Why I’m Not Cool Enough for Reverse Culture Shock

  • Culture shock – n., the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
  • Reverse culture shock – n., the culture shock an individual experiences upon returning to their home country after living abroad.

You may hear me talk a lot about culture shock. I’ve been through my fair share, involving a variety of different circumstances and customs – manners, eating hours, eating habits, the gym, familial relations, etc. When I was preparing for to go to Toledo in 2008, they gave us loads of materials having to do with culture shock, including a diagram similar to the following one. I’ve studied the diagram again and again and I still don’t think I’ve ever gone through these stages, at least in order. And, at least to me, it’s frustrating. Am I that abnormal? Everyone else experiences this stages, at least to some degree, or so it seems.

  • I’ve never went through the so-called “honeymoon stage,” wherein everything is new, interesting, and exciting. WTF? I want it, yet realistically I know it’s no longer possible. When I first arrived in Spain, everything was scary and I was homesick. Right away. Add jet lag to that and you get a miserable Kaley who spent way too much time in a tiny room that smelled of rust.
  • At stage 5 on this diagram, it says: “You see the host as your new home and don’t wish to depart or leave new friends.” Nope. Nope, I always want to depart…I have friends here. I mean, the love of my life is here, but still, I want to leave. Why is this?
  • As far as stage 6, yes, I am always excited to return home.
  • In stage 7, it says you may feel “frustrated, angry, or lonely because friends and family don’t understand what you experienced and how you changed. You miss the host culture…” No. No, my parents try to understand as best they can and, honestly, I don’t care if my friends and family don’t “get” it. I don’t expect them to get everything anyway. We are different. Weird fact, I know.
  • I hope I do do number 9, incorporating what I learn(ed) into my new life and career.

But still, reverse culture shock? What is that? And why am I not cool enough to have it?!


America, here I come. In 8 days. No culture shock for me.

(Disclaimer: my one “shock” could be that I refuse to eat lunch any earlier than 1:30 and dinner before 8. I can’t do it.)

13 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Cool Enough for Reverse Culture Shock

  1. Ha! Yes, I’ve totally felt reverse culture shock. Bloody enormous vehicles…crappy beer…having to drive everywhere…eating lunch so early… I could go on.

    At some point, you reach a zen “things are different but not necessarily better nor worse” state of acceptance.

    Interesting graph and theory.

    1. Crappy beer? Spain’s beer is gross! Hahaha. Okay, so I just prefer microbreweries – hello, 3 Floyd’s / Upland in Indiana. The best beer I’ve had was in Belgium!

      Like I said, eating lunch so early is weird, but I haaaaate eating dinner early because then I’ve always got so long before bed and I get hungry again.

  2. I have felt reverse culture shock, too! When I came back from studying abroad in Barcelona, it made me really antsy to hear so much English being spoken around me – hearing people’s cell phone conversations about things like when mom is picking up the kids from soccer practice just drove me nuts! Meal times, going out times, and the preponderance of chain stores all contributed to my feeling of “omg why did I leave Spain??” which is probably a huge part of why I came back!

    1. I guess I understand what you mean! I too feel weird when I hear all the English because, when I’m here, hearing English is so foreign (ha!) and abnormal. When I first get into the airport, I get all excited to see the signs in English, to hear the border guards speaking my vernacular, etc.! But I don’t get annoyed. I mean, I think I’d get annoyed if anyone was having loud, rude cell conversations. (Ahem, overnight bus ride to Granada.)

  3. Kaley,

    I’ve read another post of yours talking about being excited to come home and really missing America and the life and friends that you have here. I remember reading that post and feeling for one of the first times, like I couldn’t relate to what you were saying. How could you want to be in America more than Spain? When I read this previous post: https://ymuchomas.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/ive-got-a-hankerin/
    I was frightened for the first time. I haven’t left yet, but already I feel like I’m so in love with Spain that there’s no way that I’m going to want to come home…ever. Was I going to feel like this? Was my dream country going to one day be obsolete to the places that I call home? For me, I think the answer is a big No. But that’s because my home is much shakier than yours. After a lot of personal events, I have realized that my home isn’t a place, it’s me. It’s me and the people that I love and that “where” doesn’t really make a difference to me. This is probably also why my moments of trepidation about moving are uncommon. Maybe the reason you don’t get reverse culture shock isn’t because you’re not cool enough, but because you’re too cool. “Home” for you is more beautiful than it is for most people, and you truly appreciate all aspects of it, even the negative. So consider yourself extremely lucky, to not only have such a great home, but to actually know its worth as well.

    So put on those shades baby, ’cause you real kool. 8-)

  4. When I lived with my Spanish host family, if you left a room even for a minute you had to turn the lights off. They were extremely conscious of utilities (lights, heat, hot water, phone etc).

    I got home to the USA and my sister would be downstairs watching TV and upstairs in her room she’d have on the radio and like 3 lamps even though she hadn’t been up there for hours. It was so wasteful compared to what I had experienced in Spain. I would get soooo pissed at her!

  5. Kaley, you’re definitely not weird. I read the diagram too thinking to myself “Hmm, that’s not me either.” I am ALWAYS excited to go home, and the thought of leaving Spain makes me sad, but I’d still be happy to be back with my family again. I think I bounce between 2, 3 and 4 and can’t quite get to 5 where I really consider this my new home, and I’ve been here a year and a half now!

  6. Oh you are not alone! I can relate to almost every word. I think this whole “travel the world thing” sounds so sexy… and very much is… but people are different.

    I have a friend that sold everything and bought a boat and lives in the Caribbean. That could NEVER be me! I feel very much ‘at home’ here in Madrid… but it will never the the U.S. It will never be the feeling of friends and family minutes away. I had to reconcile with myself that missing home and honestly preferring to be there isn’t wrong. It’s me. I am here for a time and for a reason… all of which I love.

    It really is comforting to know that I’m not the only one doesn’t fall into that oh so lovely flow chart! :)

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