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May 21, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock: What It Is and How to Beat It

By BootsnAll

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Most people are familiar with the concept of culture shock: You go somewhere that's foreign to you and feel confused, out of place, and even angry. But what if you come back home to surroundings and people that are supposed to be familiar and comforting, and you still feel confused, out of place, and angry? That's even worse.

When you experience the symptoms of culture shock upon returning from a trip it's called "reverse culture shock," and it's not hard to understand how this can happen. Once you get used to the formerly mystifying aspects of a place, a different set of social norms is going to feel strange, even if they once felt completely normal.

Reverse culture shock is more common with travelers who have spent a long time away from home--people who are traveling the world for a long time sometimes have so much trouble re-entering their former lives that they end up hitting the road again or becoming expats elsewhere. There are, however, things you can do to help minimize the impacts of reverse culture shock.

Keep Traveling
We all know that the best antidote to the post-trip blues is planning another trip--and that's even truer when your last trip was several months or a year long. You may not be able to plan another long-term adventure, but simply having a trip on the horizon can help make the transition to a "regular" life at home more palatable. These might have seemed like ho-hum trips before, but with your new traveler's sensibility, you'll treat every new experience as an opportunity for adventure. Explore a town nearby that you've never visited. Check out local museums or walking tours to really treat a place like a tourist destination. If you live in a big city, you can get a small taste of travel just by hanging out in a neighborhood on the other side of town. Keep looking at the world--no matter where you are--through a traveler's eyes.

Find Your People
Not everyone back home will remain as interested in your travels as you are. After the first welcome-home party, where you're the center of attention and get to present a photo slideshow, it's back to business as usual, even if you're still reeling from everything you saw and did during your trip. The solution isn't to disown all those friends and family who want to talk about their lives, too, it's to expand your circle to include other travel junkies like yourself. Thankfully, even if you don't have access to such groups where you live, the internet now makes it possible to find people like you no matter where you are. Reading travel blogs, participating in travel chats on Twitter, and answering questions on travel message boards keeps you immersed in your trip for much longer, easing the transition back to "real life."

Share Your Stories
As mentioned, your friends and family won't want to hear about your travel tales forever--and they'd like you to care about what's going on in their lives, too. If you've still got travel stories to tell, though, that pent-up energy isn't going to go away by itself. Here's another place where the web is an excellent resource. You can start your own travel blog (if you didn't already have one for your trip), write posts for someone else's site (if you've made some travel bloggy friends), and write stories for publication on a variety of websites (some of which, though not all, will pay). Answering questions on travel message boards is another great way to share your stories and pass on valuable information to like-minded people. And don't overlook the option of giving presentations in schools. Check with your local schools to see if there's a place for your slideshow about the African safari you took. Chances are good that you'll have a rapt audience and inspire a new generation of travelers at the same time.

Bring the World Home with You
You probably learned some new skills during your trip that you can put to good use when you get home--whether it's cooking a new recipe or reading books in a new language. But you can continue to bring the world into your life in other ways without going anywhere. Join a foreign-language conversation group. Take a cooking class. Go to foreign-film festivals. Host an exchange student. Get a new piece of artwork from a country you visited. It's a matter of being creative and exploring ways to incorporate some of the things you loved about travel into your everyday life--and it can be a fun exercise, too.

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