Reverse Culture Shock: Returning Home after Living in America

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog and honestly, it’s because moving to Australia has been really hard after living in America for so long. Anyone who’s lived overseas for more than a few months will be able to relate to the weird feelings I’ve had after returning from living abroad. This is known as Reverse Culture Shock- the comparison of your home country, to the country you’ve just left. I wasn’t expecting to experience it since I moved to Australia instead of going home, but let’s face it: Australia is very similar to New Zealand- culturally at least.

In my mind it wasn’t going to be a big transition-after all I hadn’t been living in Asia or the Middle East, I’d been in the United States. Surely it wasn’t that different from Australia?


So what is Reverse Culture Shock?

Reverse Culture Shock can mean different things to different people. Often it’s the comparison of your home country, to the country you’ve just left. For some it’s the transition to English after speaking a foreign language for years, or coming to terms with the amount of resources we waste compared to third world countries.

For others it could be the realization that none of their friends care about their travels, and everyone else has moved on with their lives. Or Maybe they’ve changed so much that they feel like they’ve got nothing in common with the people closest to them.



It really hit me a few weeks ago, and I surprised myself with just how much I wanted to get on the next plane back to the United States. I definitely don’t want to work as an Au Pair again (two years was enough for me), but I was overwhelmed with this feeling of loathing for Australia, and the certainty that I really don’t want to be here. (Nothing against Australia – it was my situation here and not the country itself).

I broke down in tears, and I couldn’t even explain to my family how I felt, or why. I’d spoken to my host mum and the kids the day before my meltdown, so they were at the forefront of my mind, and I guess I was also judging Australia, comparing it to the United States and finding it lacking.

Oh Chicago…I think I miss you the most.

It was a weird time for me to get so depressed though. I was in the middle of moving to a cute apartment near the sea, and about to start my new job as a travel agent. After seven weeks of being broke and bored I was finally going to start living life again, but it sure didn’t seem like it at the time.

I think it was a combination of a bunch of things that set me off. I wasn’t getting any sleep, I was stressed out, broke, and unbelievably homesick for America. I wasn’t there for Halloween this year, and I’ll miss my host mum’s amazing cooking on Thanksgiving. My host kids have grown up so much in just a couple of months, and I realized that it could be years before I see my friends again.

I’m driving on the other side of the road again (in a manual car), I miss meeting friends at Starbucks, shopping and eating out, and everything is really expensive here compared to America. It’s spring in Australia but it feels very cold after living in California. The Australians seem rude in comparison to Americans, and I guess it all kind of hit me at once.

It’s weird to me that I can leave America (where I’d often complain about the soccer moms, the bad driving, compulsory tipping etc), and now that I’m here I miss every single thing about the states. Often you don’t truly appreciate a place until you leave it. I sure as shit know all about that by now. It’s one of my life’s greatest ironies.

But I also know that it’s time to move on. I can’t wallow forever. I gave myself one day to feel crappy and sulky, and indulged myself with a huge tantrum, and now that’s enough of that.

It’s back to real life for a while, with a nine to five job, working with adults and no longer wearing jeans and a t-shirt for work. And that’s ok-they say a change is as good as a holiday right? I’ll just have to give myself some time to adjust.

In the meantime, I’ll be saving for my travels, and slowly making my way around Australia which, (a few weeks after my meltdown) I can admit is a huge, beautiful, diverse country, and I can’t wait to explore it.


Has anyone else felt this way after living overseas?


6 comments on “Reverse Culture Shock: Returning Home after Living in America

  1. Hayley November 11, 2012 @ 3:17 am

    Yes! I miss so much about living in Canada.. being in the states.. the excitement of traveling.. That’s part of the reason I moved as soon as I got home.. to try have a bit of that excitement again, unfortunately it doesn’t compare!

    I would give anything to live in North America.. which most people here (who haven’t been) find bizarre..

    Let’s go!!!

  2. Aroha November 11, 2012 @ 4:15 am

    Almost every time I visit NZ I feel like this now. I’ve had to make a big effort to realise that it’s not just about me – everyone at home has a life that goes on without me there, and I can’t ask questions about lots of things because I’m not there to know what is happeneing, so if they fail to ask questions about me I can’t blame them either. But I do it both ways – when I go back to NZ I compare everything, and when I go back to Sweden, I compare everything. It’s not really a win-win situation but you learn to live with it!
    Aroha recently posted..Summer Pictures

  3. Yassi November 11, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    I feel the same and it has only been 11days since I got back to Germany! It was already hard to leave our amazing friends behind when we moved to other parts of the States! And now not knowing when I will see everybody again is killing me! We had the best time of our life!

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