The Return and Reverse Culture Shock

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

I surprised myself in so many ways when studying abroad in France, I experienced culture shock and homesickness like I never have before. While everyone told me to expect it, I figured that as a seasoned traveler and someone who’s lived abroad before, I would not miss New York so severely that I’d want my fun experience to end. However, between clashing with some aspects of the culture, finding myself lost at my host school, and balancing my U.S. life with my French life by keeping up with friends, family, and my involvements at school and work, I wished more and more each day that I could just give up the experience and go home. I remember crying to a friend, telling her how much I missed the Bronx.

 

Bronx

When I got home, I went out and took so many pointless pictures of the streets and things around NYC because I had missed them so much. This picture was taken on a particularly beautiful day in the Bronx.

 

This is why I am surprised to be going through some common symptoms of reverse culture shock. I was excited to return home for so long, and my return was truly phenomenal. Meeting friends and family, giving out gifts, telling stories, and even reuniting with my good friend A at our school’s graduation kept me from feeling the burn. But with every adventure I spoke about, with every story I told, and with every song I played that made me nostalgic for Paris, I felt more sadness to not know when next I will return to these wonderful places.

 

family

I left behind my wonderful papa Victor, who I know I won’t see for at least another year. I also left behind many other family members who I won’t know when I’ll see next. Finding pictures like these all over my family’s home in Germany really got me nostalgic for a return.

 

As time goes on, it gets increasingly difficult to explain my experiences as thoroughly as I wish I could – experiences that I feel genuinely shaped the course of my life. While in Paris, I couldn’t amply describe what it felt like to have no one from my culture to relate to around me. I realized the stages of culture shock were hitting me hard. I definitely felt excitement to return home, which was even more amplified when I got home.

 

chelsea

My first weeks home have been wonderful! I am so excited to be in New York to carry out a fun summer ’17 in my favorite place in the world!

 

I felt a bit of frustration and sadness at the inability to buy 3 euro bottles of wine and fancy cheese three minutes from my apartment. I missed the welfare state, where a doctor’s appointment without insurance cost me 23 euros; here in the US, now that my insurance hadn’t been renewed since my leaving, an appointment at my local clinic would cost $125 starting. I felt real sadness at the impossibility of traveling 4 hours to Germany to see my family, and a little bit of material frustration at the added shipping costs of some of my new favorite European vendors like Asos and Yves Rocher.

 

food

While I no longer have access to delicious, fresh German spargel (asparagus) which had just come into season while I was there, I could make do with what I found in supermarkets and still eat my nostalgia’s fill. Didn’t taste like Germany, but definitely satisfied my cravings for German food. (Baked potato with quark, spargel, and meat.)

 

Now, I genuinely feel as though I’m beginning to fit back into my old world, but with a new me. My new experiences, the knowledge I’ve gained, new tastes, all have turned me into a different person. Sure, my friends and family still love me and see me the same, but even without my repetitive stories of the good times and wonderful experiences I had abroad, as well as the shocking stories of bad experiences and weird adjustments, they know that I am different.

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Filed under Tammie in France, Western Europe

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