22 Jun We’ve arrived – Part 1
Our farewell in China was heart-breaking (for me as mother) and tearful (for the whole family) – yet carried by the positive mood that we had hoped would accompany our return to Germany. So we had very mixed feelings in our baggage.
Now, after 3 months in our new “old” home, the country still seems strange to us in many respects. Yes, we’re living in a different region now, the people and their traditions are different – Germany is also very diverse. While abroad, we moved house several time, and this experience should help us here, because the mechanisms are the same. Arrive, find an apartment, set up everyday life, build up your network. And yet, returning to your home country is different and feels much more strenuous. Why is that so?
I found answers to this question by researching reverse culture shock. The four phases of culture shock are virtually the same – they are basically repeated when returning home (W curve). The symptoms are similar, even if their severity and persistence varies depending on the individual. Prevention is pointless, since knowing about the phenomenon does little to control one’s own feelings and trick one’s psyche. And that’s exactly what I experience in myself and in my family!
The professional literature also agrees: The longer you’ve been away, the more pronounced the effect. But why? I find the process quite easy to explain. We have changed, we’ve experienced a lot, and we’ve grown through the daily challenges of our stay abroad. However, only a few people can relate to, and appreciate, the exciting adventures that happened to us – the cultures we talk about seem just too far away and too foreign. But that’s not all.
Our friends and our familiar surroundings at home have also changed, just in different ways from us (instead of building a house, we travelled through Asia; instead of investing in a new car, we bought a professional camera).
And last but not least, the society, the country, that we left a few years ago, has changed. We have certainly followed some of these developments (such as the increasing right-wing populism in Germany, the 2017 federal elections and the subsequent difficult formation of a government, discussions about data privacy and data misuse, emission standards, unfinished and overpriced large-scale construction sites…).
All this is neither life-threatening nor unmanageable; it’s neither a disease nor a reason to sit on the side-lines. But it is important to notice and classify your own reactions and symptoms of reverse culture shock. After all, when you move to a foreign country, you prepare yourself to face the new and unknown with – ideally – an intercultural seminar, or through your own research.