Preparing for reverse culture shock

We are now under the one-month mark until we return the US for some housesitting and to hopefully make the final decision on a long-term base. After being gone from the US for almost 4 years, I’m expecting a healthy dose of reverse culture shock.

reverse culture shock

We first experienced mild culture shock when we went to grumpy Madrid after 1-1/2 years in friendly Latin America. Tigger had a bit of food shock when we went to southeast Asia, but for the most part it was a smooth transition. Thailand just kind of has a way of embracing you as you step off the plane, and it’s like you’ve been there forever.

Australia was a bit more of a shock. I remember not realizing how much peace I had in public places in SE Asia since I couldn’t understand the language. Being in Australia and New Zealand where I could understand everything (most of the time) was a surprise to my system.

Driving on the left side of the road was familiar enough from Thailand, but I was still thankful we were in an area without much traffic while I finished adjusting to driving there.

By the time we left Oceania, I was craving the more exotic atmosphere of Asia. I loved hearing all the different languages, having all the different smells, and selecting “surprise” dishes.

reverse culture shock

I expected a bit of culture shock in Romania, but it never really came. There were some slight adjustments required, but even though it would most likely be considered “light exotic” it was enough to be fascinating. The language barrier was enough to inject some minor challenges into our day.

In the UK, accents and names for things were enough to add a little different air to things. And there were different foods (haggis!).

But now we’re heading back to the once-familiar States. I’ve never really felt connected with my native country’s general culture, but there are things I do enjoy. We’ll begin our reentry process in Florida. If you read news about the US, Florida has an . . . interesting reputation.

From there we head to Austin, Texas, which is its own separate universe in the Lone Star State. We have some time with old and new friends there before heading to our sit in San Antonio. Texans are super friendly, but I definitely don’t exactly “connect” with much of the culture. Probably even less so now that we’ve been gone for so long.

reverse culture shock

In mid December, we’ll be returning to Washington state for our final planned house sit. We’ll likely be making our final decision at that time about our long-term base.

I can’t think too much about that part because it begins to feel overwhelming. Renting a home is so much easier on the road. You basically check the place out, tell them you want it, agree on a price, and move in. Places are often furnished and almost always have included utilities.

In the US, we won’t have that luxury. I’ll have to deal with credit checks and applications. And there aren’t a lot of furnished places available, which means we’ll definitely be starting over again. I can’t say I’m excited to go through the process of slowly acquiring furniture again. Ugh

It’s almost a deja vu experience from before we left. Although my friend Panic hasn’t made a visit. Yet.

I’m hoping to keep it that way.

Have you experienced reverse cultural shock? What’s your favorite memory?

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  1. I guess you just need to find your people in the place that you live. There are pretty much always subcultures. Where I live at the moment (Sydney) is known for being flashy and sometimes pretentious but that isn’t my world. I enjoy the natural environment, hang out at places that are more relaxed and my friends here aren’t the flashy types. You can mould your surroundings to fit in with the lifestyle you want to live, the rest is just background noise.

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  2. The only time I experienced a little bit of reverse culture shock was when we went back to Europe after spending 10 months in Asia. Going back to what was normal for us was quite shocking including how expensive everything was (and still is) compered to Asian prices and cost of living. I knew that already but I guess I got too comfortable in Asia and definitely felt the difference once back.

    Don’t panic Talon, it’s not worth it 😉

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    • Boy, I hear that sticker shock. We went from SE Asia to Australia which was a major ouch. Doesn’t matter how prepared you are for it, it still hurts.

      I’m trying not to, but I have my moments when I start questioning if I can really handle the US again. The nice thing is we have the freedom and experience so that if it isn’t working we can hop right back onto a plane and get out of there. But I’m hoping it all works out because we’re ready for a base.

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  3. Oh My Goodness …I have had these same thoughts myself. We have been overseas with my husbands basketball career for 8+ yrs. Everywhere we go part of the contract is a full furnished house, utilities, and a car for the season. When his career is over we are facing the same thing and it often gives me PANIC! Like you said renting, furniture, accumulating things again – most I’m really worried about the reverse culture shock on the family as a whole. I’m not sure we would even “fit in” in the USA anymore…yIkes! I’m watching your transition, to see how it goes! Good Luck!

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    • If I had more in the bank, I’d be less concerned with it. But trying to piece together a whole household, etc., on a very low budget isn’t fun.

      I can definitely relate about not fitting into the US. I was already on the outside a bit, but now? OMG. Tigger is concerned he’ll be viewed as a freak since he doesn’t get US kids either.

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  4. I’ve never really experienced culture shock when traveling out of the USA, I find it more right here in the states. Texas? Um, yeah, man carrying semi-automatic weapon while walking downtown was definitely culture shock. And that was in Austin! The USA is so huge and diverse, I’ve often felt we were passing through country borders rather than state borders. We’ve driven back and forth across the USA 3 different times, and I think we’ve been to about 33 states so we’ve gotten a good taste of culture shock right in our own backyard, so-to-speak.

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    • Some states are definitely more like their own world (Texas, I’m looking at you) for sure. But even just shifting from WA to OR I’ve noticed it in the past. Same with CO to NM. It can be quite interesting.

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  5. We look forward to seeing you… Austin, perhaps? Or PNW? … time will tell, as our own ‘nomadic plans are made in sand’ at the moment.

    As far as renting and ‘getting stuff’ … I have some suggestions when you get to that point — been there, done that (for six months) and then hit the road again!! — Perhaps insight that can help it be less overwhelming.

    As always… thank you for sharing your vantage point, and your journey!


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    • Definitely open to suggestions. When I was having to get more furniture prior to adopting the 1st time, I found Freecycle and Craigslist to be huge helps, so I’ll be looking at those for sure.

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