It’s only natural to feel a little bit overwhelmed when you start to teach English abroad. You’ll get a sensory and culture overkill! So it’s obviously going to take you a bit of time to be able to get used to your new home and culture. Sometimes it can feel like by the time you’ve settled in and adapted to your new life, it will be time to come back home! And, what most people don’t prepare for or even think of is a ‘reverse culture shock’
So, we’ve all heard of this thing called a culture shock, you know that feeling where you feel like you’re in the wrong place, when you’re introduced to a brand new culture. What people don’t realize though, is that you could suffer from a reverse culture shock once you get back to the place you call home. When you set off for your TEFL adventure abroad, you expect things to be different. But when you return back home, you think that everything will be exactly the same as when you left – which is actually rarely the case. You’ll probably be really excited to get back home and see your friends and family… maybe just as excited as you initially were to head overseas…
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It’s important to realize that this feeling is perfectly natural. You’re always going to be feeling sad leaving a country that you loved. It might have had it’s ups and downs but it’s most likely going to have been life-changing for you. You’ll always fall into the trap of saying, “This time last week I was… on the beach/teaching my favorite kiddies/eating some great food”. But try not to dwell on it, at least you know you’ve had the time of your life out there agreed?!
But be careful, because you may not only feel sad that your time overseas has come to an end, but you may also start to feel distanced from things back home. Some things may begin to seem trivial compared to your life left-behind! In general, the more you’ve integrated into your host country, the harder it will be to re-adjust to life back-home.
Your relationship with your friends may also change. Your life has moved on whilst you’ve been abroad, but so have your friends’ lives… and not always in the same direction… But then again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Variety is the spice of life! And you’ll have much more to share and discover with your pals. Even though they may ask you (what feel like) surface-scratching questions and make jokes about your sun-tan, it will probably feel like you’ve always got more to tell them. But don’t over-do it and don’t panic!
This is also a normal occurrence. Just because they don’t want to know every single detail straight away doesn’t mean they don’t care at all. I’m pretty sure you’ll have a lot of stories to tell them but, naturally, your trip is not as significant to them as it has been to you. All they know is what you’ve told them, they haven’t had the opportunity to experience and understand it in the flesh, for themselves. So try not to get frustrated if they don’t seem 100% engaged with your story telling. (They’re probably just jealous because you’ve had the time of your life whilst they’ve been slogging away in a call centre all year!)
The main thing to remember is that this feeling is only temporary and that things will get better. Although, it can take a long time to re-adjust to living life back home, and certainly won’t happen overnight. There are, however, a few things that you can bear in mind which may help you along the way. These include; recognising that you feel the way you do, keeping in touch with the friends you met whilst overseas, joining a group and getting involved in a new challenge, getting some career advice, having a break and spending time with family, getting a check up and if you’re having trouble eating/sleeping then don’t hesitate to contact someone who can help.
Whatever you do and however you cope with moving back home, remember the lessons you’ve learnt and the experiences you’ve had, and allow them to influence your life. You will become a more patient, accepting and understanding individual; all of which will grow your personality and develop you into a much more rounded individual.
Have you had any experience with reverse culture shock? Tell us about it below!