I have always thought I am crazy, or even suffering some mental problems, just because every time, I went back to Germany, my mother’s choice of country, and thus my maternal home, I had extreme trouble to re-adjust. I found coming home was tremendously more stressful and difficult than going abroad.
Since 2007, I have been “commuting” between China and Germany (and at times the UK). These nearly ten years, I have spent most of the time in China. Even though I am feeling a slight delayed “culture shock” (or as I call it “behaviour shock”) lately, I have never had such troubles to adapt to the Chinese life.
I know now that I went through many changes, re-examined my priorities, my values, and how I thought of myself. This greatly contributed to my difficulties of re-adjusting to life in my home country. I always felt frustrated, alienated and constant misunderstandings between me and my family did not help either to make me feel like “home” again.
And you would think after all those years and back and forth it would get better… Wrong. The better I integrated myself to become a citizen of China, its culture and lifestyle, the harder it was to readjust during every re-entry to my old life in Germany.
The only difference now is that I know it will happen. I know reverse culture shock will hit me, no matter how hard I try. The language adjustment, the lifestyle, the culture, everything is different.
I remember when I came back from China for the first time 2007, after one year stay, and announced surprised how clean and quiet Germany was, my mother looked at me as if I had gotten off a spaceship rather than a plane. All of a sudden, I noticed things I have never before. I got very critical of Germany, and sometimes it annoyed friends and family. Normally, when you come back from a long stay abroad, in an exotic country like China, people are interested in your experiences, at first. And I know how difficult it is too keep quiet about those adventures. However, I have had to learn (the hard way), we should be careful as to how much and in how much detail you want to share your experiences. People might think you sound pretentious or affected, plus for them life went on, and just because I came back from China, they don’t want to hear about it every single time.
I remember how hard it was to relate to others and find common ground. When you have been abroad for such a long time, your world view has changed. And sometimes, it makes me feel disconnected from family and friends who have stayed behind.
I am not good at giving any concrete tips on how to overcome reverse culture shock. It is just such a personal experience and differs greatly from person to person. The only think we all should keep in mind, is that you have to accept that you’ve changed, and things won’t be the same again. Ever.
Did you ever suffer from reverse culture shock? What do you do to overcome it?
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