Four of our volunteers have recently returned – re-adjusting to life back home can be a real challenge
Reverse culture shock is something that all volunteers are told about in their preparation for living overseas but until you actually experience it – it remains but a distant ‘threat’ in the back of your mind. Ultimately, it is an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth but it can be painful. When you enter into an different culture you expect to feel uncomfortable, out of place, on the outside looking in. When you return home you expect to enter back into the familiar and comfortable. But many a returning volunteer finds that they can’t just step back in. Without always being aware of it returning volunteers have changed in some fundamental ways – they no longer see or experience the world in quite the same way as they did before they left home. They can’t always step back into what was once familiar and comfortable because they have changed. This change in perception changes the way they experience life: As the saying goes: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are”. How we experience life depends very much on how we perceive it – if our perception changes then so will our experience.
Returned volunteers often feel isolated and alone, they can feel a deep sense of loss that home no longer feels like home. Again they can feel like a stranger looking in – but this time they are looking in on their own culture in which they feel like an outsider.
We would welcome any stories from returned volunteers who have experienced reverse culture shock.