Reverse Culture Shock and Re-learning the Meaning of Home
Becoming a tourist in your home town
Reverse Culture Shock
I remember the first time I came home from long-term traveling and living abroad. Even after two years away, I wasn’t ready to go home. I remember feeling intense sadness on our way to Bangkok airport. It wasn’t easy to tear myself away from this beautiful, colourful and vibrant country.
I was so happy to see my mum again and excited to reunite with my family and friends. Despite this, I felt a strange dark cloud envelop me as we drove back from Manchester airport to my home. I looked out the window and was shocked at how devoid of colour the world was.
People joke that England is a grey country, but grey was all that I saw. The only colour on the palette that life here had been painted. Grey sky, grey clouds, grey buildings, even the people looked small and sad and grey. All wrapped up in dark parka coats, frowning into the wind.
We arrived back in my home town, and everything felt so much smaller than it had felt before I left. To my detriment, I had come home in the depths of winter. The cold, the wind, and the rain was a shock to the system after months of exploring sweltering hot beaches and jungle.
What got to me most of all was the darkness. Walking up at 8 a.m. in the dark and then blinking before it became dark again before 4 p.m. This was another shock after basking in the long days of sunlight in South East Asia. I love to be outdoors, but suddenly I couldn’t bear the conditions outside. A life spent indoors felt wasted and suffocating.
I remember going out one night to a local pub where the women were dancing, and the men stood around them in a semi-circle, leering at them. Older men with pot bellies and bald heads coming onto young girls. Some of them groped me and grabbed my arse as I walked by them. This hadn’t happened to me in two years. I suddenly hated everyone around me and felt like I was about to have a panic attack. My mind was racing, and I thought:
“I want to go home. This is supposed to be home, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. I hate it here. I made a mistake. I should never have come back. Where is home now?!”
I had a case of what I now recognise as reverse culture shock.
I complained and complained and complained until everyone was sick to the back teeth of my complaining. My friends and family like where they live. They couldn’t understand why I had nothing but bad things to say about it.
Deciding to become a tourist in my home town
I went abroad again not long after coming home. First, I lived in Germany for a while, and then I backpacked India solo. India was challenging to say the least. After this trip, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. This time I felt ready to come back home to rest and recharge.
I decided on that trip that my next big thing in life would be to do a working holiday visa in Australia. But for this, I would need to save a lot of money. And this would involve living at home with my mum, working and saving. This would take time, probably a whole year.
In which case, I decided that I needed to make peace with home. I needed to go home with a different mindset and embrace what it had to offer. To enjoy my year and not squander it away, moaning about how I would rather be somewhere else. I needed to treat it with the same courtesy that I treat any other country. I decided to become a tourist in my home town.
The home bucket list
I love a good list. I’ve excitedly sat down for each place that I’ve lived abroad and created a bucket list of all the things I want to do while I’m there. This is always exciting, and you tend to zoom through the list because your time is limited.
But with the place you’re from, there’s no sense of urgency, so things just sit there. You don’t even realise just how much there is until a friend comes to visit and you have to play tour guide. They will exclaim how incredible Liverpool is, and you’ll have to agree while silently thinking about how much you didn’t appreciate all the things you showed them before.
Luckily, I came home in time for summer, and the city of Liverpool was awash with events! Great music events, free festivals in the park, outdoor cinemas, outdoor light, and art displays, to mention a few. We were also lucky to enjoy a beautiful heatwave that summer.
I found an amazing website called Independent Liverpool that I highly recommended to anyone visiting or living in the city. It supports small, local, independent businesses and recommends so many great bars and restaurants. I constantly tried out new places. Liverpool has such a cool nightlife and fantastic independent restaurants of every cuisine. I never ran out of new places to try.
One of my favourite features was that they release a new post with all the recommended things going on in the city that month, every month. I would check it religiously and then go and recommend fun things to my friends. We had an absolute blast that summer, and for the first time, I truly appreciated home and what it had to offer.
Since then, I continue to add to my home bucket list and experience great joy in exploring the little nooks and crannies of Liverpool and the Wirral.
From the red rocks of Hilbre Island in West Kirby on the Wirral, where you can look over across the River Dee, see North Wales and encounter wild seals to a day out at the wonderful Chester Zoo.
From cycling alongside charming barges at the Liverpool to Leeds Canal to learning all about John, Paul, George, and Ringo at the Beatles Experience.
From spying our few remaining adorable red squirrels in Formby Reserve in Liverpool to seeing some incredible theatre at the Playhouse.
There’s plenty to enjoy if you just try to look for it.
I haven’t been able to enjoy as much as I would like during this pandemic, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I have a whole new bucket list of things to enjoy and appreciate more than ever when we are allowed back out into the world.
I hope you have the same kind of list waiting for you, in your own home town.
Thank you for reading! Hearts and tips are always welcome and your support is very much appreciated.
I wrote a poem about my experience of reverse culture shock if you would like to read it 👇
Georgina Nelson. Traveller. Writer. Photographer. Yoga teacher.
Sh*t Happens - because the things that go wrong make the funniest stories.
Hi! I’m Georgie and I share travel stories of when sh*t happens. I think that sometimes the worst things that happen to you traveling, are often the funniest
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