What is reverse culture shock? Will my child experience it? How will it affect me?
Your son/daughter is finally home, but something is different. You may not understand his/her reactions, or why he/she always seems irritable or negative towards your home. After all, after a summer, semester, or year abroad, shouldn’t your child be as excited to see you as you are to see him/her?
If this is the case, your child may be experiencing reverse culture shock. She/he may feel out of touch with home, as he/she is now accustomed to the lifestyle abroad. This could mean remembering words from the foreign language before remembering the words in English, or it could mean that the student wants to eat later in the day, eat different kinds of foods, or is critical of the way things work here in the States.
Reverse culture shock is normal, and generally not severe or long lasting. Some students adapt better than others, some worse. Your daughter or son may feel alienated from friends and family, may have little connection with old friends, and may feel like no one is interested in hearing stories or looking at his/her pictures from abroad.
A worst-case scenario is when students feel physical and mental disorientation, feelings of alienation, irritability over minor issues, rejection of native culture, and boredom or no direction.
This stage can be the most frustrating for parents because their children may seem hard to relate to. Parents will notice outer changes that the student will not notice, while students will notice the inner changes that parents will not see. Parents just need to wait out this period.
Students can deal with reverse culture shock in the same ways that they dealt with culture shock. In addition, they can focus on responsibilities that many students have upon coming home, such as setting up roommates/living arrangements, registering for classes, etc. It is best to have a “time off” period instead of coming home from abroad and then going straight back to university classes.