While travel opens our eyes to new places and cultures, it also gives us a fresh perspective of home. Those who have traveled to other countries often return with an increased appreciation of their native land. What happens, though, when you get more than just a glimpse of how other people live or think? When you stay for a summer, six months, or several years outside your hometown or home country?
What happens when you see home through the eyes of others?
Returning to our native home can throw us off balance because we think we’re returning to what we know best. Somehow, what we thought we knew has changed. I certainly saw a change in my hometown after living twenty years in the Middle East. It had grown. New roads and subdivisions were everywhere. There were even more churches. I came home to a much bigger city than the one I left: I also came home with a much different perspective and worldview.
Reverse culture shock is a normal side-effect of re-entry.
It’s easy to say culture shock is normal, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way when we’re going through it. Not only are our minds and bodies going through changes, but so are our souls. We struggle with the privilege we have of returning to the familiar and comfortable while the people we left continue to struggle in life and faith. We struggle because no one seems interested in what God is doing in our place of service. We struggle because we feel helpless and useless. We find ourselves floundering without purpose.
Working through reverse culture shock.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming this struggle, but you can find home again “at home” by noting several things.
- Recognize readjustment as a process.
- Allow yourself to mourn the loss you feel.
- Allow yourself to mourn the loss of the things you’ve missed while away.
- Accept that change has happened in everyone’s life, including your own.
- Don’t be shocked if they’re not as interested in your life as you are in theirs.
- Find a support group.
- Keep bitterness at bay.
What are ways you found peace in your host culture? Can you use those same ways at home? Make a list of scriptures that speak to you about peace. Let them be a part of your daily reflection and prayers as you settle once again at home.
Grace and Peace
To find out more about returning home and reverse culture shock, check out my latest book Not in Kansas Anymore: Finding Home in Cross-Cultural Service. It’s available in e-book and paperback formats.