Reverse Culture Shock

May 21, 2014

One difficult part of life as a foreign teacher in China that unfortunately is often overlooked is the ‘reverse culture shock’ experienced when a teacher returns to their home country. In general, the global experience is often highly stimulating and exciting. The foreign teacher is often in a position of higher power and autonomy, and also enjoys a higher standard of life with higher levels of disposable income as the cost of living in China is relatively low. However, when returning home it is often assumed that the teacher will merely slot back perfectly into the home country and company just as it was previously.

As crazy as it sounds when talking about your home country, usually, the repatriate has to relearn an old culture again, but it is often viewed from a different and less understanding perspective then when first experiencing a completely new culture. Frequently the returning teacher is shown little to no sympathy by their peers and friends, as from their viewpoint the teacher has been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity of such an amazing experience and all the other benefits that come with the role, and they are now merely complaining as they have to come back down to ‘reality’. All of this can potentially lead to feelings of being underappreciated and sometimes a loss of direction in life. Unless a person has experienced repatriation themselves they simply cannot relate to the individual, and this lack of understanding can prove to be very frustrating for the repatriate as they find it difficult to relate the value of their international experience to their family, friends, and colleagues.

Ways to reduce reverse culture shock:

Share your experiences with others

Although you may feel like you are bragging or that no one wants to listen, there will be those around you who will support you with an honest interest in your experience. You could even start a blog and write about your time teaching abroad.

Maintain your international style

Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you enjoyed whilst in China. Eat your favorite foreign dishes, continue to practice your new-found Chinese language skills, and keep in touch with your international friends through Facebook and Wechat.

Reverse culture shock is a transition

The good news is that although it may take some time, you will gradually adjust back to the culture of your home country and be comfortable with where and who you are. Here’s a guide for looking after your mental health while adjusting to life at home.

Overall in the vast majority of cases teaching abroad is a tremendously positive experience and the upsides of teaching in China are endless. You have the chance to be part of a new culture, learn a foreign language, meet people from all over the world…and from a career-orientated perspective you become a significantly more attractive candidate for future jobs. It is true, home is never really the same again, but for the better. You will have broadened your horizons and experienced things most people may only dream about. So don’t hesitate to start your own story about teaching in China.

Want to hear about reverse culture shock straight from a repatriate that’s experienced it? Check out our other blog: Reverse Culture Shock – Expectations and Coping.


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