Each year the kids and I head to Australia for about three weeks during their end-of-year school holidays to enjoy time with family and friends. People are what we miss most when living overseas, so we embrace living close enough to head home – well, our ‘other home’ really – once a year. Then returning home to our host country, currently Vanuatu.
Which means we get to experience culture shock twice in a short period of time.
Yes, culture shock is not reserved for new locations. Returning to your home country can be just as unsettling, sometimes more so as it is less anticipated, earning the term reverse culture shock.
Personally, on first arriving in Australia again, my family feels unnerved by:
- the busyness – everyone moves so fast in the developed world, many people oozing stress
- abundant choices – not just with food and other goods, but also friends and finances
- expecting it to feel like home – but it doesn’t quite somehow
It really is quite overwhelming.
Then after even a short time there, returning to your host country can be unsettling too. To some extent the relocation rollercoaster begins again. The first days might feel like a holiday to a place you’ve been before – favourites are sought, such as restaurant meals, market produce, a friend, or preferred places to play. Shortly thereafter reality strikes – the internet has been disconnected because you forgot payment would be due while you were away; the supermarket shelves are empty, awaiting the next delivery; or a close friend announces their employment contract will not be extended after all, so they’ll be moving on shortly.
So it doesn’t quite feel like home either.
I’ve lived in 6 countries across the globe, with many trips to and fro over the 25 years, and still feel the effects of culture shock. Knowing I, and the rest of the family, will do makes all the difference.
Here are our Top 10 Tips to Settle in Again after a Trip Home:
- Give Yourself Time. If possible, allow a few days or a week before returning to work / school / everyday responsibilities. Accept your fluctuating feelings as perfectly normal and understandable. Hush your critical inner-voice, flipping it to the positive – know you are doing a fine job settling back in.
- Focus on the positives of being in this location, particularly why you’ve chosen to be here. This might be financial, career, cultural, language, family, lifestyle, partner support, study, adventure or a myriad of other reasons – only you can know your real why.
- Jot down a list of the things you like about your host country and stick it somewhere prominent, like the bathroom mirror. Enjoy one or more every day.
- Get lots of sleep and rest. Travel is exhausting, both mentally and physically, so allow your body the chance to rejuvenate. The best way to recover from travel, apart from hydration and movement, is to adjust to the local time zone right away. If sleep eludes you, try journaling, breathing, stillness or meditation.
- Unpack in the first few days so your bags and piles aren’t a visual reminder of your recent transience, cluttering your view and reducing your ability to ease back into routine and enjoy being home.
- Download photos from your trip and share with those you spent time with. Display a few favourites either electronically or in print. Knowing these people are with you in spirit, and able to be visited again next trip, or may visit you, ensures lovely memories of your ‘other home’.
- Get in touch with people in this location, perhaps before you even return, so there are coffee dates / evening meals / walks / activities arranged.
- See your return as a reset button, an opportunity to tweak your lifestyle for the better. This might be stocking the fridge and pantry only with food that loves you back; or starting as you wish to carry on with a walk or a yoga session on your first morning back; or researching study / employment / voluntary opportunities that will fulfill you in coming months or years.
- Think what you’d like to do in your host country but haven’t yet. And plan to do them. Have you been meaning to play tourist for the day and see the sights? Learn the language? Make friends with some locals? Practise a local sport? Explore regions nearby? Take up a new hobby?
- Get outside. Movement of body is such a great way to ‘move your mind’ too – with the added advantage of absorbing vitamin D for health and happiness if the sun is out. Go for a walk and allow your thoughts to wander. Go for a swim and focus on your breath, breathing in opportunity, breathing out stress. Go for a ride and see some new sights. Go for a paddle and see your location from a new perspective. Or simply stand in your living room and stretch your travel pains and tension away.
What’s your favourite way to settle back into your host country? I’d love to have your input, just hit ‘leave a reply’ below to comment. Thank you!
And if you’re returning home, or relocating somewhere new, I can assist. Contact me here to discuss the best option for you. Having someone to talk it through with makes all the difference!