Reverse culture shock: returning from studying abroad

Returning from living abroad is hard, far worse than leaving. It probably sounds slightly insane, how can going home be harder than leaving?

Downtown Denville

To be honest, I'm sure not everyone feels that way. I know a couple of friends who were ready to leave Seoul a month or more before the program ended. But, for my friends and I, adjusting to being back "home" is worse. ISA and even Konkuk tried to warn us of reverse culture shock and why it might not be that easy. Living abroad is a life-changing experience and you come back...different (not in a bad way). I truly thought that wasn't true when I was leaving, but now I see and feel it. I'll write a separate post on how, but for now let's return to reverse culture shock.

 What is it?
Similar to culture shock, reverse culture shock takes place when you return from living abroad.
"A person entering into their home environment will have to make adjustments to reacquaint themselves with their surroundings. Unlike culture shock, most do not anticipate feeling like a foreigner in their own home. However, it should be expected. If you have made any cultural adjustments while abroad, you will have to readjust once back home." (~ Globallinks)

Some of my experiences:
All the English, so overwhelming. I clearly remember the first few days, I had major trouble concentrating. I was used to focusing in on my friends' conversations and tuning out the Korean around us. Returning was akin sensory overload, my conversation, those around me, the radio, signs - all in English and my brain couldn't figure out what it was supposed to narrow in on. I'm sure jetlag has some blame there.

Konkuk's English-only Glocal Cafe
 Speaking of English... my English, what happened to you? No, seriously. My spoken English has taken a poor turn in the wrong direction. And half the time my brain is set to "I want to speak in Korean now." I hear that's normal if you study another language.

Food tastes change. I eat more things than I used to and I've developed a deep love for Korean food. Sadly, many things I used to eat now lack appeal. Some foods are too salty or filling for me now. Another thing; the amount I can eat has shrunk, the US really does have large portions...

"No one wants to know." Not entirely true, but the number one thing KU warned us about. Some people will be genuinely curious and ask you tons of questions about your time abroad, others not at all. They only want to hear that you enjoyed it and move on... permanently. It's hard because you want to share things that were so fascinating to you and your stories fall on deaf ears. It's genuinely irksome when I have heard the same stories about a vacation over and over for years. I politely nod and listen, yet you can't for even 5 seconds? Brilliant, I see how it is.

From city to town: I seriously never want to live in the suburbs again. I miss the convenience of being able to walk everywhere. I like my town and all, but it has suddenly become quite boring. My friends have experience the same. There's a sense of what do I do for fun?

These help:
Staying in contact with my besties from while I was away. Some of us have a group chat on Kakao and talk almost everyday. Whether about our troubles readjusting or fangirling over EXO/VIXX. When my one friend was in the area, I made sure we got to hang out for a bit.
From the EXO fansign we went to on our last weekend.

Do things you love, like cooking, going for walks, or going out to a cafe. Also listen to the music you love that makes you happy.

Don't expect it to be the same, but don't give up things you loved while you were away. 

Read good books, watch good movies, spend time with people you love. Take care of yourself, this is a good time period to focus a bit on taking care of your mind and body.

That was a lot, normally I try to not be so wordy, hehe.
Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock?
Share in the comments ^^


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