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Over at Verge Magazine, in my latest post, I discuss some ways to overcome reverse culture shock. Go check it out and let me know your tips!
Update: April 2014 – Republishing my article here.
Previously, I discussed my experience and thoughts on reverse culture shock. Since then, it has become easier, despite the fact that it wasn’t something that I was prepared for nor was I really expecting.
But through the course of it, I learned some things. Here are a few of my tips on how to handle culture shock:
1. Realize that you can’t change people.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of coming back home was realizing that during the time that I was gone, a few of my friends and I have drifted apart. Their interests are no longer my interests and vice versa. It’s a part of life. You meet new people and new friends and old ones drift away.
Getting frustrated with friend’s attitudes and differing interests is counterproductive and no matter how what you do and how much you wish for it, you can’t change people. It’s hard to accept it and move on, but it’s necessary to keep you going.
2. Talk about the experience, but respect that not everyone wants to hear it.
You’ve just arrived home, you’re full of excitement and stories that you can’t wait to share. But most people just won’t care. They won’t understand the impact, the meaning behind your stories. They ask you “how was it?” and your immediate response would most likely be “what part?”or something generic like, “awesome, great, fabulous.”
It is hard to sum up everything that you’ve experienced during the time you’ve been away. Usually beyond those few words, people lose interest.
3. But seek out people who DO want to hear about it.
Being able to talk about the experience and the things I did was a huge lifesaver. I had all these stories, life lessons and random bits of knowledge that I had learned while abroad and nowhere to express it. But I had friends who were interested in knowing these things so I met up with them, catching up over a cup of coffee. They heard about my adventures and I caught up on their life. It was a win-win situation. I was able to talk about the experience, but not preach. By doing so, it got the need to talk about these things out of my system.
4. Write about it.
Being able to write about your experience, getting things down on paper (I prefer typing, some love writing on paper) is great. You feel a lot better. It’s not all just bottled up inside you. This is one of the main reasons why I started this blog.
It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. Just a brain dump. You don’t even have to share it. There are a lot of great tools online out there than can help. Anything from just having a running Google Document, or setting up a Penzu journal or using the 750 words platform. It’s a way of clearing your head and it really helps.
5. Keep connected with those that you’ve met abroad.
While in Budapest, I met some amazing people from all around the world. Since then, we’ve all gone our separate ways—but that doesn’t mean that we don’t keep in touch.
We have a group chat on Whatsapp, schedule video chats on Google Hangouts and keep in touch on Facebook—not to mention the occasional letter in the mailbox.
6. Get out of the house.
The worst thing to do when you come back home is to stay at home. Get out of the house. Catch up with friends. Get reacquainted with your hometown. Explore new parts of the city. Do anything but sit at home and watch life pass you by and dwell on the past. I’m having a lot of fun rediscovering (and discovering!) the neighbourhoods of Vancouver.
7. Move on with your life.
As hard as it might be, don’t dwell on the past. Yes, cherish those memories, print photos, and talk about the experiences, but at the same time try to move on. What’s next in life? Looking for a job? Going back to school? Concentrate on those things to get your momentum going. Some days you won’t want to do anything, but once you get started, it’ll become easier.
8. Establish a schedule.
Did you have a schedule while abroad? Maybe you went to the gym or started practicing yoga. Or you discovered your love for taking photos. Keep up these habits while at home all in the effort to get you out of the house. Keeping the same routines can help keep you grounded while you’re adjusting to everything else.
9. Seek out new experiences.
Part of what makes being abroad that makes it so exciting is that every day is a new adventure, something that you’ve never experienced before. When back at home, everything is still more or less the same and everything is familiar. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can meet new people, explore different parts of the city and try new things. (I’m off to a circus class in a couple weeks in an attempt to keep trying new things.)
10. Keep positive.
Yes, it does suck now. Yes, it is hard. But it’ll get better so keep your chin up and think positive. You’ll get through this and you’ll be so proud of yourself for having challenged yourself.
How have you overcome reverse culture shock? Do you have any tips for me?