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March 1st, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Post-2008

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I still feel frustration, disorientation, anxiety, inferiority…

I still feel like a stranger in my own country.

It’s tough.

I cry sometimes these days.

I cry because…

I don’t know why I cry.

I’m frustrated because society tells us to be strong.

Like as if being scared and being unsettled and being anxious and feeling inferior is not part of the human existance.

Like as if periods of life like the one I’m in now are to be avoided and pushed aside as quickly as possible.

Rather than be embraced and appreciated and acknowledged.

Welcome to the present-day existance of one traveller who has come home.


My existance.

It is hard to appear on top of things when I’m not.

Hard to live up to the image that people who meet me have of me when they hear my ‘amazing’ story.

Thankfully I’m not the only one who has returned from overseas who feels like this…even though I do feel like many people do not understand…
From http://wryexchange.com/tag/reverse-culture-shock/

Reverse culture shock is what happens when FESs (exchange students) return home.  Many times, it’s a surprise to the students that re-entry isn’t seamless.  It’s very very important that students, families, and friends realize reverse culture shock is real and serious.


1st few days-You’re happy, busy, it’s great to be home, you’re with friends and family.
2-3 weeks-You miss FESlandia, depressed, have problems sleeping, thinking. You feel alone. “No one understands me” Find other former exchange students to talk with. KEEP BUSY. May be depressed, problems sleeping, thinking. Feel alone like ”No one understands me.” Find other former exchange students to talk with.  KEEP BUSY.
1 month-withdraw from friends and family in FESlandia.  Won’t return emails, chat, texts, phone calls because it hurts too much.  You’ll re-connect. Self preservation, may be unconscious.
3 months-you’ll think you’re fine
6 months-you ARE fine

Reverse Culture Shock, Part 1-by the Experts

  1. Disengagement
  2. Initial euphoria
  3. Irritability and hostility
  4. Readjustment and adaptation

Stage 1 begins before you leave FESlandia. You begin thinking about re-entry and making your preparations for your return home. You also begin to realize that it’s time to say good-bye to your friends in Feslandia and to the place you’ve come to call home. The hustle and bustle of finals, good-bye parties, and packing can intensify your feelings of sadness and frustration. You already miss the friends you’ve made, and you are reluctant to leave. Or, you may make your last few days fly by so fast that you don’t have time to reflect on your emotions and experiences.

Stage 2 usually begins shortly before departure, and it is characterized by feelings of excitement and anticipation – even euphoria – about returning home.  This is very similar to the initial feelings of fascination and excitement you may have when you first entered FESlandia. You may be very happy to see your family and friends again, and they are also happy to see you. The length of this stage varies, and often ends with the realization that most people are not as interested in your experiences in FESlandia as you had hoped. They will politely listen to your stories for a while, but you may find that soon they are ready to move on to the next topic of conversation.

This is often one of the transitions to Stage 3. You may experience feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness and not understand exactly why. You might quickly become irritated or critical of others and of U.S. culture. Depression, feeling like a stranger at home, and the longing to go back abroad are also not uncommon reactions. You may also feel less independent than you were in FESlandia.

Most people are then able to move onto Stage 4, which is a gradual readjustment to life at home. Things will start to seem a little more normal again, and you will probably fall back into some old routines, but things won’t be exactly the same as how you left them. You have most likely developed new attitudes, beliefs, habits, as well as personal and professional goals, and you will see things differently now. The important thing is to try to incorporate the positive aspects of your international experience in FESlandia with the positive aspects of your life at home in your home country.

Or for something more technical: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/2304 

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    Permanent Link     Comments (8)

Comment by Daniel N. Lang — March 2, 2009 @ 10:42 am | post a comment

Poor Rob! You seem to have a really hard time after coming home. I silently read many of your last postings and it made me think.

I think I'm quite lucky. I also have to deal with many phenomena that you encounter after having been away from "home" for 20 months, but there's also a massive difference. I don't have any feelings like frustration, inferiority, disorientation or so on. I fell like a stranger, true, but that's been the same before I left, I don't really fit into this place and into this century I guess.

And I can also see your point that these worse parts are also part of life. It's an opinion I've come upon before, when reading about the story of philosopher and anarchist Ivan Illich, who's ideas I value a lot.

But instead of feeling depressed and anxious and so on I feel great. There are so many new possibilities that open up and I continue taking more control over my life, over the way I live. I've seen so many things on my journey and why shall we humans have a bad time if we can have a wonderful, enlightening and fulfilling time while we're here?

From observing your situation I notice that you're thinking a lot about yourself, about your situation and future. You're quite intorvert these days and there are many reasons for that. I don't say: be strong. That's one thing I don't like about today's society, it's very sketchy and flippant.

I see the great problems (which I like to call adventures) that humanity is facing and I want to take part in creative solutions, I want to put everything I have into it.

I guess that's what's keeping me up these days.

I wish you all the best, cheer up my friend!

Comment by Steve R — March 4, 2009 @ 11:05 pm | post a comment

Cheer up man, still sending my greetings from Luxu. By the way I've made great progress on the commuting situation and Chinese bureaucracy, a 'world record' attempt of my own it seems.

I doubt I'll ever feel adjusted and 'at home' if I return to Canada. Last time home was a countdown to when I'd be back in Chian again. The damage has already been done.

I wonder how reverse culture shock applies to people like myself who've lived away from home for years, perhaps decades?

Comment by Jenny — March 6, 2009 @ 8:13 am | post a comment

Hi Rob,

I'm not big on giving advice because I don't believe that anyone can completely understand the situation except for the person living it. But of course, I'm going to make an exception :-)

Don't cheer up. Don't cheer up because you feel you should be strong. Don't cheer up because other people tell you to. Embrace your feelings of frustration, anxiety, disorientation and inferiority. They belong to you right now. Take this time to settle into yourself and ride the wave of emotions. Don't jump off the wave – "if you can feel it, you can heal it."


Comment by Jenny — March 6, 2009 @ 8:16 am | post a comment

An added note I forgot to add: If you do want to cheer up and nothing I said resonates with you – then completely ignore it. That's the glory of advice – you get to discard it if it doesn't agree with you :-)

Comment by Steve — March 6, 2009 @ 7:07 pm | post a comment

I was relaying your achievements to my colleagues here, and we're all amazed at what you've accomplished!

Yet here you ride a skateboard around the world, break a record, and then end up going through some rather nasty reverse culture shock, including seeing a counselor. Something is wrong with this picture, life isn't fair. On the other hand, I suppose this adjustment is all part of the package. Who knows, maybe we'll see you on that skateboard again :-)

Comment by Pete (mooseh) — March 8, 2009 @ 1:51 pm | post a comment

I guess it is just worse as you were not just away for 6 months, or a year, but multiple years.

And you had time to contemplate before coming home, whilst being alone on the board all the time (I had a similar thing whilst skiing in Canada), perhaps that has made it worse as not only do you have the initial expectations you had when you left, but all these possibilites running round in your head that were thought up during your journey – and now have returned home to find it different to anything you had thought.

I only hope that you embrace it as you have been doing so – but, also that it does not cause you too much more pain. Especially after all the joy and insights you and your journey have done not only for the skating community and yourself, but everyone who hears about it.


Comment by Rob Thomson — March 8, 2009 @ 2:01 pm | post a comment

Hey Pete,

It's funny…I never really contemplated things much at all while I was on the road. I think the state of the world and the ways of life of the majority of the world (ie, not the West), and the ways of living a solitary and extremely independent life just seeped into my being without me knowing it. It wasn't until I got back to the West and back to a life in relative community (as much as the West can get to the concept of community – being it a very individualistic society) that I realised how removed I had become from community (the good part) and consumerism/me-centered lifestyle (the bad part).

Not to say, of course, that my trip was not extremely me-centred…

Thanks for your insights.


Comment by Rob Thomson — March 8, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | post a comment

To everyone: Thank you for your continued support and comments. They are really appreciated, even if I don't have the energy to reply to them all.

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