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Tips for Overcoming Reverse Culture Shock after Volunteering Abroad

There is a culture shock you experience when traveling to a foreign country. But there is a lesser known culture shock that you experience upon returning to your home country after having spent a substantial time in a foreign country. This is a real phenomenon and can affect people returning to their home country after a short holiday or after spending years working as an expatriate worker in a foreign country. Here are some useful tips that you can follow to minimize the effect of reverse culture shock:

1) Keep yourself busy: When you start looking at things in perspective the differences in customs and people’s behavior can appear too much to handle and can create insecurity. To avoid these negative feelings, take up some work to keep yourself busy after you return. Take up a hobby or get back to your studies.

2) Get some rest: Keeping yourself busy does not mean that you do not give yourself time to unwind from the international volunteering. There is a pleasure to be experienced from being back to familiar surroundings. Make sure that you give your mind and body a good amount of rest without becoming idle.

3) Relearn your environment: While you have been away things have probably changed in your environment. Adapting to the new environment may be difficult and daunting for you. Keep an open mind and accept that even the norms and values you held close during your international volunteering might have changed. Do not blame people or circumstances and accept it as an inevitable change.

4) Give yourself time to adapt to the change: The most important thing that you need to do is give yourself and the people around you to adapt to the change. It is easy to feel overwhelmed after a foreign volunteering trip but you should also keep in mind that adapting to change takes time and you should try to avoid feelings of frustration.

5) Do not expect too much enthusiasm: It is natural to feel excited and upbeat upon your return. While you may want to share all your exciting experiences with your friends and family members it may be difficult for them to share the same enthusiasm. Don’t blame them if they have a lack of interest in your experiences.

6) Network with people sharing similar experiences: Try to look up and meet people who have had similar experiences as yours. These people may have worked or lived abroad at some point in time and may have gone through reverse culture shock upon their return. By talking to these people you will get some confidence that your feelings are normal and can be overcome. You can also maintain links with people who were with you during the international volunteering trip.

7) Treasure, don’t discard: Avoid acting impulsively and trying to forget all your past experiences to fit in with the changed environment. Treasure you memories by making an album of photographs and postcards. They will help you to refresh your memories and remind you of the memorable experiences.
8) Talk about your feelings: It is alright to talk about your feelings of reverse culture shock with friends and family members. They will empathize with you and try to help you out. But remember not to overdo it because talking about your problems all the time will tire people around you.

9) Adapt your speech and behavior: During your international volunteering trip you may have picked up on the local styles of talking and peculiar mannerisms. These may seem out of place in your home country and may prevent you from finding your place. Try to shed these mannerisms and adapt the ones you were using originally. In this way people will know that you have truly returned.

Source: www.CrossContinental.org