Reverse Culture Shock


Like the name suggests, reverse culture shock is similar to culture shock. Culture shock comes from a sense of disorientation brought on by a new and unfamiliar environment. Reverse culture shock comes from returning to a setting you assume will be familiar that is actually no longer the same. Through the trip experience, the student has changed. At the same time the student’s home environment has changed. People’s lives did not go on hold while they were gone. The problem here is that they did not change together. Both the student and those back home expect to pick up where they left off, but things are not the same. That is where the stress of reverse culture shock begins. It is subtle and unexpected. Your student will be dealing with a lot when they return home, and there is a good chance this could be a difficult time for them. It can be just as difficult for parents and families as well. Below are the three types of responses we see in students returning from a mission trip. Take a look at these to help you discern where your student lands. Try to find ways to help them transition with a healthy response.   Extreme #1: Isolates and alienates a. Pulls away from stressful situations by being alone or only with like-minded people b. Strong negative reactions or judgmental attitude toward home culture c. Daydreaming about or unwilling to let go of memories and experiences and move forward d. Unwilling to engage opportunities to impact the home culture   Extreme #2: Imitates and re-socializes a. Reverts immediately back to conventional norms b. Resumes life as if nothing happened c. Unable to translate experiences to life back at home d. Very high need for acceptance by home culture e. Afraid of consequences of seeming different from home culture   A Healthy Response: Integrates and is proactive a. Accepts the reality of transitioning cultures b. Relates back with the home culture without compromising lessons learned from the short-term experience c. Recognizes that changes have occurred through their experience d. Re-enters the home culture as a learner and looks for ways to integrate what they have learned   Tips for Family and Friends 1)  Be patient. Give them time to readjust. It will not happen overnight or maybe even in a week. Sometimes it takes a full semester before a student really puts it all together. Each person is different. Avoid the temptation to push too hard. Give your student time and space, but be ready and waiting when they are ready to talk. 2) Recognize teachable moments. Use this time of re-entry as a growing process for your family. Learn about your student, the people group and culture they have come to love, and how you can continue to minister to the people group from home. Help them find ways to take what they learned on the field and apply it to life back home. Check out our M.A.P. to Missional Living Series. (Link to this) 3) Share your own changes Talk about the most significant changes that have occurred at home while your student was gone. Share with your student what God has done in your life and the life of your family during your student’s time in another country. Check out our post on Helping Your Student Return Well

iGo Global Staff

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