Reverse culture shock
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Once you qualify to teach English as a foreign language – to be a TEFL teacher – it can seem like the whole world is opening up for you. And it is. Now that you have an internationally-recognised TEFL certificate under your belt, you are free to teach anywhere in the world, or even from your home office.
If you make the bold decision to pack up your home and move abroad, we can guarantee that your life will never be the same again. That’s kinda the whole point, isn’t it? But while we can prepare you for life abroad, we also need to prepare you for life when you come home. Because if you weren’t aware, reverse culture shock is a thing.
What is reverse culture shock?
In a nutshell, reverse culture shock is the psychological and emotional adjustment of returning home after some time abroad. Also known as re-entry shock, it’s a common reaction for TEFL teachers returning home.
You might wonder why coming home would have such an effect on you. After all, you’re coming home! Shouldn’t it feel comfortable, like your favourite warm and snuggly blanket? Well yes, in theory it should, but the reality is it isn’t.
If you’ve been abroad for a while and return home, whether it be for a visit or permanently, you are expecting everything to be as it was when you left. That’s natural. But when you think about it, it’s also unreasonable.
Even if you have been away for only a few months, things would have changed. People move on with their lives, even when you’re not there. So while your city itself may have changed, your friends and family will have changed too. And that might take some getting used to.
What are the symptoms of reverse culture shock?
If you find that when you’re home you don’t feel as thrilled as you expected to, you might be experiencing reverse culture shock.
Symptoms of reverse culture shock can include:
- Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of being misunderstood
The different stages of reverse culture shock
If you’ve read about culture shock, you’ll know that it involves different stages. Reverse culture shock is the same process, but in reverse (makes sense, huh?). Just as culture shock takes place over a period of time, so does re-integrating yourself into your home life. The thing about reverse culture shock is that it can be unexpected. And this is why reverse culture shock can be problematic, because you’re not prepared for it.
Let’s look at the different stages of reverse culture shock to see what you can expect.
Stage 1: The anxiety of returning home
This stage of reverse culture shock actually starts before you leave your adopted country. You will start to feel anxious about what to expect when you return home.
Stage 2: The honeymoon stage
Similar to culture shock, the second stage of reverse culture shock is the honeymoon stage. This is the stage that you feel happy to be back and excited to see your friends. You enjoy the convenience of the familiarity that you’ve missed since you’ve been away.
Stage 3: Frustration
This honeymoon stage can soon change to frustration. You remember only the positives of your adopted country and you notice how your home country doesn’t measure up – be it in terms of public transport or cost or lifestyle.
Stage 4: Nostalgia
Not surprisingly, soon you miss your friends abroad, your lifestyle abroad, and even your job.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Over time you will appreciate your home country again. You will find your groove with your friends and family, and you will appreciate your life at home for what it is – either a permanent decision or a stepping stone.
Stage 6: Mastery
In this stage, you begin to enjoy being at home again. You have reconciled the life abroad you once had with the life you are living now, and you’re able to appreciate them both for what they are.
Read more: How to Deal with Culture Shock
So let’s look at the different effects of reverse culture shock and how you can best deal with them.
Living abroad is exciting. Every day is an adventure, whether you’re going to the supermarket or trekking in a jungle. Being at home, on the other hand, can seem a bit repetitive and boring. After all, it’s what you did for years before you went abroad. It’s probably a large part of why you left! At the same time, getting back to your routine can be comforting. Focus on that aspect of being at home and try to appreciate the familiarity. You can also spend time being a tourist in your own city to see a different side to your hometown.
Oh, the places you will go…
Aah itchy feet! Once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug it can be hard to settle down again. You might find yourself romanticizing your adopted country, conveniently forgetting any stress you may have had there. It’s almost like you’re homesick, but for your home abroad. We get it, we really do. What can you do about it? Plan your next trip, of course! (Top tip: Check out our jobs board to see where your TEFL qualification can take you next!)
One time, at band camp…
You know those people who won’t shut up about something? Whenever you have a conversation with them, they direct it back to themselves? Don’t be one of those! Your adventures abroad may have been exciting but that’s because you were there. Save the details for your mom, and don’t bore your friends with endless stories of “One time, in Taiwan…”.
You’ve changed, Muriel
Places will change, people will change. Regardless of if you’ve been away six months or six years, things will be different when you get home. Maybe your permanently-single friend is now hooked up. Or your best college buddy has a serious job. It might feel like your old friends don’t have time for you anymore. The truth is, they have gotten used to not having you around. You were the one who left, so it’s up to you to be understanding about the whole situation.
Being a TEFL teacher gives you a purpose, a structure to your day. You have certain lessons you need to plan and classes you need to teach. When you go back home, you might not have a job to go back to. You could be wondering if you should continue teaching, either at home, online or abroad, or whether you should go back to whatever you were doing before. This can lead to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction. But don’t let that worry you – you’ll figure out soon enough what will happen next!
Read more: Motivation and Culture Shock
While reverse culture shock might not seem like much, it can still cause you anxiety and depression. Because of this, it’s important to be able to mitigate the effects of reverse culture shock.
You can do this by sharing your story with people who really want to hear it. This could be by starting a blog or social media account dedicated to your travels, your teaching and your time abroad. This way you get to spare your friends the jealousy, and maybe even inspire someone else to embark on a similar TEFL adventure.
Be gentle on yourself. Give yourself time to adjust and slip back into your old routine. At the same time, try to find new things you can do to keep you entertained and enthusiastic about life in your hometown.
Remember, you don’t need to let your travelling journey end! Why not find another TEFL job somewhere else? Or, at the very least, plan a holiday somewhere exciting in the near future.
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LAST UPDATED: 19th July 2022
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We’ll only market other organisations’ products and services if you have said it is OK for us to do so.
You can ask us to stop sending you marketing information or withdraw your permission at any time.
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.