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An expat guide: Surviving reverse cultural shock

You might expect that returning home after life as an expat will be the easiest part of the moving journey. Despite saying goodbye to your ‘borrowed’ home and the friends and experiences you made during your time working overseas, we often expect that returning to the familiarities of your home country will be a blissful transition.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In fact, many expats encounter reverse culture shock on their return. But there are loads of great ways to prepare for your move home and combat the symptoms of reverse cultural shock. Here’s our guide to overcoming the changes.

What is reverse culture shock?

Reverse culture shock, or ‘re-entry’ shock, is the experience of struggling to re-acclimatise to the place you emigrated from. It can occur immediately on your return, or after you’ve been back for a little while. Either way it can cause feelings of confusion over your choices, a disassociation from your surroundings, alienation from those around you and your new but familiar situation, and even difficulty in explaining and sharing your experiences. But don’t worry: if you’re about to return home or are struggling with reverse cultural shock here are some tips as to how to combat it.

How to prepare for and prevent reverse culture shock

Set your expectations about life in your new ‘old’ home

Firstly, it’s important to measure your expectations – reverse cultural shock is common. Your move back, and what your life will look like on your return is going to be different to what you have now become used to. And importantly, remember that you, the place you are returning to, and all your friends and family there will have changed over the course of time. You are not stepping back into your old life exactly as it was when you left. This is a new version of home, so try to be excited to explore and get to know your new ‘old’ home.

Get prepared to reignite your friendships and family relationships

The time apart will have naturally changed your dynamics, so it’s important that you put in the time to grow those relationships now that you are all back in one place. Actively make plans and show that you want to make the time and effort to see them. It’s important to remember that whilst you’ve been living your new expat life, their lives have changed and grown too, so put time aside to share both your and their experiences.

Treat your new ‘old’ home as a new adventure

From moving to a new area than the one you left, to spending time as a tourist in your home city, approaching the move home as a new adventure can really help alleviate any sense of reverse culture shock. Take the time to explore the area, discovering new amenities, shops and restaurants that will become your new favourites. You are returning to a new culture from the one you are leaving, even if it’s a place you also once lived. So, take the time to get to know the area all over again.

Make friends, and stay in touch with your ‘expat’ ones

While it’s going to be a top priority to spend time with the people you left when you emigrated, it’s important that you also make time to make new connections. Invest in making new friends and connect with your new colleagues. It’s equally important to make the time to keep in touch with the new friends you made while you were away. Maintaining these connections keep you close to your travel community, and all the experiences you shared while you were away.

It’s important to be patient with yourself and prepare for your return home both practically and emotionally. Remember, this is another adventure! So, try to maintain your positivity, communicate your feelings with your support network both home and away, and get excited for your next step.

If you are looking for practical support for your move home, we’re here to help. Our team of relocation experts are here to help make your international move successful and easy, no matter where in the world you are going. Get in touch today and find out how at Santa Fe Relocation we make moving home easy for you.

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