and making connections in your host culture you became a part of it. For most returnees, coming home means losing the life they built — pretty much forever. The symptoms of this loss are actually a kind of grief. You grieve for the life you left behind.
Now that you’re home, do you have anyone who shares your experiences? Are you always talking about your host culture while your friends and family roll their eyes or even change the subject? Most of your American loved ones don’t have the frame of reference to understand what you’re talking about. Generally they’re just happy to see you again, and they haven’t put the thousands of hours (24 hours a day times 7 days a week adds up fast!) you did into understanding your host culture. So you find yourself giving long explanations of the simplest things or just shutting up entirely about this whole part of you that really wants to be expressed.
Reverse culture shock is a kind of grieving and adjustment anxiety, and all of us can get through it. But how you deal with it may affect how you continue to relate yourself to your host culture. Will you leave it behind and chalk it up to an enriching experience? Will you maintain contact and language skills and keep up on news and media from your host culture? Can you find other returnees like you here in Portland who share your perspective?
If you’re an American returnee looking for support in assimilating back to Portland life, read how to set an appointment and get in contact with me for a consultation session. I look forward to hearing from you.