Is Reverse Culture Shock a Real Thing?

If you’ve signed up for an IBS seminar, or are considering some form of study abroad, then it’s likely that you’ve done some research about the country you’re wishing to visit. When I was preparing for the Summer China Seminar, I did lots of research on the country and the culture before I left. Most of the knowledge I knew from current events and high school history classes, but there were other aspects I did not know. Either way, I had some idea of what to expect once I stepped off the plane in Beijing.

street in Beijing

Beijing, May 2016

With IBS, I only spent 11 days in China. To many people, that may not seem long, but it was long enough to become accustomed to the way of life of the Chinese people. The quiet, reserved nature of the local people became normal, and I nearly forgot about how different culture is in the US.

Downtown Shanghai, May 2016

Downtown Shanghai, May 2016

Returning to San Francisco, I was not prepared to step off the plane into a noisy, busy airport with hundreds of people running around and talking loudly on their cell phones. Especially since the Shanghai Pudong airport was significantly quieter. I knew what reverse culture shock is, but I did not think that it would affect me so much.

Shanghai Airport, May 2016

Shanghai Airport, May 2016

To be more prepared, here are some ways to be ready for reverse culture shock returning to the US:

  • Enjoy the flight home. Don’t spend all your time trying to get work done. Instead, try watching movies, journaling, or even sleeping (watch out for jet lag though).
  • Schedule a transition day. If you have time in your travel schedule, take a day off when you return home before jumping back into school or work.
  • Be prepared to share only some of your experiences. Not everyone will want to know every dirty detail about your trip. Share the highlights with those who want to know, and give the rest of the story for those who have time and desire to know it all.
  • Don’t forget the experiences you had abroad. It’s easy to fall back into a daily routine and return to life as usual. Just don’t ignore the lessons learned about yourself and how different cultures work.

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Leanna Rutledge

School: University of Colorado - Colorado Springs

loved learning about Chinese culture and customs, as well as seeing how different life is there compared to here in the US.

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