Reverse Culture Shock

After completing my first three months in Spain I had a trip set up to visit family in the USA over Christmas vacation. I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now and have one more week to go before I endure the oh so joyous 24+ hour trip back to the island. I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming home as the last time I spent this long away from the states was almost 8 years ago. Although much time has passed since then, the emotions I felt coming home then and now still seem to be the same. The difference is, this time I’m not quite sure what to call my “home”. It has been an enjoyable time spending the holidays with my family thus far, but I have experienced quite a bit of reverse culture shock. This has come with a whole mixture of emotions. I can describe these emotions into a few different stages, many that are quite similar to that of culture shock when I first moved to Spain.

  1. The Sleepy Stage

With the combination of traveling for over 24 hours and a 9 hour time difference the first stage of reverse culture shock is definitely tiredness and confusion. I wasn’t able to stay up past 9 pm for the first week of being home and I woke up every morning at 2 or 3 am. Most mornings I was able to force myself back asleep at least until 5 or 6 am but then I was wide awake ready for the day. The other tough thing to get used to is hunger. I was hungry at the most strange times and never felt hungry enough to eat when my family took me out to dinner. (In Spanish time I would be sleeping)

2. The Honeymoon Stage

The honeymoon stage is one we experience while doing many things in our lives. Ever started a new job? new school? had a new relationship? Yup, it’s the beginning of anything we start where everything seems new and exciting. For me it was things like hot sauce, speaking english, driving and playing with my dog that played a huge roll in my honeymoon stage. The honeymoon phase lets us rediscover things that we love about our culture (or a new culture if you have moved abroad). Everything seems great and fun until…

3. The “Who am I” Stage

You’ve gone halfway around the world, speaking a new language, meeting new friends and traveling to beautiful places around Europe. Now you find yourself back in an all too familiar routine. The excitement of everything has faded and you might even start to find annoyances with things that once brought you joy. You’ve grown so much as a person and learned how to adapt to new experiences but you don’t quite know how to take that new personality and mold it back into your old culture.

4. The Nostalgia Stage

This part is a little bit easier to endure over winter break because you know at the end you get to go back and do it all over again. It isn’t as easy when you decide to come back home for good. You start to dream back to all the things you loved about your host country. The cheap wine? late outings? overly attractive police officers? There must be a pre-requisite for European police officers to be ridiculously good-looking because I’ve never wanted to be arrested “just cause” before in my life. This is also when things about your home country bother you the most. I’ve also felt INSANELY sedentary. I used to clock in around 20,000 steps a day in Spain just from having to walk everywhere, in the US I can hardly reach 10,000 some days.

5. The Acceptance Stage

Another stage very similar to that of when I moved to Spain. When experiencing something new it is so easy to compare it to what we used to have. What is always important to realize is that not one culture is better or worse than the other. Every culture is different and that’s what makes our world so beautiful to live in. It is crucial  to understand that EVERYONE has a different view of just about everything from one another and that’s what gives us diversity. If we all had the same culture and same views there would never be a point in traveling. The acceptance stage helps you view everything in a new perspective. All those small annoyances you once had don’t really seem all that bad after all. Sure, it takes loads of time to adjust even when you move to a new city/state/country/continent but the best thing to remember is that you’ll get there. …and now I just can’t wait to get back to exploring in Spain.

You just have to keep on keepin’ on. Stay curious and wander often.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

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