Reverse culture shock: what it is and why it's ok to feel like this.

When I first moved to Asia, I was warned time and time again that I would experience culture shock, but in the year I was there, that never happened. Don't get me wrong, I missed home at times, particularly when I was faced with the language barrier, but at no point would I go as far as saying I experienced culture shock in any way. If anything, I felt I had found a home away from home in Asia, and looking back maybe Hong Kong is the right place for me in this world.

This is where the notion of  'reverse culture shock' comes in... so what is it? For me, coming back to England was incredibly hard, in fact it was harder than leaving in the first place. In the weeks subsequent, I found myself comparing everything to Hong Kong and every time, I felt that England somehow fell short when compared. I grew up in London and loved everything about it prior to moving, so I didn't understand why I was so unhappy being back. I put it down to the jet-lag and the 'calm-down' from travelling to 13 countries and experiencing so many great things in such a short space of time. But, months and months passed, I went back to uni to complete the final year of my degree and the feeling of loss and miss-placement just grew stronger. Whoever came up with the term 'wanderlust' got it right!

I tried immersing (more like submerging..) myself in my final year of uni which threw me deeper into the feeling of desperation to get out of England as soon as possible (if you feel personally victimised by Trust Law, put your hand up now). My biggest worry ultimately bottled down to one thing, what if I will never be as happy as I was in Asia? If you're in the same boat I am here to say it's ok to feel like this, a lot of people have been there -- I asked others and they agree, reverse culture shock is real and it sucks! It makes you feel down and worst of all it makes you feel like you're out of place all the time.

What I did to get myself out of the 'rut' is by no means an extensive list but it helped me and I am hoping it may help you too.

1. Read a lot of travel fiction -- in my case mainly books set in Asia. 

If I can't physically travel or be back in Asia, it doesn't mean my mind can't. My all time favourite travel book choice is "What I was doing while you were breeding" by Kristin Newman. Not only is she a fantastic writer, her stories are hilarious and will make you laugh at every turn. I am currently reading "Crazy Rich Asians" Kevin Kwan and I have to say the book is far better than the movie (although I did love the movie). Would highly recommend them both.

2. Plan your next trip 

Yes, I know this is easier said than done particularly if you have commitments or a family but I found that even a weekend away plan helps ease you back into 'real life' and makes time pass a little easier. Since being back I have travelled to Amsterdam, Lanzarote, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Costa Rica and Portugal which made the reverse culture shock far easier to deal with knowing I will be out of the country from time to time. Also, heading back to Hong Kong in less than 7 days and I cannot wait to be back!

3. Find fun things to do in your native country 

Although nowhere near as fun as Asia, I have to admit that England has its moments and can provide a degree of entertainment. I found that attending popup events, looking for hidden cafes and culture events made my time back in England a lot more enjoyable.

4. Keep in touch with the people you met abroad

My 'year abroad' friends and I have weekly catch ups ... otherwise known as enabling therapy sessions, time which we mostly spend reminiscing about our time in Asia and complaining about being back. I have to say that knowing I am not the only one feeling so displaced helped a tremendous amount.

5. Know that it's ok to feel down about being back 

It's been almost a year since being back and a lot has happened but I still do that thing where every day I think about what I was doing in Asia this time last year. Social media apps reminding you exactly where you were ' a year ago today ' don't help either. So my first piece of advice is switch off those alerts, you'll feel better I promise.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, speak to the people around you about how you're feeling. I found that discussing my fears and feelings of missing out on amazing memories, helped me rationalise my emotions and understand them / deal with the effectively.  And if all else fails, send me a message and I'll be happy to have a chat with you. You don't know who I am, and I don't know who you are so what have you got to lose? We've all been there !

Til next time,

The Wandering Law Student x

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