Posts Tagged With: Culture shock


My eyes are super dilated right now. I look like a cat in a dark room and when I step outside, the light is blinding.


No, I am not having a severe case of reverse culture shock but rather, I just came from the ophthalmologist. But it certainly is an apt metaphor for what life is like now readjusting – moving back from life abroad, moving to another city where I know no one, and entering the corporate world.

For instance, I am now taking an online MBA class. I just had my midterm last night, and I spent the three days preceding that studying terms like SWOT analysis, venture capitalists, and trade deficits. I had to write an essay on the steps of a PERT diagram. My teacher said it was one of the best responses he’s ever read. What is the world coming to? I’m becoming an expert on PERT diagrams!

Suffice it to say that my literary fantasy world of life in Europe is being replaced by a new reality of business, car payments, and health benefit plans.  Gone are the days of studying metaphysics, medieval philosophy, and the history of Western Europe. In short, I am going to need to find my own culture because I am no longer a full-time student.

Welcome to the real world.

For many people, reverse culture shock is extreme. I know people who have spent three years in Africa, who live in South America on a small stipend, who haven’t seen shopping malls for months. I won’t pretend that my transition from living in France to being back in my hometown of Saint Louis has been quite as traumatic. My culture shock is double, though – in one fell swoop, I am officially grown up, with a real world job, real world car payments, and real world problems.

I think I preferred living in France.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved spending the past three weeks with family and friends. I bought a beautiful new used car from my friend’s brother. I had a great conversation about life in South America with a friend over tapas at a Spanish bar while watching Brazil slaughter Spain in the Confederation Cup. I caught up with close friends in a more meaningful way than I had for many months (email can only do so much). And I ate in more restaurants in one weekend than I had for the entire time I was in France.

Readjusting is never easy. It’s taking a new status quo and making it your reality. If I weren’t moving in a week, my life would slowly take up a new normal. If I weren’t (impatiently) waiting for Hedi’s visa to arrive (we’re 26 days into the waiting process), I could be taking more advantage of my newly upgraded life.

Part of me is somewhat depressed: I want to live abroad, I want to learn languages in an immersion setting, and I want to be able to go out with my fiancé on a regular basis.

Part of me is exhilarated: I have new challenges in front of me, new goals, I’ll be living an hour away from New York City and from one of my closest friends, I’ll get to show Hedi my country, and we’ll finally have enough money to (eventually) travel.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I’ll get over this transition period fairly soon. Right now, though, my eyes hurt.


Categories: Repatriation | Tags: | 2 Comments

Reverse Culture Shock

Home musings…

You’ve all heard of culture shock.  Moving to a new country where things are done differently, where they speak a different language, where cultural norms and social mores are so… different.  Some people get it really bad (and these are the people who don’t end up staying for long), but others get in a serious of sudden, spontaneous homesicknesses.  Not because the new is bad, but because you miss the old.

There’s also something called reverse culture shock.  Potentially more lethal.  When you come back to your home country, you start to miss all the things that you liked about living abroad, and sometimes you had no choice about coming back.  Your visa expired.  You ran out of money.  You don’t have the same rights in your foreign country, or maybe you find it impossible to be with the person of your dreams unless you come home.  In that case, reverse culture shock can be severe.  You are in the place you grew up in, but it’s all these reasons that prompted you to leave that are digging that thorn even deeper.  When your home away from home is no longer your home.  And home isn’t really home any more.

I feel somewhat blessed, in the way a chameleon is blessed in turning green and yellow and brown.  My culture shock has always been minimal, and I re-adapt to living in the United States without a second thought.  Is it weird to be back home? I am asked.  I mean, I guess it’s weird to do your shopping a bit differently, your cooking, your (non)walking, your talking.  But, as I’ve lived in Switzerland and then the United States, France and then the United States and then France again – visiting again in the United States is like traveling to see loved ones, camping out there for a week or two, and then moving on to the next destination.

But then again, I don’t really know what settling down somewhere is like.  I have perpetually been a student, studied abroad as a student, moved here and there as a student, but I have not yet worked somewhere abroad, picked out my apartment, and truly made a life.  I’d love to have that opportunity arise, but whether that will be soon or far off is hard to say.

My Christmas presents from my oldest, dearest friends? Arm & Hammer baking soda and cake mixes.

I don’t think I’ll be missing home anytime soon.

Categories: Daily Life, Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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