Understanding Reverse Culture Shock: When Home Feels Foreign
Having to look the opposite way before crossing the street. Referring to ketchup as “tomato sauce” and to fries as “chips.” Realizing that “going to the chemist” does not, in fact, mean that you’re paying a visit to a scientist’s lab. Instead, it’s the same as going to a drugstore in the US. All of these cultural differences were overwhelming at first, and gave me quite a bit of culture shock. But I’ve grown used to many of the things that seemed so foreign to me a few months ago. (Except for looking the other way before crossing the road. I still instinctively look the wrong way every time.) Now that Australian customs and practices have become normal to me, what will happen when I return home?
The Usual Becomes UnfamiliarThings that used to seem ordinary—like ketchup, drugstores, and people driving on the righthand side of the road—will likely appear strange at first, since I’m no longer used to encountering them daily. This phenomenon is called reverse culture shock, and it’s common among people who live outside of their home countries for extended periods of time. Reverse culture shock was never something I’d given much thought to until it was brought up by Lindsey, the IFSA-Butler student services coordinator in Melbourne. After all, when you’re studying abroad, you’re often so wrapped up in either learning or enjoying yourself that you don’t have time to think about what will happen once you return home.
This phenomenon is called reverse culture shock, and it’s common among people who live outside of their home countries for extended periods of time.But Lindsey made some important points when she addressed us about what it’ll be like to go home after being away for over four months of the year. Drawing from her own experience of studying in the US and then returning to Australia, she confessed that reverse culture shock can be equally as daunting to deal with as regular culture shock. This, she said, can be off-putting, particularly so for those who wish they could have stayed in their host country. Every little cultural difference can seem huge when magnified by the desire to be somewhere else.