Reverse culture shock, or re-entry, is simply a common reaction to returning home from studying abroad. It is an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad…. Your reactions to re-entry may vary, but common signs are:
- Wanting to be alone
- “Reverse homesickness”
The same holds true for those of us who weren’t studying abroad, but were living abroad for a semester. My husband and I landed in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. We forgot to get American money at O’Hare before our friend picked us up. We arrived home with some leftover pounds, Euros and a few other currencies. Oh, and five large suitcases and duffels full of (mostly clean) clothes and souvenirs from six months across the pond.
We have a comfortable, but not spacious (by American standards) home in suburban Milwaukee. After six months in a one bedroom flat in Glasgow, our comfortable home feels HUGE. Our bathroom – by no means one of those over-the-top could fit a family of four inside it bathrooms – feels ENORMOUS. We have too much room and too much stuff – we managed fine in our little flat. Someday, hopefully just a few years down the road, we’d like to find a smaller place for us in a location that doesn’t require the constant use of a car to take care of our needs. In Glasgow, we were car-less. Everything we needed was either in walking distance, or bus or subway distance. Even when my knee got wonky, there was a grocery store, a cafe and a library all a short distance from our flat.
We are adjusting, re-adjusting, re-acclimating. Our wake-up time is becoming more normal. My husband fell asleep on the couch last night and when I went to wake him to come to bed, he opened his eyes and I could almost see the question marks flashing there. “Where the hell are we?” he asked. I know the feeling. I’ve looked the wrong way to cross the street. Reached for a light switch where it would have been in Glasgow. Tentatively put my hand under running water (lest it burn me because for some reason the water heaters must be set to scorch in Glasgow).
It’s cool in Milwaukee this week and we’re very grateful for that. It could have been hot and stifling and that would have been far harder to adjust to after Glasgow.
I haven’t experienced every emotion listed above as a warning to students, but I am wrestling at times with “reverse homesickness”. I miss being able to walk everywhere. I miss my Glasgow Writers Group friends. I miss one thing I hadn’t expected to — the fact that my phone almost never rang. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being able to talk to family and friends so much more easily, but the carpet cleaning company has already left a message. There were robocalls in my voice mail from some political action groups. I am not delighted to be returning to that level of accessibility. I miss Glasgow Green, milk chocolate digestives, the ever-changing action in George Square, the fish and chips place down the road from us, the fish market a few blocks away, the double-decker red bus full of tourists, the sea gulls soaring down the streets just above those tourists, the sounds of bagpipes or Alice Cooper imitators from Buchanan Street…. I miss so many things from Glasgow already.
But, aye, it’s true, there are things I am happy to leave behind, and that’s a post for another day.
I thank all of you who have so graciously welcomed me back to the U.S. and who have shared my journey here and on Facebook. I am especially grateful for the great numbers of you who have expressed your appreciation for the pictures I’ve shared on Facebook. I was quite anxious about over-doing it and thank you all again. May any re-entries you face be as smooth as possible — just don’t regret the bumps. They can be good teachers.
And, for a final image, I have to add one that takes me back to high school and watching this show with my mother in the den of our second house: