Reverse Culture Shock 

Readapting to your home country after an assignment abroad 
09 June 2022

Many expats returning home after living abroad can experience "reverse culture shock" where they struggle to readjust to life in their home country. 

Reverse culture shock refers to the difficulty sometimes experienced when returning to your home country after an assignment overseas, and it is a common phenomenon among many expats today. It can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of your home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.  

Just as it took time to adjust to a different culture when you first arrived abroad, it may take some time to re-adjust to your life back home. If you are experiencing reverse culture shock, it is important to remember that in time, things will slowly fall back into place, and you will eventually feel more at home in your home country. 

Feelings can differ from one person to another, but the most common symptoms of reverse culture shock include:

  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Boredom
  • Uncertainty
  • Changes in goals and priorities
  • Negative feelings towards your home country
  • Confusion
  • Isolation
To help you adjust to your home country after that assignment abroad, we’ve put together these top tips to ease reverse culture shock.

Just like relocating overseas, moving back home following an assignment abroad brings with it a whole set of new challenges – from the emotional turmoil of leaving your friends, job, routine and life behind to the practicalities of organising an international move back home.

With a very long to-do-list including sorting out your possessions, as well as paperwork, the process can become overwhelming. So planning for your repatriation should begin long before your moving day arrives. Many companies will offer support during the repatriation process, so check with your HR department to see what help is available to make the transition smoother.

If you have been living away for a number of years, it will take time to readjust to your old way of life; so be patient with yourself. Even though home is very familiar to you, it may feel foreign for the first couple of weeks or even months. Allow yourself the time to readjust to your old way of life and you’ll soon get that sense of connection to your home country again.
Just as you worked at building a network of friends when you first moved overseas, you’ll now need to work at reconnecting with your old friends in your home country. To make the adjustment easier, get in touch with friends well in advance of your move back home so you are up-to-date on their lives. 
If you spent your weekends exploring your city when you lived away, you can do the same at home. Put together a list of all the sights and visitor attractions in your home town, and invite some friends to accompany you on your tours. 
Try making new friends or meet up with other expats who have returned home and are going through a similar experience to you. Join a sports club, take up a new hobby or volunteer at a local charity. 
And finally, continue to keep in touch with your friends abroad. Many expats tend to lose contact with their overseas friends, especially during the upheaval of those first few months back home. These friends can prove to be a very useful support network while you reconnect with your friends and family at home.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression and don’t know where to turn, our  Expat Assistance Programme, included in most of our healthcare plan provides immediate and confidential counselling support, through live online chat, face to face, phone, video or email.  Find out more