I’ve been thinking about reverse culture shock recently because I am headed home to Montana in just about a week. I think reverse culture shock is an interesting phenomenon, especially since I always have a harder time with it than I do the initial culture shock of going to a place I don’t know. I would say I am definitely more inclined toward a European lifestyle than an American one!
After studying abroad in Venice a few years ago, I came back to the States and had a hard time adjusting to being back. I remember wandering around our neighborhood for hours walking because I was so used to doing it everyday. I felt pretty lost for a while in there, and I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the grandiosity of the culture I had left behind when I went to study abroad. A few months after that, I moved to New York—which was a whole different kind of culture shock in and of itself. I wasn’t used to the hustle and noise of New York coming from Montana and Venice, and that too took some adaption.
The truth is, anytime you are venturing to a new place, there are going to be similarities and differences from what you are used to. That’s why we travel, right? But we might not be expecting to deal with a certain aspects of home that have become foreign to us since we have been away. I am really going to have a hard time adjusting to Starbucks coffee again after months of Italian espresso. It might seem like a small thing, but the morning ritual of making my coffee and sitting down with the newspaper to practice my Italian is something I will miss.
I think it’s really important to be kind to yourself when you know that you are going to be experiencing reverse culture shock, and you might have to keep in mind that it will probably take some time before you feel like yourself. Thinking about what you know will make you most comfortable when you return can ease the feelings caused by reverse culture shock. I have some good books waiting for me and a planned sushi dinner (not great sushi in Italy!). I’m planning on taking a day or two off from working so I can chill with my family and friends, and I’m planning on running a lot in order to get used to not walking everywhere I need to go.
I’ll still experience some reverse culture shock, but hopefully by being kind to myself it won’t be too hard to adjust!