Being a foreigner is a rollercoaster experience. Cultural shock is something we all inevitably go through, the strong survive and the weak still complain. Life abroad affects each person in a different way, it can be a life-changing experience worth sharing or a total catastrophe worth running away from. However this experience affects us, we all miss home to a certain degree.
THE PEOPLE, THE VIEWS, THE FOOD… There is simply nothing like them, I know.
So the moment we finally are on our way back home, whether for visit or for good, is glorious. We can’t wait to see all our friends and family, catch up with them and share great moments. And let’s not forget our amazing food, after long flights and airplane meals, we look forward to having our favorite local dish!
However, we don’t really expect much more than the latter. We may anticipate that things will be a bit different, that people will ask questions and that we will be happy with being back (if that’s what we wanted).
But we don’t expect that being back home would feel like starting life abroad all over again.
The struggles of living abroad don’t end when our time there has ended, after all, we’ve been through for a year or more, learning a new language, adopting new habits, and becoming a part of a new culture, it is impossible to come back the same and feel like home as we did before.
We changed a lot, so how does it really feel like being back after a long time away?
We become strangers to our family.
Living independently in a foreign country usually marks our habits, personality, attitudes and personal views in different levels, hence our family and friends notice how different we’ve become. That can range from being put in an altar for being adventurous to being the joke of the family for becoming a vegan and adopting an unconventional lifestyle.
However we have changed, compliments and judgments always come, so we just go with the flow.
And we realize that we have changed much more than life in our country
Picking up from the last point, we have become totally different from the person we were before leaving abroad. We come back home and meet our family and friends and try to be part again of society, but we no longer feel like we completely fit in.
The way we socialize with old friends and new people feels different and although we can use the same jargons and have the exact accent, it doesn’t feel entirely natural anymore.
We were used to building our life in the country that once felt strange for us and we start missing it. We love being back home, but we ask ourselves: “is this home anymore?” Home is suddenly redefined.
We realize how little we knew about our own culture
We become more observers and find revealing facts about our culture that we either love or hate. We act just like aliens that are studying social behaviors of a civilization. We start comparing because it’s inevitable and fascinating.
I learned random facts like how driving in Honduras is a wild experience, whereas driving in the U.S. and Germany is much safer; or how Germans ask whether someone wants to eat or share the last portion of food before grabbing it when with Latinos the last portion is usually gone before you notice; and how Latin Americans show respect by being warm and open while Germans show it by being formal and nice, which may appear cold or distant at first sight.
It is simply interesting to notice how different we all are regarding our daily habits.
We become tourists of our own country and culture
After traveling to other countries and seeing how interesting they are, we come back to our own with eyes of a tourist. We view our country’s landscapes, architecture, and history as fascinating and beautiful and want to enjoy them more. We stop viewing our country as just home, but as a great touristic destination that we want to share with our peers.
One thing we all have to accept is that there is no food like the one from home. I left Honduras looking forward to trying new cuisines, then I came back begging to eat again Baleadas, Tamales, Pupusas, and what not (but the rich variety of our food deserves its own post).
All this can let us end up confused, whether we stay at home or go back to our abroad destinations, we don’t want to forget all we’ve learned abroad nor leave our own culture behind. But I learned that this also offers us the chance to develop our own combination of cultures, taking what we like best from both – and doesn’t this opportunity compensate for all the struggles of culture and reverse culture shocks?
More on that in the following posts! 😉