Going back home: an inverse culture shock

You decided to live abroad whether for study, work, or another reason. Now that you are back home, everything is not as easy as you thought it would be. It is hard adapting to a life in another country, but few people know that going back home can be complicated. We are going to talk about a few things you might feel or think during the adaptation process in your new yet old routine.

When we move to another country we must learn to live in a new culture that often has different traditions and a new language. While it can be very stressful, arriving in a new environment can also be a very enriching period where we face many challenges that will hopefully result in personal growth.

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Some people might think that going back home is like taking a step back, after realizing that they have returned at the starting point, and that they are not the same person. This phenomenon has been studied by several authors who have coined it as, “inverse cultural shock”. This is the psychological impact and distance experienced by a person returning to their home country who has been away for some time.

If you just returned home after a long period abroad you might notice more of the negative aspects of your country compared to family and friends. This can generate tension if people around notice that you are talking about your country with disdain. If this happens to you, try to think about how many times you missed certain things from home while you were away. Now you can enjoy them again! People tend to compare the positive aspects from their home country and the new country while living abroad. You might find yourself comparing everything to the place where you lived recently. Magnifying negative aspects is normal but remember the grass is always greener on the other side.

It is okay if you consider the things that used to seem normal as strange or if you feel some distance from your home country. This can generate a feeling of not belonging, because when you lived abroad you felt like a foreigner and now that you are back you don’t feel at home.

That feeling of not belonging anywhere can produce nostalgia. You can use this period to reflect and realize how much you have opened your mind, liberated yourself from many useless things or norms, and adopted others that are more aligned to the person you are today.

Realizing how everything has been static back home might also generate some confusion. Some people experience “the eternal traveler syndrome” which produces a constant need to discover new places and experiences, making it impossible to settle in a place permanently.

If you feel that being back at home is a struggle, consider looking for professional help to support you during the adaptation period. Obtaining guidance can help you see other perspectives, understand the changes you have gone through, and how to use them to your advantage.

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