Reverse culture shock: what is this and how do you deal with?

Reverse culture shock: what is this and how do you deal with?


28 December 2022 5 min read
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Reverse culture shock is the psychological and emotional strain that can be experienced by individuals who return to their home countries after spending a significant amount of time abroad. But what happens when you come back home? That's right, there's such a thing as reverse culture shock, and it can be just as tough to deal with as regular old culture shock.


You know that you'll have to readjust to a lot of things, and it's just all so overwhelming. Welcome to the world of reverse culture shock.


Reverse culture shock is a term used to describe the feeling of disorientation that one experiences when they return to their home country after an extended period of time spent in a foreign country. It's similar to culture shock in the sense that there are many adjustments that need to be made, but it can be even more confusing and chaotic because you're essentially going from one culture to another.  

Symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock 

Just like regular culture shock, reverse culture shock can manifest itself in a variety of ways. You may find yourself feeling isolated, anxious, depressed, or even angry. 


You may also have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite, or start experiencing physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches.


If you're starting to feel like you're not yourself, it might be time to seek help from a therapist or counsellor who can help you adjust to your new reality.

Reverse culture shock can range in duration from days to months, depending on how long the person was living away from home and how deeply they were immersed in the foreign culture. 

Reverse culture shock among students who just returned from abroad

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Reverse culture shock in students returning from overseas is an important phenomenon to consider when discussing international travel. For example, a student who has experienced reverse culture shock in Germany may feel disconnected from their peers in their home country due to the vastly different cultural habits they have adopted while studying abroad. 


Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or even prevent culture shock before it becomes a major issue. It is essential for students to become familiar with the culture and customs of their host country prior to embarking on their journey. Preparing oneself mentally for drastic changes in language, lifestyle, and social customs can help reduce the impact of reverse culture shock upon returning home. 


Germany is no exception to this phenomenon of reverse culture shock. Common reverse culture shock examples include feelings of disconnection from friends and family, feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and a loss of identity as one's old life seems unfamiliar. 


Maintaining meaningful contact with friends and family members back home can help bridge any sense of cross-cultural disconnection when one returns from overseas. 


Engaging in activities that allow students to slowly readjust themselves into their original routine can also help to alleviate feelings of reverse culture shock over time.

Dealing with reverse culture shock


Reverse culture shock is a term used to describe the feeling of disorientation a person may experience when returning to their home country after living in a different culture. It can be caused by several factors, such as the sudden change in language and customs or the feeling of being out of place and not belonging anywhere. 


Reverse culture shock can last anywhere from several weeks up to several months. In some cases, it may even feel like depression, as the person struggles to adjust back to their old environment and life.

The best way to reduce culture shock is to prepare ahead of time by researching the cultural differences between countries and making sure you understand how things work so that there won't be any surprises upon arrival. 


Staying connected with your friends from abroad will help remind you of your experiences abroad and make it easier to adjust back home. To prevent cultural shock, it's important to stay open-minded and try new things while living abroad, and absorb as much knowledge about the foreign culture as possible so that it won't seem too alien when you eventually return home. 

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Cross-cultural shock refers specifically to when different people of different cultures come together and have difficulty understanding each other due to differing beliefs or ways of life; this can sometimes occur for travellers who visit highly diverse or multicultural areas such as large cities or countries with multiple cultural backgrounds. Knowing how to communicate effectively across cultures is helpful in avoiding this type of shock.

5 Stages Of Culture Shock 


There are generally five stages of culture shock: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Let's take a more detailed look at each stage. 


This is the initial stage where everything is still new and exciting. You're not quite sure what all the fuss is about, and people keep telling you that you'll experience culture shock, but you just don't see it happening. Surely this whole experience will be amazing, and there's nothing to worry about! This stage usually lasts for about three months. 


After the initial excitement wears off, you might start feeling frustrated with your new surroundings. Things that seemed so charming before are now beginning to annoy you. Whether it's the food, the weather, or just the general way of life, everything starts getting on your nerves. This is perfectly normal and usually lasts for another three months or so. 

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Now you're starting to miss your home country and all the comforts that come with it. You begin bargaining with yourself - maybe if I just hold out for a little longer, I can go home early. Or maybe if I try hard enough, I can make this work. This stage can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. 


This is often considered the toughest stage of culture shock because everything feels overwhelming, and you may start questioning why you ever decided to leave your home country in the first place. You might become withdrawn and start isolating yourself from others. It's important to recognize these feelings and not bottle them up because they will only make things worse in the long run. The good news is that this stage doesn't last forever - it usually peaks around the six-month mark before slowly improving. 

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This is the final stage, where you finally start feeling like you belong in your new surroundings. You know what to expect and how to deal with certain situations, so everything feels a lot less daunting now. You might even find yourself teaching others about your own culture! This stage can take anywhere from several months to a year or more to reach, depending on the person. 

If you're coming back from a trip abroad, be prepared for the possibility of reverse culture shock! By understanding the symptoms and stages of this condition, you can better manage any challenges that come your way. 


And remember, if at any point you start feeling lost or overwhelmed, reach out for help from friends, family, or a mental health professional who can assist you in making this transition.

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