reverse culture shock

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reverse culture shock

“the shock suffered by expatriates returning home after lengthy overseas assignments. It is caused by the fact that the cultural norms of the ex-pat's overseas assignment become natural to them, over their home country's own traditions and customs.”

Going to China I had many things I had to adjust to. The first couple weeks of being in China were rough. In a lot of ways, China is the complete and total opposite of America. At the beginning I didn’t see myself ever thinking my life in China would normal. After a couple months prayer and trying to keep an open mind my life in China started to feel more and more normal. Even though things were different than America I had to free my mind of all biases and expectations.

Overall my time overseas was more than I could have imagined it would ever be. I found my people and my place in China, and I could see myself there for a while.

Even though I enjoyed it, toward the end of my contract I was very ready to be on American soil again. I was ready to be with my family and friends, drive my own car, sleep in a soft bed, eat my own American comfort foods, and the list goes on and on. Yeah, I would miss parts of China, but 10 months was a long time.

When I arrived to Arkansas I immediately had problems with my sleeping schedule, eating habits, and money.

China’s 13 hours ahead of America, and my body is so confused. I would take short naps at night and wake up at 1 a.m. starving. I would eat a full meal and eat another full meal at 5 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep until 12 p.m., and then I would sleep until 7 p.m. I’m in the process of getting my sleep schedule back in line, but it’s been tough.

When I was in China, I loved Chinese food but after a while I craved American food. I was so ready to taste the foods I grew up with and loved my entire life. Every meal I’ve eaten so far in America hasn’t tasted the same. China has changed my taste buds. My family took me to one of my favorite restaurants, and I actually threw up. I’ve realized how processed American food is, and I miss going to the farmer’s market to get fresh fruits and vegetables every day in China.

For the past 10 months I’ve been paid a Chinese teaching salary. It’s enough to live on in China, but it’s such a small amount compared to American salaries. That being said, in general shopping and eating in China is much cheaper than America. It’s only more expensive when you try to purchase imported items. My first meal back in America was Mexican food. The tip alone was more than three full meals in China would be. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at American prices the same.

Another hard thing has been trying to jump back into the relationships I’ve been partially absent from for the last 10 months. Before I left America I knew where I belonged. Distance and time differences didn’t destroy relationships, but they definitely weren’t built up either. People always talk about travelling “broadening your horizon" and I never realized how true it was until now. My ideas and perspectives have changed a lot since leaving America, but now that I’m back I’m trying to fit into the mold I once was in. It’s not working.

I’m happy being back, but it is just as difficult (maybe even more) readjusting to America than it was adjusting to China. I’m taking it one day at a time for now. I can 100% confirm that reverse culture shock is not fake news.