Reverse Culture Shock

You may be familiar with the term “reverse culture shock.” More than a catch-phrase, however, reverse culture shock can be a very real challenge for many students returning from study abroad experiences. Just as students may struggle in adjusting to a new culture abroad, they may also find difficulty in adjusting to “normal life” once they return home. Some symptoms of reverse culture shock include: boredom, apathy for others, trouble articulating your experience, reverse homesickness, feeling isolated or alienated, and compartmentalization or “shoeboxing” of your experience, among others. Here are some tips for avoiding reverse culture shock:

Strategies for Readjusting to Life at Home

  1. Anticipate the adjustment and give yourself time. Take time to think about the transition and reflect on how it’s affecting you.
  2. Know that things will be (or seem) different. Life at home has continued in your absence. Large political or cultural changes may have occurred. You may perceive family or friends differently. Understanding that things may be or seem different can better prepare you to react effectively.
  3. Reserve judgments and respond thoughtfully. Just as you adjusted to a new culture abroad, it may take time to re-adjust to your culture at home. Be cautious about making snap judgments or responding negatively to your surroundings.
  4. Be sensitive to others. Family and friends may notice significant changes in you and not know how to respond effectively - or they may have trouble understanding your experience in general. Be patient and sensitive to loved ones who may also be adjusting to a “new” you.
  5. Seek support if you need it. Readjusting to life at home can be just as difficult as adjusting to life abroad. Make sure to talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. Find ways to continue your experience through student groups, cultural organizations or Pitt’s Study Abroad Office.
If you continue to suffer from the symptoms of reverse culture shock, please take advantage of the University counseling services. To schedule an appointment, visit: