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20 people who moved back home after living abroad share their 'reverse culture shock.'

20 people who moved back home after living abroad share their 'reverse culture shock.'


Moving abroad and experiencing new culture ushers in a lot of exciting and disorienting new experiences.

You are forced outside of your comfort zone, and in a new culture and space, you have both the freedom to reinvent yourself, and also the loss of being 'known' in the way you were back home.

When people talk about culture shock, this is often what they're referring to: the major differences in how people structure their daily lives and social mores in other countries.

But you can also experience culture shock when you return home from a stint of traveling, seeing your own home through new eyes can be surreal.

In a post on the Ask Reddit subreddit, people shared their 'reverse culture shock' experiences after returning home from extended time abroad.

1. From RobiNoob21:

After living in Australia for some time, I went back to Italy and I couldn't believe Italians can't stand in line while waiting for something. We spread all around like a herd of sheep.

Food was even better than I remembered though, especially my grandmother's stuff.

2. From shamo0:

Lived in Switzerland for about a year. Returned home to Australia and remembered pretty quickly that everything is factored toward the lowest common human denominator. Ie. Public safety.

On some trains in Switzerland, you can open the windows so wide that you could literally jump out whilst it was moving.

If we had the same thing in Aus someone would be dead within a week, laws changed, no more awesome train windows for anyone. So one idiot ruins it for the rest of us.

The Swiss have a great collective common sense and are just like 'But why would you jump out of a moving train? That's just silly, you would hurt yourself or die!'. Things like this just don't even enter into their consideration. Aussies = hold my beer.

3. From SilentSwordYE:

Moved to Thailand for 3 years, the reverse culture shock was that seatbelts exist and you have to wear them.

4. From SuperMini:

I lived in Germany for a year. When I came back to America, the thing that struck me the most is how HUGE food portions are in restaurants and such.

There was a local 'American' place in Germany that served food on comically large plates, but after going back home I realized they weren't all that far off.

5. From asheeey:

The sun. After 2+ years of living in Sub-Saharan Africa, reasonably close to the equator and having the sun rise around 6am and set around 6pm every day, regardless of the season, my mind was BLOWN when I went back to the Midwest.

There's daylight at like 10pm during the summer!

6. From bewires:

I'm from the US, but moved to Germany when I was 7. Went back to the US for college, then decided on Germany for good. Bread, dude. Americans do not know bread.

Germany, there's a bakery on every corner and you will get a decent roll for about 20 cents. Americans have bakeries but like why is there so much sliced bread for sale and so little fresh?

Why is everything in the bakery section sweet? Also, fun fact: Germans call all square, pre-sliced white bread toast. Americans only call it toast when it has been toasted. You do not know how confusing this is.

7. From Retsdoj:

Having lived in one American and one European country, before returning to the UK, I would say the most difficult thing is the switch from having international friends, to 'home country' friends.

When you live abroad, you tend to mix with people of different nationalities who are all doing what you are doing, and are all open to meeting new people and having adventures.

When you return to your home country, you are no longer an immigrant, but for a while, you feel like you don't belong there.

People in your home country already have their existing friendship groups, which are difficult to break into, and aren't as interested in making new friends and being adventurous as fellow travelers.

You feel like you have had a huge adventure, but no one else can relate to what you have experienced, and you feel like you can't talk about it for fear of appearing 'snobby'. Well, this was my experience anyway.

Moving back to the UK was the most difficult move I have ever done.

8. From AccusedOak04:

I spent a semester abroad in Sri Lanka then moved back to the US. What struck me the most was the amount of food people waste. In Sri Lanka, it's heavily frowned upon to waste food, even among the wealthy who don't deal with issues of scarcity.

Returning to my college dining hall and seeing my friends pile their plates with food to then eat half and throw the rest out was a little jarring and disheartening.

9. From dingu-malingu:

I grew up in the US. I then lived in Brazil for a bit. I moved back to the US at 19. I couldn't drink legally in the US. It was so weird to have alcohol taken away as an option. On a happy note, I had somewhat forgotten just how safe the US was.

On a sad note, I also forgot how depressed the US population was.

10. From slider728:

Grocery stores. I lived in suburban US. I lived and worked in 13 countries over a period of 5 years with my longest trip being about 5 months. What always got to me when I came home were grocery stores.

Each country I worked in always had unique challenges. One place, we struggled to find anything drinkable (bottled water, soda, Gatorade, anything that wouldn't make a foreigner sick).

Some places, if you wanted things you had to go to individual stores (meat came from a butcher, veggies from the market, etc).

When you found products, you often didn't have any choices, you took what they had or you went without (oh, you want milk? We got shelf-stable milk in a box. Oh you don't like milk in a box? Too f*cking bad, that is what we have here).

When you spend months away, living in places where people don't have excess and a myriad of choices, it is really hard to suddenly come back and make choices. The grocery store was always the toughest for me.

It is tough to explain. The closest I have ever seen it attempted to be explained is in the movie The Hurt Locker.

In the end, after spending a year in the Middle East, a soldier is with his wife (or GF) and kid in the grocery store and she asks him to get some cereal.

The next shot is showing him in an entire aisle full of cereal, trying to figure out which one to get and not really knowing how to figure it out.

It sounds strange, but I can always feel the anxiety and confusion of that scene in the movie. Almost anything in a grocery store in the US is done to excess. Water? We got water with and without bubbles.

You want it from a glacier in Iceland or you want treated municipal water that tastes really good? Plastic bottles bother you? Oh, we have these 6 brands in glass bottles, would you like clear or green glass? 0.5L or 1.0L bottles?

US or imported? Mineralized or plain? Caffeine or no caffeine? Natural flavorings added or plain? All you want is a bottle of water because where you just came from, tap water will give you the sh*ts and you are still in that habit.

11. From DareWright:

When I returned to the US from China, I got my personal space back. Everyone in China is always pushing up against you. In China it's normal to have 20 people crammed in an elevator. And the smoking!

The doctors in China smoke while they're examining you. People smoke in the elevators. Once when there were about 12 of us crammed in the elevator a gentleman was smoking and he almost caught my shirt on fire.

It's like they think there is only one elevator and they must all cram into it like their lives depend upon it.

12. From thurn_und_taxis:

I'm from the US. I did a semester abroad in London when I was 20 and turned 21 while I was there, so I experienced legal drinking in the UK before I did at home. It kind of set me up for a lot of disappointment.

I can't take my drink outside the bar? I have to tip my bartender? I have to get waiter service if I'm sitting at a table in a pub? I can't enjoy a bottle of wine at my picnic in the park?

I feel like I wouldn't have been particularly bothered by any of this if I hadn't experienced England's much more lax drinking laws first.

13. From SarcasticPeach:

Ireland back home to USA. Mine were seeing all the American flags everywhere, Ireland has plenty of Irish flags, but nowhere near as many as America.

Whenever I sneezed back at home, I would get told 'bless you' every time. In Ireland, maybe one out of ten times would someone say that. Not a big deal, but I noticed it.

Normal grocery shops in Dublin have ~15 cereal options.

Back in America at Wegmans grocery shops there are two aisles dedicated to cereals, it's glorious. Basically, just the amount of everything is much bigger due to the larger populations.

I love Ireland and Dublin, but there's nowhere like home and its little quirks.

14. From donket:

Lived in the Baltics for a couple of years. I remember getting back and staring at the HUGE (normal-sized in the US) refrigerator at my parents' house. I opened it and was even more surprised at the unbelievably large jar of mayo.

I remember wondering how on earth a single family could justify that much mayonnaise.

15. From okidokikaraoke:

I lived in Okinawa, Japan for almost 4 years. When I moved back home, I'd forgotten how individualistic, confrontational, and rude (comparatively) we are in the States.

I'd learned to be demure and acquiescing there, and I had to snap out of that very quickly before I got taken advantage of. Everything tasted overwhelmingly rich. Most Japanese food is subtle, even the junk food.

For a good two months after getting back, everything I ate was either too heavy, too sweet, too salty, or tasted like chemicals. The negativity. I lived in a social media and news bubble in Japan.

I had almost no idea what was happening in the States and Okinawa is relatively boring. Almost nothing ever happens. The biggest news in 4 years was the r*pe of a schoolgirl and base protests.

Coming home and reintegrating after basically being on vacation for four years was extremely difficult and depressing for me.

16. From Chumbolex:

Australia made me realize how much racism in America affected my life. I did the same sh*t in Australia that I do in America: teach at a university (USQ!), go to the gym, hang out with friends...normal sh*t.

But it felt extremely different. White women weren't afraid of me (they actually didn't even notice me mostly). When I met people, there weren't awkward jokes or comments about Black people. No one followed me around the store.

I even felt comfortable asking police for directions, and they gave them to me and went about their business. I came back to Houston, which is super diverse, and it was the exact opposite.

Even my 60-something-year-old mother (who came to visit me in Australia) noticed it. I felt so...normal.

17. From Sir_Catrick_Stewart:

I lived in Hong Kong for a few years before moving back to the USA. The amount of space we have here is unreal. Like...Walmart is larger than my entire village in the New Territories, but has almost no people in it.

I remember staring at deodorant choices for like an hour (because going from ~3 choices to ~200 choices was also overwhelming), and I kept having a panicky feeling because there were so few people around.

It felt like there was a natural disaster or something dangerous and everyone had fled.

A sales clerk eventually came by to see if I was ok, and I explained that I had just moved back from overseas and was feeling a little overwhelmed at the amount of choices in front of me. She handed me one, and I left.

18. From shine-notburn:

I'm Australian, but lived in the US for a time (Washington state) and when I came home, the biggest differences were:

Not dressing up, wearing make up etc every day. Like I really feel as though it was 100% expected of me to look nice even just to walk to the store? And not wearing makeup or nicer clothes got me a bunch of weird looks?

But here at home it's normal to go to the store in pretty much whatever your wearing - flip-flops, dirty shorts, and an old t-shirt? No problems! No make up? No one cares! About 80% of the other women you encounter won't be wearing any either!

Took me months to stop putting in so much effort on a daily basis just for little things.

It came to a head one day when I was really, really ill and needed to go to hospital but was putting on makeup and my s/o just stood in the bathroom door like '???'

-Being allowed to drink (aged 19-20) was both a shock and a relief!

-The bread!! US bread, normal, store-bought bread is so sweet, it's like cake. To get something that would be considered a normal flavor, I would have to ask for sourdough - and that is worlds apart from what Aus sourdough is!

Coming home I missed a few bakery items that I have tried (and failed) to re-create but buying normal sandwich bread was a weird experience.

-The grocery stores! I was AMAZED by the variety and sheer amount of stuff available in US grocery stores, and I missed a TON of products when I got home, and the frozen foods section of my local Woolworths seemed particularly dismal.

19. From minniemouse12345:

Lived in Italy for a year. The biggest (and my favorite) reverse culture shock was the incredible diversity of food we have in the US.

Here in America, pretty much every somewhat large city has Italian restaurants, Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Thai restaurants. In major cities you get Pakistani food, Ethiopian food, German food, everything.

Where I lived, there was Italian food. That was it. There was one American style diner and one verrryyyy seedy Chinese restaurant, but for almost a year it was impossible to get anything other than pasta and pizza, etc.

Which was the best in the world! But months and months of it gets old. I probably didn't eat Italian food for a good 3 months once I got back...too busy gorging myself on curry and pho and burgers :)

20. From ste_mc_efc:

I'm British and lived in Ecuador for 6 months.

Everyone is just lazy as f*ck and there are zero public spaces to do stuff in. My city is actually quite good for green spaces/parks. But nobody goes there after dark as it's just full of teenagers drinking.

Even then during the day they only get used for kids playing football, people walking dogs or families taking their kids to the swings on the weekends. In Ecuador, I lived about 2-300 yards from a bus stop.

On my walk to the bus stop, I would see three separate public places that people would meet at night to play football, or ecuavolley (not an expert on this, but it looked exactly like normal volleyball but minor cheating is allowed).

People of all ages. 50-year-old guys. Teenagers. Young parents while their infants sat and watched. Me and my two other white friends joined in the football a lot. Sometimes we played 'tres leches' versus a few locals.

The only football that gets played by anybody over the age of 14 here is in organized leagues where you have to book and pay for pitches. there they just had an artifical pitch in a small square in some random neighborhoods.

Here everyone has their own house they lock themselves in every night and watch sh*t tv, only leaving to go to work or do their weekly big shop and then get very drunk at the pub once a week then in the city centre once a month around payday.

Nothing ever happens locally. There are sometimes I'd walk around the barrio on a random Thursday night around 8pm and I'd see hundreds of people gathered around the square watching two groups of middle-aged men playing volleyball.

Someone has a stand set up selling some sort of seco. They have a community, they spend time outdoors. We have small family units and live a lot more isolated lifestyle.

I spoke very little Spanish but felt more a part of the community there than I do at home, because here there simply isn't a community to belong to.

Sources: Reddit
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