Reverse Culture Shock: Part 1


Culture Shock is real. Reverse Culture shock is just as real.

When we decided to go on the mission field, we were prepared for this horrible, monstrous beast that would infect our lives after the “honeymoon” period of living in a new country wore off. This beast was called culture shock. And he came. Sometimes disguised and unannounced, sometimes invited in, as a welcome guest, to our very own pity party. But after a few months of language learning and cultural adjusting, we beat the beast and were happily living in our new culture. The beast would sometimes stop by for a visit, but we let him know that he was no longer welcome and that was that.

It sounds so easy to write it in a few sentences, when those of you that have gone through it know that it is much more than that. But an even weirder phenomenon, in my opinion, is reverse culture shock. This crazy thing you experience when returning to your HOMEland.

I grew up in America. I have lived 24 out of my 26 years in America. I have being an American down to a science. So, what’s the problem? After all, it is home, isn’t it?

Here’s what happens:

When you return to your home country after having a cultural experience, you have changed. Your worldview is a little bit wider and your sympathy for other people and other cultures a little bit stronger. The difference is everyone else around you did not have the same experience as you. They had lots of cool experiences in the time you were gone, just not in the same way you did.

Its like reading a great book. You can’t describe the story in a way that someone could understand as well as if they actually had the chance to read the book themselves. You can tell the basics of the story, but in order to completely communicate the experience, they would have to hear the sounds, smell the scents, feel the emotions that happen when you dive into a great book. The basics just don’t quite get the whole message across.

Its exactly the same with having a cultural experience. Words just aren’t enough. Pictures help but they just don’t have the same meaning to everyone else, as they do to you. People want to understand and they try, but to no fault of their own, they just can’t.

So, then you feel it. The shock of reverse culture shock. That weird, creepy feeling that you just don’t belong. You just don’t belong…at home.

What do you do? Where do you belong? Who are you? Are you really American? But you love to have your afternoon coffee, wear houseshoes, and sit for hours with your neighbors to just talk? And you can’t beat that hankering for a Bratwurst! Are you German? How could that be, when every moment in that country you were reminded of the fact that you were a foreigner?!

To be Continued in Reverse Culture Shock: Part 2


  1. Teresa says

    This is such a good post. I love how you compare culture shock to a beast and the book analogy. It really helps me understand a bit better what you’re going through. What a blessing your experiences have been and will continue to be in your lives and to have 2 very different places to now call home. Until you’ve left america at least once or twice and in reality for longer spans of time, it’s really difficult to understand just how different the rest of the world is. Just keep taking it day to day. Our God is holding you in His hands right now.

  2. Rhonda Anderson says

    Been there, done that. May you be blessed as you adjust to coming “home.”. I still have strong feelings about living in Germany. Part of me is still over there and I yearn to go back!

  3. says

    We definitely know how you feel. I wrote a similar post to try and “process” for myself the adjustment to returning to America after two years in Kenya. I called it “The Shock and Awe of Walmart.” Some things are just hard to put into words unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Thanks for the post!

  4. Rachel G says

    My family (parents and siblings) have now lived abroad for 9 years and they definitely experience reverse culture shock when they visit the u.s. I did too when I first came to live here during my college years. It’s definitely real.

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