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Reverse culture shock is a very real and evident thing, and every time I come back home to America there is more shock, but I learn to handle it better. It’s a weird system I have going on, but I’m slowly learning how to make it work. I’m sure people just assume reverse culture shock is me “missing my glamorous life in Europe” or “pissed because I have to join the ‘real world'”- let me just state, my life in Europe is in no way “glamorous” and very much so a part of the ‘real world’ as my life in America is. They are both different, but they are both very real and an integral part of who I am.
“The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” Many people experience this when they go abroad for the first time, and every time they leave. It’s a very normal and expected occurrence, minimized through personal research of a culture, but you can never learn everything. I consistently still find myself surprised at things in Italy, and probably will for the rest of my life, though the number of things, and amount of shock will lessen throughout the years.
Let me tell you a quick story. I was out at the bar with some friends in my college town. I ordered my usual drink of choice, a Vodka Lemon, and the bartender gave me a quick side eye. I sat talking to friends and as soon as I was handed my drink realized I’d made a grave mistake. Schweppes lemon soda is NOT a thing in America, and I was handed a Vodka with soda water (?) and a splash of some sort of lemonade (maybe). I drank it, but when the bartender asked me if I would have another I politely declined and ordered a standard gin and tonic instead.
My friends made fun of me and we discussed the specs of a Vodka Lemon for about 15 minutes, as I hung my head in shame because I forgot how to order a drink in America (not really). This is just one small instance of reverse culture shock.
Another example? I forget people are friendly here and want to have a conversation with me for no apparent reason, and I can’t use a “I don’t speak English excuse” because well, that would just be weird. I forget what it’s like to see trucks everywhere, and to hear southern accents, and the smell of barbecue. It’s being unaware of how much I really used to drive in a day, and how much I walked throughout the day in Italy.
It’s not that I actually forgot these things, it’s that they get put in the back of your mind and you just don’t think about them for the time you’re abroad. There’s more to reverse culture shock than missing your lifestyle. It’s becoming re-accustomed to your old one.
There are a few things I do to help me get back into the swing of things and beat the Post Travel Blues/ Reverse Culture Shock Strifes.
This is a personal thing for me, but you can swing it your way. Often when I come home from a trip, or after I’ve been abroad for a while, I’ll sit on my couch and watch TV and edit photos or video. Often this brings members of my family over my shoulder asking questions about the photos and where I am, who I am with, etc. etc. This is a great way to bring my family into my adventures so they are a little more clued-in to my life overseas, and let me vent and talk about my times from someone who asks so I don’t feel like I’m annoying people with my travel stories. (We’ve all been there…)
One of the best ways to get past your confusing return to America is to make plans with old friends. Go out, get back used to eating American food, and listen to what they’ve been up to. Hearing your friends talk about school, work, and your mutual friends will help you deal with the time that has passed and get you caught up on all the going ons, like who’s dating who, what people’s plans are in the next couple of months, and so on.
Another issue I frequently deal with is my restless feet. The ‘confinement’ of not being able to hop on a plane and head to a new country for 20 bucks rips at my soul and causes me anguish, but I get past this by planning weekend trips. Just driving a few hours to hang out for a weekend at the beach, in the mountains, or for a city stay can really satiate the travel palate for a time being. America has so many beautiful things to offer, so grab some friends, load up the car, and take a quick road trip!
If you were a study abroad student, you probably documented your adventures in one way or another, or if you were living abroad there was probably something you did while you were overseas to remember the fun times. Writing about your struggles with adapting back to life in America, or even just writing more about your adventures or thoughts you have can help ease the transition.
For me talking to my boyfriend and other friends who are overseas while I am in America makes me miss life in Italy a whole lot less (sometimes). Hearing about their *very* Italian struggles like people not showing up when they’re supposed to, or the lack of heating and AC everywhere makes you appreciate the little luxuries of America just a little bit more. Not only that, but it keeps you up to date with the going ons of your friends so you don’t have any FOMO.
You need to try and adjust. It won’t be easy, but just sulking about not being on a trip won’t do anyone any good. Find ways to get back into the swing of things and get into a routine. Focus on the positive and not the negative, and for the love of god don’t just post throwbacks on Instgram. Get out and do something fun, live in the NOW.
Nothing helps you beat post travel blues like planning another trip! Hop on your computer and check out some flight deals and get your butt onto your next adventure. Give yourself something to look forward to!