Previously, I shared about what reverse culture shock is. In this article, I am going to share about ways one could overcome reverse culture shock. As a disclaimer, everyone’s experience is different and unique. What might work for some might not work for others. But whatever you try, I’ve found that the concrete desire of wanting change from your circumstances can help in bringing you to a better place.
Firstly, understand what you are dealing with. If you have yet to read what is reverse culture shock, my previous article explains more about it. Understanding reverse culture shock means realising the immense difficulty it can pose. Being willing to ask for help from professionals – therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers is a good sign. It shows you are not underestimating the magnitude of the struggle.
Secondly, keep in touch with your former friends overseas. To move from being around your friends to being thousands of miles apart from them is difficult. But with technology, you can still keep in touch with them. Just because you have moved doesn’t mean these relationships have to end with your move. Keeping in touch with them reminds you that your experience overseas was not simply a dream. It was real. More than anything, these friends abroad can provide you crucial support in your initial days back home.
Thirdly, reconnect with your local communities. Whether you were previously part of a church, a clique of friends, or a circle of volunteers, don’t burn the bridges to them. Slowly reach out, and connect with them again. Connect with your local communities helps you to readjust to the local culture, way of life, and people again.
Next, remind yourself why you are back. Whether you were mandated to come back or it was your own desire to return, remembering why you are back is important. As much as you might miss the life overseas, remembering the purpose of your return ensures that you face each day with meaning, rather than misery.
Lastly, give yourself time to grieve the loss of your previous life. This can take many forms, such as writing a goodbye letter to your life abroad, throwing away your previous items, or even closing your internet/banking accounts abroad. Such actions signify a break with those times, and herald the welcoming of a new beginning. The Chinese have a saying which loosely translates as, ‘If the old doesn’t leave, how will the new come?’ In my last month abroad, I held a funeral service for my university notes, giving a touching memorial about how they had helped me. Doing that helped me to get in touch with my feelings. Surprisingly, I wept during the ‘funeral’, as I started realising the end of my time abroad.
Returning is never easy. Realising it isn’t easy, and taking active steps to combat that helps us to cope better. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
What helped for you? Please feel free to share them below, or with me at www.savethesocialworker.com
This is the last of the 5-part series on dealing with culture shock.
Part 1: Why does culture shock and reverse culture shock happen?
Part 2: Dealing with culture shock
Part 3: Reverse culture shock stages
Part 4: What is reverse culture shock?
Keen on a career in social work? Read this!