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The 10 Stage Cycle to Reverse Your Reverse Culture Shock

A close study of the culture shock cycle for today’s traveler… and how to be rid of it, for a while at least!

It is arguably the most difficult part of traveling… coming home. You have to leave your friends, your experiences and a bit of yourself behind to return back to “real life.” This is a cycle all of us travelers must experience. So that you might know what you are getting into when you travel, and most effective way to reverse these side-effects of coming home, I give you the 10 Stages of Reverse Culture Shock!

Stage 1: The Initial Denial… Then, Resistance

“What happens if I just miss my plane?” “I could just stay a few more months…” “I really have no reasons to go home.” “NO STOP NOOOOO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME LEAVEEEEEEEE!” These are common resistive thoughts that the average wanderlusting traveler experiences. They find that their time abroad is about to come to a close, they resist for many a day, and they then realize they cannot waste a thousand dollars to not take the flight home, and therefore, they submit to returning to from whence they came.

jenna peck singapore image

Don’t make me go home!

Stage 2: The Happy Homecoming

Once the traveler steps onto home soil, hugs their mom, and has an American burrito, the traveler often feels a brief euphoria and comfort at finally being home. They had forgotten how stressful it is to continuously be travelling and exploring, and they are thankful for this time of relaxation. This stage lasts for a week at most. The traveler must use this week of happiness to attempt to get back in the swing of things, lest they suffer a few more stages of culture shock. The traveler usually does not skip ahead, though.

Stage 3: The Alienation Sets In

Ah, stage 3, where the difficulties really begin for our dear traveler. The traveler feels the first dash of nostalgia, and begins to notice that they REALLLLLY miss being abroad. The traveler notices things about their home that just “aren’t as cool/good/efficient/moral/intelligent/delicious as they are in ___________ (insert other country here).” The traveler sees that their family and friends have been busy going about life without them, and have perhaps changed. The traveler should note that they too have changed very much, and should not be sad or angry at the behavior of family and friends. Instead, the traveler must make conscious efforts to reconnect with loved ones.

Stage 4: The Giant Smoke Monster of Boredom

Poor traveler. Our dear traveler now misses their abroad home dearly, and the exciting lifestyle of travel and must face the drudging monster that shall eat us all: daily life. However, this drudging monster does not have to be bad! It in fact, can be exciting! The traveler must use the treasure trove of self-knowledge to begin to pursue and focus on things that the traveler really loves. The traveler also now knows that adventure and intrigue can be found anywhere where there are people.

Stage 5: The Daft Depression

Alas, the traveler has no reason to be depressed. But many who return from a fabulous expedition will focus on that, and forget the many good things that are right in front of them. Some experience this to a greater degree, but for all the solution is the same: focus on being productive, creating a schedule, and enjoying the present. If none of the traveler’s friends or family are interested in hearing about how the traveler ate bugs in Viet Nam, or how the group of Japanese teenagers took them to a Hello Kitty themed karaoke bar, the traveler must turn to their greatest resource: study abroad friends! The study abroad friends are crucial in the cycle to remind the traveler of the wonderful times they had abroad, and of course as potential future travel buddies. Do not forget about these friends as the most potent of reverse culture shock medicines.

jenna peck taj image

Taj > my house at home

Stage 6: The Assimilation

Finally, the traveler gets used to being home. Perhaps the traveler finds a job and goes back to school, and all seems well. Perhaps to the outsiders. However, all of us who have travelled know that something bites your heart, changes your mind, and sometimes even messes with your stomach when we travel.

Stage 7: The Return of the Travel Bug

Yes, the travel bug will live in you forever, as might a parasite that you acquire in…. well, never mind. The traveler will be doing their schoolwork, and a photo will pop up on social media of that one time they scaled the Great Wall and the traveler will text all their travel friends saying something along the lines of, “OMGGGG I miss you guys so much take me back * crying real tears of nostalgia *.” The traveler will then realize the most important thing of all: They must get back into the world and travel at all costs!!

Stage 8: The Rabid Realization

Now that the traveler knows what has been bugging them this entire time, the traveler should start making careful plans of when and where to travel next. The traveler should take all the tips they learned from their previous experience and apply them to future plans. There are many ways to travel cheaply, efficiently, and timely, and the traveler now has a reason to live again! To make these plans!!

Stage 9: The Hard but The Necessary

The traveler now has a tangible goal: to travel yet again! Perhaps this could be in the form of a study abroad, which is often a very easy way to travel. Perhaps the traveler seeks to form their own itinerary and backpack the world. Either way, the traveler must resist the urge to attempt to re-live their previous travel experience. Travel is about experiencing new places and new people in order to experience the world and one’s self. The traveler knows this deep down, and should do anything necessary to get back overseas. Also traveler, know that there is no better time than right now this very instant to go forth and travel. Why wait!

Stage 10: The Beginning and the End of the Never-Ending Cycle

THE JOURNEY BEGINS AGAIN!! If you have made it this far, you are either about to leave on your next travel, or you are already there! Yay, young traveler! Huzzah! You have made it to Stage 10! Making it to Stage 10 is really the only true way to combat reverse culture shock- to literally turn around, reverse and go right back! ….Just kidding, traveler. You must learn to be you and love the world wherever you are, but it doesn’t hurt to keep traveling! Keep going until there is nowhere left to go. And that will never happen.

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Thank goodness for study abroad friends


Jenna Peck

Southern Methodist University | 17 stories

Jenna Peck is a senior majoring in History and English at Southern Methodist University from Long Beach, California. She has studied abroad in Italy, England and has recently returned from a voyage around the world on Semester-at-Sea. She loves to travel and really finds it difficult to stay in one place for a long period of time, but when she does she loves to read, explore the world of the internet, blog and find exciting things to do right at home in Dallas, Texas!

One response to “The 10 Stage Cycle to Reverse Your Reverse Culture Shock”

  1. Love this! So true to the experience of returning home after studying abroad. I remember sitting on the plane home from Scotland and all of a sudden being overcome with less-than-pretty sobbing and likely freaking out the Irish couple next to me. Safe to say it all worked out in the end. Live and learn! 🙂

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