Am I home?
I have heard more than one person complain about the difficulties they experience when they go back to “visit their home”. It is either too hot or too polluted or difficult to get around in the city. No matter what the nature of the complaint, the frustration is there. Yet these are the same people who might have spent the first twenty years or so of their life happily in their home country. Then why does this change occur?
Cultural adaptation is a two-way street. It is important that we adapt to our host culture when we travel to a foreign country. Since we are very much aware of the fact that we are in a new culture, we are more likely to put in a conscious effort to adapt there. But when we visit our home country, we take it for granted. After all, didn’t we grow up there, have fun with our families and friends, go to school and so on? Of course, we know how to get along with people there! We know how to carry out necessary errands like how to commute in our own hometown and do shopping – don’t we? Then, why do people still experience the problems that they do when they visit their home after a stretch of few years?
A potential explanation could be that while we prepare ourselves for culture shock in a new country, we tend to underestimate the impact of “reverse culture shock”. When we leave home, we experience the new environment and change ourselves to adapt to it. Gradually, the host environment becomes increasingly familiar to us and anything else feels strange – even if we are back in our hometown.
The question then becomes – is there anything that can be done about this? A relatively simple suggestion presents itself – do not lose contact with home. Culture shock of any kind results from unfamiliarity. When people do not visit their home for a long time or are unable to maintain regular contact with people in their home country, they feel lost when they do so after a long period of time. They tend to forget how things were back at home. Moreover, lack of regular contact with others at home tends to drive them apart. As a result, such people are more likely to feel out of loop and lonely when they visit their home. But frequent contacts with people at home and regular visits there help maintain familiarity with the home culture, thereby reducing reverse culture shock and frustration.
Last 5 posts by AJ
- A journey into the unknown - June 20th, 2008