The term ‘re-entry’ conjures up an image of space travel and crashing through the atmosphere. For those of you who have been through the process, that is perhaps an appropriate description!
Reverse culture shock is the common and very natural experience of adjusting to being home after living somewhere else. You’re likely going to experience some feelings of shock, isolation and unease. Quite possibly greater than when you first entered a new culture overseas.
Culture shock isn’t something you generally expect. After all, you’re coming home, right? Often, the very fact that it is a surprise makes it all the more unsettling to deal with. The important thing to realise is you’re not messing up! Don’t beat yourself up or let it get you down. This is just part of the journey.
Here are a few personal tips for when you first touch down. They’re based on those generously offered by return New Zealanders in my study when asked: ‘What are five things you wish someone had told you that might have made your return journey smoother?’
You will have your own personal tips to add for new arrivals – by all means do! As we go on, we’ll also discuss practical and professional tips. We’ll offer some guidance for Kiwis who are still overseas and contemplating the return, and some strategies for smooth landings. Based on the messages and comments you have been sharing, we’ll also talk about the ongoing challenges of coming home.
Please do be thoughtful and considerate in sharing your wisdom. New arrivals have enough on their plates, let’s show them some warmth and help navigate them through, not scare the life out of them please old hands 🙂
Starter Personal Tips for New Arrivals
Tip: Be Patient. Hang In There. Give Yourself Some Time.
After the rush of the homecoming and the warm embrace of family has faded, there are some lonely, disconcerting moments of not feeling at home, at home. Be Patient and be ready for a little un-ease during your re-entry. Toby (USA)
This tip really helped me. Just having someone acknowledge that coming home could be disconcerting – and disconcerting for a good while – took the weight off my impatient shoulders. Repatriation literature suggests that the process of re-adjustment to coming home takes a good year or two, if not more. Hang in there… it will take time.
If you have a partner/lover etc. take extra care after your return. Maybe plan to take time to ensure issues are resolved quickly. Toby (USA)
Re-entry can be tough on relationships. It’s more than likely one of you wanted to come home more than the other. You may handle coming home differently. Your lives will be different and your roles too. Now is when you most need to give each other love and understanding. Same rules as for any relationship tension – try not to speak in anger or say something you’ll regret later. Give each other some space when needed. Be there when they need it. Find a friendly ear to offload to over a drink or pot of tea. Or skype your best friend overseas. In Shanghai there was a whole industry of couples counsellors for expats, with good reason! It’s not the NZ way, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Tip: Don’t irritate your friends by comparing the world.
Nothing is more annoying than someone comparing everything to some other nirvana. Just because Hulu isn’t in New Zealand doesn’t mean New Zealand is a backwater. Johnny (CH/USA)
Of course you want to be able to talk about what has been a big chunk of your life! Just try not to start sentences with ‘Well, in New York…’ When you’re making observations, be aware of your audience. If their eyes glaze over or start to narrow, they’re possibly taking it the wrong way. Rephrase or reframe. Still not working? – find some friendlier ears. They are out there!
Sometimes you come back to find your old friends in NZ have moved on. It’s understandable, a lot of time has passed. Don’t despair. Put some energy into reconnecting and creating new memories. And find some energetic, curious new friends too, based on interests you have now. Just like Mainland cheese, good friends take time.
Tip: Join In.
Give it a chance. And join in. Join some clubs, groups, teams or such, especially in your local community. Get yourself some new friends, and if you can’t find something to join, start it yourself! It can be anything. Book club, poker night, running group, basketball games… Jason (JP)