How do you adjust back to life in the UK?

I've returned from a year abroad and am finding it really tough to settle back into my old life. Nothing at home has changed and yet I feel like a completely different person. How do you cope with reverse culture shock?

This question was asked on 14th August 2014 and has been read 2921 times.

  • Joachim Whaley · 7 years ago

    You are obviously having a hard time but what you are going through is not uncommon. In fact it's fairly normal, which doesn't, of course, make it any easier to negotiate. The natural tendency is to think of it as a negative experience, something that makes you sad, depressed, frustrated or anxious. But could also try taking a positive approach. You've been away for a year and you've experienced a huge amount: savour the memories and reflect on them; remember how excited you were and how many people you've met. Now you are back everything feels different. And you are right: it's different because you have changed, and that's one of the amazing things about the year abroad. Approach coming back in the same way you approached starting your year abroad: explore the differences and discover or re-discover what excites and interests you. Maybe you'll end up criticising or rejecting bits of your familiar yet strange English life. That isn't the worst thing that can happen. Maybe your year abroad experiences will help you navigate your old life in a slightly different way. Maybe even you'll spend the whole of next year wishing you could go back and then end up doing so as soon as possible after graduation. All of those options are typical for languages students. It's bound to be difficult from time to time, but you'll find your own way through in the end. Who knows what experiences, what twists and turns the next stage of life will bring? Good luck!

  • Jared Child · 7 years ago

    I'm three months into this process myself, and it's been one of the strangest experiences of my life, weirder than the YA. The reverse culture shock can seem like such an anti-climax and to be honest it is. You've gone off and done all this cool stuff on the YA, but then it's back to square one, every thing at home is the same and you wonder where you fit in with all of this.

    So tips i've slowly had to adapt to this past summer (which have worked for me, but perhaps will not for everyone else) would be:

    1) The adventures don't need to stop just because you've got home. Acknowledge to yourself that you're more equipped now, with more confidence, world understanding, perspective on life etc. to go out and do cool or meaningful stuff. Just because nothing has changed at home (I know the feeling), doesn't mean there's not decent new opportunities there. Go climb a mountain, do an endurance race, have a bbq on a beach, gaze up at the stars for five hours and think about how small everything really is. Then when you wake up each day, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you're going to do something new, and you're gonna keep developing your character. Why? Because why not? There's no excuse not to.

    2) Keep the language going, find or use existing/new contacts to skype regularly with someone. I reccommend this site - Also get talking to people with different accents in the language you're studying, keeps it varied and interesting, plus more networking. Reverting back to it will help maintain the language (not always easy), and keep global contacts going - You can never know enough people accross the world. Trust me.

    3) Spend time with your family and friends. It's easy to forget all about the people we left back at home for a year, and as long as they're safe there's nothing to worry about right? Wrong. The little things like catching up with an old mate, or calling up a family member you haven't seen in a couple of years or since it began will mean more to them than you think even i it may be difficult for you.  You don't  have to explain every story but they do like to know that you had a good time and a few things about what you learnt on whatever adventure in whatever country. I have no doubt you've got some cracking stories.

    4) Travel in the UK. Not the easiest thing to do because it's so bloody expensive here, but take a tent, hiking bag and some good kit (BE CAREFUL) and head up into the hills for a few days hiking/camping. Go off the beaten track. It can be done for relatively cheap once you get past purchasing the basics. Nature can be the biggest fix in strange times. Or go visit a castle, whilst the UK may seem boring and too much like home, there's a lot more here than you would think.

    6) Help people. This is just to be a good human being, but too often overlooked. You find someone in need, you help them out. You tell them to do the same for the next person. Tell them them 'hope never dies.' You don't have to be in some distant country speaking another language to help shape the world for the better.

    7) Patience. This is the hardest bit for me to write, because it's what i've lacked so often over the last few months. After a while of thinking it all over I came to this conclusion - Whilst I can't head back out on another trip for at least a couple of years, there's nothing wrong with dreaming about it or wondering what experiences await. Although having your head in the future does run the risk of losing the beauty of the present. Take time to appreciate the little things in life, day by day, and if you trust yourself, then you won't have to start thinking about how to fit in back home. You'll start finding ways of making home fit in around you and what you are doing. Whilst i'll always reccommend avoiding the status quo and protecting your dreams, develop the patience to ensure that whilst your dreams may not be able to happen now, that they will. At some point in the future you will have the opportunity to act on those dreams, to make them a reality. But between now and then, if you have to wait, then better yourself and keep bettering yourself whilst you wait. Then you'll be even more ready for when those dreams begin to arrive. And if they don't, then at the very least you've spent weeks, months, years becoming a better person. Learning a whole load lot more about life in the process.

    In short, I hope this helps. Good luck, and win in life.

    I'll leave this with a cool quote I found the other day that sticks quite well. How you interpret it is up to you. But don't be concerned if it turns out the YA is the first thing. It turns out it was for me.

    "There are years that ask questions and years that answer" - Zora Neale Hurston.

  • Lauren Stevens · 7 years ago

    When I'm struggling, I try to remember the things I disliked about my year abroad and the things I really missed from home and make the most of them now I'm back. If you really miss your year abroad, try to talk to people who you met there or others who have been on a year abroad who can understand.

    It will probably be confusing at first and unless your family and friends have lived abroad, they may find it difficult understand your struggles. In fact, I found that many people were reluctant to hear about my experiences or failed to even acknowledge that I'd been away, which was extremely hurtful and beyond my comprehension. Others advised me that this may have been due to jealousy.

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