Reverse Culture Shock

What to Expect When You Return Home From Travel
Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


Expect culture shock.

Expect struggles.

Expect feeling a bit lost.

Expect to have people not understand.

Expect that you will be changed.

Expect to be patient with yourself.

Expect that you will be happy to see friends and family.

Expect that you will have no regrets.

Coming back home is not always easy. There are a few pieces of advice we can provide you, but until you live it, it’s hard to say how you will feel about returning. We’ve been collecting career breaker re-entry stories for years now – you can find them here in our Re-entry section.  Or simply bookmark it and read them when you return home – I’m pretty sure you will be able to relate to these other career breakers in many ways.  Each person’s experience is unique. However there are some things that hold pretty constant for all career breakers.

Reverse Culture Shock

Yes, even though you are returning to your home culture after experiencing many new different cultures, you still will be in some stage of shock. Odds are that the first time you walk back into a grocery store in North America you may be thrilled to be there, but you will also be a bit dazed and confused with all of the choices.

After JoAnna Haugen was gone in the Peace Corps for an extended period of time, she talks about how she combats the shock of being home.


Travel Changes You

Travel is a great way to learn more about yourself, in addition to world cultures. And as Paul Milton shares, the experience will certainly change you – for the better.


Craft Your Environment Again

It’s important to surround yourself by people who’ve gone through a similar experience and love travel. Remember the support group you identified while in the planning stages? They are still your support group and understand the same struggles that you may face when you return.

It’s helpful to stay active in Meet Plan Go events and the online traveler community – helping others who are planning their breaks provide you an outlet to share all of the knowledge you gained.  It’s a great way to ‘pay it forward’.  

And be warned…there will be people who aren’t very interested in hearing stories about your travels. Learn to identify them before you bore them to death and find people who do want to hear them.


It’s important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad.  Here’s some tips on how:

>> How to Make Processing Part of the Re-entry Process

>> The Ultimate Guide To Coming Home

>>Reverse Culture Shock – Dealing With It Without Spreading It

Reverse Culture Shock: Dealing With It Without Spreading It
Friday, May 31st, 2013

You’ve just returned from a life-changing adventure around the world, where every day brought you something new and exciting to experience. You can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished in such a short period of time, yet the second you walk through the door to your home, it feels like you never left, as everything looks the same.

And that feeling is only enhanced when you meet up with family and friends, as it may seem as if nothing has really changed with them either. But you have changed, and you’re not sure what to make of the roller coaster of emotions you’re feeling. You, my friend, are experiencing reverse culture shock.

You’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. Just about every traveler experiences it in some variation (including our very own Sherry Ott). And although it’s not contagious, you can spread it to non-travelers. Here are some tips on how to deal with Reverse Culture Shock without spreading your anxiety, and even depression, to those around you.


How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Springtime in London

The day was bound to come: your career break is over and you are headed home for the first time in months, maybe even years. You are returning from a life-changing adventure, where every day brought something new and exciting, and you are proud of all you accomplished.

And then you get off the plane and everything feels familiar, yet different. You walk through the door to your home and it feels like you never left. You stroll around your neighborhood and everything looks the same.

That feeling is only enhanced when you meet up with family and friends, as it may seem as if nothing has really changed with them either. But you have changed, and you’re not sure what to make of the roller coaster of emotions you’re feeling. You are experiencing reverse culture shock.

You’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. Just about every traveler experiences it in some variation (including our very own Sherry Ott). What can you do to make the transition easier?

Make it a two-way conversation

Coming home can be a selfish act. It can be easy to assume that everyone wants to hear about your trip and all the exciting things you encountered. But don’t forget that they were living a life as well – make it a two-way conversation. Don’t make your friends or family members feel as if their lives are any less relevant because they didn’t travel – even if they insist that their lives have been “boring” compared to yours.

One way to make this transition easier is to stay up on what they were doing while traveling. You may have started a blog to allow family and friends to follow along with your journey, but make sure the communication is a two-way street. Schedule Skype dates, stay in touch by email, take advantage of instant messaging and follow their updates on Facebook. And don’t be offended if loved ones don’t keep up with your blog – it doesn’t mean they don’t care; thy may just not feel like they can relate.

Be careful of sharing too much information too fast

When someone asks you the general question “how was your trip?,” you may be tempted to go into every detail – from the tree-climbing goats you searched out in Morocco to the baby goats you fed by bottle staying in a village in Thailand. But for the most part, you’ll find that most people ask the same few questions.

Sherry Ott found that preparing some quick answers to the questions people wanted to hear was very helpful. She even created a Reflection By Numbers list so that should could quickly reference some fun facts, like how many bodies of water she dipped her toes in (10), the number of overnight trains she took (10), and the number of photos she had taken after editing (11,868).

And be aware that others might be jealous of you. In her post on Vagabondish, “How to Survive Reverse Culture Shock”, Amanda Kendle warns:

Be careful not to drop your travel tales into too many conversations. After traveling pretty widely, I know I’m guilty of this at times, and there is a clear reaction from some people if I begin a story with “When I was on the Trans-Siberian …,” which seems like one of jealousy. Not everybody has the same opportunity as you to travel abroad, but they might want to – so be sensitive about who you discuss your experiences with.

Try to introduce your friends to new cultures at home

Many travelers can get depressed after returning home from around-the-world travels, finding life at home less than stimulating. Matthew Kepnes put it best in his post, “The Joy of Coming Home”:

Back home, boredom can happen pretty fast if you don’t keep yourself busy. On the road you move around everyday but there is a certain static-ness that comes with being back home. Even if you keep yourself busy, returning home can be a little underwhelming sometimes.

It’s easy to start complaining to friends and family about how boring home is, but they may feel as if you are calling them boring as well. And your cultural adventures don’t have to end as soon as the plane touches down on the tarmac. Seek out restaurants, events, museums and other activities in your area that can make you feel as if you are still abroad. And better yet, invite some of your friends or family along so they can get a taste of what you experienced.

Make new friends

Your career break experience has changed you and while you may return home hoping to reconnect with your old friends, you may find it easier to seek out new friends – fellow travelers who understand who you are now. Caz Makepeace advised in her post, Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock:

Accept that you are not the same. You see things with different eyes and people may not recognize this anymore. Understand that is okay. Remain true to who you are. And if it means that some friendships change as a result then so be it. Things change, it is the nature of life.

Spend time with those who accept the new you and start making new friends. We joined the Sydney Travel Tribes group which is full of travellers who understand us. It always feels comfortable and easy to be with them. I still enjoy hanging out with my closest friends, but it’s nice to be a different me with others as well.

So keep in mind that adjusting to life back home will take some time. As long as you are aware of the signs of reverse culture shock, the better prepared you will be to deal with it.

What Goes Around Comes Around
Monday, February 22nd, 2010

[singlepic=1703,150,,,right]Lisa Lubin is a three-time Emmy-award-winning Television writer/producer/editor. After 15 years in Television she decided to take a sabbatical of sorts, which turned into 2+ years traveling and working her way around the world. She has written about the (mis)adventures that ensued as she traipsed around the globe on her travel blog, LL World Tour. She shares with us her experience with Reverse Culture Shock during her re-entry.

I handed over my stamp-laden, well-worn passport. The white, stocky immigration officer stamped it without much more than a precursory glance, looked up at me and said, “Welcome home.”

That was it?? I’d been out of the country for fifteen months, been to about 35 countries and that’s all I got? No red, flashing lights went off on his computer. No hour-long interrogations? There was no ‘what were your dealings in the Middle East?’ ‘Why were you in Turkey so long?’ Not even a ‘Wow, gosh, gee, 15 months is a really long time!’ Oh well. Very soon it would be like I had never even left.

We often hear about the post partum depression for women who’ve just given birth, well what if you’ve given birth to this huge trip and turned your world (pun intended) upside down by seeing the world?


Reverse Culture Shock: Homecoming
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

[singlepic=1143,150,,,right]As they passed out immigration/customs forms on the plane, I started filling it out – I knew the routine by heart. When you are an around the world traveler, you have all of your immigration/customs data memorized. However I stopped and stared at the box that read:

List the countries visited on this trip…

Hmmm – this threw me a bit. Did they really want to know that I had been to 24 different countries on this trip? I used my judgment here and wrote down Singapore and Japan. I figured I could explain the rest of my passport stamps if necessary.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go