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Traveling Culture Shock: Re-entry

Published 27th October 2009
 
by Paul Dow ~ 2 mins, 55 secs read
traveling returning home

Returning home can be a culture shock of it's own.

Even before you set off on a lengthy trip around the world it is worth recognising that it will be a challenge to return back home. In many cases it can be a bigger culture shock than the one you experienced at your first destination.

I remember ordering a coffee shortly after touching down back in the UK, in my head all I could hear was my order in Spanish. It was strange to be in a situation where I was speaking English after 8 months in South America.

Re-entry

At first you may find it a relief to be back home, seeing your friends and family after such a long period of time. All the comforts of home will welcome you back, clean clothes and your own comfy bed. But don’t get too comfortable because just around the corner are a whole heap of re-entry issues to deal with.

Distance

You may find that you feel like there is more distance between you and your friends mainly because you have a different outlook on things.

Travel Stories

Don’t be surprised that friends and family won’t want to hear every single story from your travels, if they haven’t been there they may find it difficult to relate.

The questions

Be ready to be confronted by repeated mind numbing questions such as “how was the trip?“, “where was your favourite place?“. This doesn’t sound too bad, but when you’ve heard it for the hundredth time in can start to grate. It’s almost as bad as the questions you get when you’re traveling, “where are you from“, “how long are you traveling for?“.

How to cope

Keep In Touch

Try staying in touch with the people you’ve met whilst traveling, this can easily be done via the likes of Facebook these days. By keeping in touch when you get home will increase the likelihood you’ll meet again.

Language Lessons

If you were learning a language on the road you should try to keep up the lessons back home or even if you never quite learnt any how about taking some lessons now?

Find new hobbies

Finding new hobbies or interests you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to is a great way to get back into life at home. There are many hobbies that you just couldn’t do whilst traveling, now is the time to do them.

Take a short trip

Take some time out and take a short break. You don’t have to go away for a long time or to far away places but to do some independent travel will help even if it is just to meet some like minded travelers.

Bring back the memories

Bring back the memories from your travels, read back some of your travel blog or organise your photos.

Keep busy

The worst thing you can do is to sit around and do nothing. Having some time to chill out for a while is good, but don’t over do it. Find some hobbies and interests or learn that language that you never fully mastered.

Although your traveling experience may change your outlook forever you may find it difficult to re-adjust once you make it back home.

It’s always a good idea to have this in mind even before you depart.

Have you ever experienced culture shock on re-entry after coming back home? What happened and how did you cope?


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Paul Dow is an English, optimistic, late sleeper, green tea drinker, writer, web developer, soccer fan and editor of TravMonkey. Currently recovering in London after traveling solo for 22 months through Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America.
5 Comments, have your say...
  1. I totally agree that it’s a real trial being asked the obvious questions – “What was your favourite place?” “Where would you like to go back to?” – on re-entry to normal life. Theodore Zeldin is a guy who’s written a book called “The Art of Conversation” which suggests ways of moving conversation onto more interesting topics by asking more unusual questions or turning dull ones upside down. It makes such a difference. There’s nothing more frustrating coming back from an awesome extended adventure abroad and feeling almost incapable of communicating it to anyone around you.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Great piece! I felt as if you were stealing thoughts from my brain and putting them in this article. I mean that in a good way; I completely relate to your experience. SO true…loved what you wrote.

    My husband and I have had a tough time since returning to the States in mid-2008 after 27 countries and 14 months around the world. We had a similar experience trying to order a coffee and pastry at Peet's, a small U.S. chain. After so many months in the third world, with limited resources at times, we didn't know what to do with the American opulence, let alone most of the items on the once-familiar menu seemed to foreign. People in line made nasty comments to hurry up, and we quickly put them in their place.

    The worst part has been with friends that have fallen off, mostly because they don't seem tolerant to our new minimalism, nor do they even want to understand it, for that matter.

    I plan to publish an article I wrote a while back that addresses a similar theme as yours here; stay tuned. My Examiner.com link is included. Cheers!

  3. Hi guys,

    Thanks for the comments!

    I'll have to check out "The Art Of Conversation", it sounds like it might be useful in social situations!

    Hi Molly,

    Thanks for the link, I'll check out your articles. It looks like you have plenty to write about!

    Thanks again,

    Paul @

    TravMonkey.com

  4. Hi.. my first time here.. nice post!

  5. Very appropriate! And all so so familiar… :-)

    I remember two things that particularly caught my eye after long-term travel…

    How fast things were. I just couldn't cope with the speed at which everyone demanded everything. Service was required NOW, and even a five-second wait brought out some people's irritation.

    How fit I was. I was so fit I couldn't understand why people would drive just a mile or two, or take an elevator for a few floors. That certainly changed quickly…

    What's amazing is how quickly humans adapt, either to re-entry or to yet a new adventure. At least I have!

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