It’s strange walking down the street without seeing men urinating on the sidewalk.

Where are all the cows, pigs, rats, monkeys, and other zoo like creatures that I am used to seeing while wandering around in public? That’s right, besides the fact its -20 degrees here and they would surely freeze to death, straight up that kind of thing doesn’t fly around here. Not much does.

Reverse Culture Shock Definition

Reverse culture shock is a sensation that one feels after they have been away from the calm and orderly society from where they came for an extended period, and then suddenly attempt to assimilate back into it.

It sounds weird, and those that have not done trips like I have may not fully understand, or care for that matter, but this does exist and I am going to tell you about it.

Leaving Paradise

I woke up the other morning in my beach hut and rolled over to look at my phone and check emails that came over night.

Reverse Culture Shock

This is a routine that I practiced everyday. Usually around 9am when the sun hit the thin bamboo walls and started to heat the place like an oven.

This time in India I bounced between Goa and my Airbnb mansion in Bangalore. Living like a local adds to the reverse culture shock when returning to the west.

I kicked off my covers to avoid overheating and lay there under my mosquito net. flipping through emails and messages looking for ones that couldn’t wait. One of those was certainly waiting for me this day.

One of the ways that I fund my travels and plan for my future while gallivanting around the globe is with a house I own in Ottawa. I noticed an email from my tenants and was quick to open, as I don’t often hear from them and was concerned.

I read through the long message but the gist of it was they were leaving. They were giving notice and moving out. I lay back on my pillow and thought ‘shit, I have to go to Canada.’

Not that I hate it here or anything like that, it’s just March and it’s bloody cold out. I had a big day planned of lying in my hammock and maybe swimming in the ocean, it would now be spent looking for airline tickets.

Flights from Goa to Ottawa aren’t cheap, they are both small airports that don’t see a lot of traffic and therefore have a higher price tag to leave from and arrive to. The best deal I saw was for the following day, I booked it. As I hit the button to confirm I let out a sigh. Goodbye beach hut.

I had no plans of where I would live, what I would do, or how I would get around when I returned, but I knew those were all minor details and the sooner I got home the sooner I could rent my place to someone new and the sooner I would be back on the road.

So I left the beach. I took a 2 hour taxi to the airport where I caught a flight to Dubai, from there to London UK, then to Ottawa. A day and half later I was “home”.

Let the reverse culture shock begin.

Reverse Culture Shock Symptoms

Symptoms can vary depending on the length away and how crazy the country was.

Coming from India to Canada is pretty extreme. It has been 8 months since I stepped on Canadian soil, and will still be a couple more as all the soil is covered in a thick blanket of white powdery snow.

This is a far contrast from a week ago when I was living on the beach for $500 a month.

Trouble Following Rules

It feels weird being back into a place with real rules you must follow. Reverse culture shock at it’s best.

Even before deciding to travel the world indefinitely I had trouble following the rules, just ask any teacher of mine that had the misfortune of putting up with me in my younger days.

In India, and many other crowded Asian countries, anything goes, and I mean anything.

I am not going to go into detail about some of the things I have gotten away with while travelling as they are not for the eyes of the public, but that kind of behaviour would not be tolerated in Canada, and I should certainly be ashamed of myself.

When there is a line up for something, like customs at the airport, people actually form an orderly queue. They aren’t trying to push and shove their way to the front, some may like it this way, but I was a lot bigger than most of the men in the Indian line ups and I often found my way to the front the fastest. I will miss that.

The Weather

Over the course of 30 hours and 3 plane rides halfway around the world the temperature dropped 55 degrees.

Weather plays a part in the culture of a country and a crazy shift like this can cause reverse culture shock just like anything else.

I spent most of the end of 2014 and the start of 2015 living on the beach in India. I wrote many articles about my little piece of paradise hidden away on the beaches of Goa.

Everyday was 35 and sunny. I saw rain once in 3 months. Now I hide inside from the snow and cold. The sun is shining but for some reason it doesn’t really offer any warmth. I need to wear socks and shoes, long pants and a hoodie. I don’t even own a coat.

Reverse Culture Shock

The Language

Everyone here can understand me.

Language plays a role in the reverse culture shock. If I wanted to speak with out someone understanding while in Asia I would just talk super fast to whomever I am with, and it’s likely that someone with English as second language wont be able to follow, unless they are completely fluent and speak English themselves most of the time.

This is almost like having a secret language, now everyone has the code and my cover is blown. There aren’t any secrets here, or privacy for that matter. I am not anonymous.

Reverse Culture Shock Stages

Stage 1 of reverse culture shock for me was the sensation of coldness.

Ok, maybe this isn’t a stage for most but hell it’s freezing here. My last days in India were spent with no shirt or shoes. I didn’t need them it was super hot every day. When I arrived back to Ottawa the cold was a shock like no other. I should be used to it as I lived here for 30 years. but when you disappear to a tropical paradise it’s not surprising that one of the first things to go is your tolerance for cold.

Stage 2 is the feeling of time travel. It’s like I fast-forwarded 1 year. My friends have a few different things going on, the highway is finished being fixed, Uber is in full swing here, but really nothing has changed, especially me.

Stage 3 is the feeling of uncertainty. I have been back here close to a week now and have written nothing. I haven’t even opened my blog.

It seems weird to write a travel blog from your own city, it’s a blog about travel after all. Good thing there are some amazing things to do around here and I am gearing up for a snowboard adventure up north.

It does leave me wondering what is next though. Do I get settled in, if I do then what? Do I bond with everyone I care about here then just up and tour? Decisions need to be made and the fate of FTF lies in the balance.

Who am I kidding I will forever travel, just might be time for a base.

As you can see I am writing this from the third stage of reverse culture shock. I don’t know what’s next. There are so many factors that will decide where my life heads, mainly what happens with this house.

Does anyone want to rent the most beautiful log home you have ever seen just outside the city of Ottawa?

Stage 4 of reverse culture shock is acceptance and the feeling of normality. You get comfortable again. Things start to make sense. I know this because this isn’t the first, or even second time I have done this, returning to Ottawa after many months away.

Soon my jet lag will end and I will stop waking up and starting my day at 4:30am.

Going to the grocery store wont seem so surreal and I will remember how to cook. I will have to remember how to clean as well. I can’t have people do this for me here, well I could but it would cost a fortune unlike in India.

This comfort is a trap though for someone like me. I will become anxious to move, it’s who I am and what I do. A normal existence terrifies me way more than not being able to pee on the street as I please.

Reverse Culture Shock Depression?

Not for this guy. Some have trouble adjusting after coming home and feel lost. My advice is man up (or woman up if that’s the case) and get on with life.

Reverse culture shock is no excuse. I preach what I practice here, when I woke up this morning I jumped up and yelled YOLO as I love to do and typed this out.

I have so much to write about India, so many trips, tricks, and travel tips. Not to mention buying a motorcycle and going to India Bike Week!

Reverse Culture Shock

I need to plan what’s next. Who am I kidding I don’t plan, that’s not the FTF way. I will take this as it comes and a new adventure will present itself in no time.

Reverse culture shock.. HA! Is there even such a thing?

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock? How did you handle it? Let me hear your stories in comments below.

6 Responses

    • Alex

      Hi Katie,

      Best thing to do when the boredom sets in is to get moving again! Even if it’s just a local trip. I ave been home 6 days and am super bored but luckily heading on a sick snowboard trip so that will bring a little excitement!

  1. Judith

    In 2013 I traveled and lived in Mexico for 6 months. I am from the Netherlands. Around the end of November I flew back home, it is winter then in Europe. Even tho it was not -20 but only -5 C, I was almost dying of cold. I had to buy shoes before flying since I lived on flipflops the whole time.

    I had a massive jetlag that lasted a week or so. I felt completely lost. Before I left I quit my job, gave up my appartment, sold some of my stuff and the rest I had put in storage. So there I was, with my backpack, in my moms appartment (no place else to go), no job. In one day I had already spent as much money as I spent in Mexico in a whole month. All of a sudden I was poor with the same money. All of a sudden I was not a traveller but a jobless homeless bum. And cold.

    Reality hit me hard. I guess that’s what you would call reverse culture shock. Not only the climate was cold, also the people. I didn’t feel safe enough to hitchhike, something I had been doing for 6 months. I had to think about how to say certain words in my own language again, after saying them in Spanish and English first.

    But as a optimist I thought this would all be quickly gone and I’ll be fine and living on my own with a job in no time. That was my “plan”. Yet, I couldn’t get used to … “normal life”.

    So 2 months later, January 2014, I flew back to Mexico! All of 2014 I spent traveling/living/working in Mexico, USA, Fiji and Samoa. And again I decided to go back home. This time I felt I was more ready for it tho. I knew from my experience how it would be and how sad I would feel. I was prepared for the worst, especially because the last month of my travels I’ve been living in a small village in the jungle of Fiji with no electricity, no internet etc. It takes 3 days of travelling only to get to the airport from there.

    So, prepared for the worst I arrived in the Netherlands. Again in November (I’m a slow learner). I slightly ended up in a depression, BUT, I told myself to woman-up, and I did. Now I have found the most amazing job in my own country! I am a nanny for a little 3 year old girl on a large 40m sailboat. The job is temporary for the highseason (till October), I live aboard and it is included food so I can save all my money for future travels. Plus I get to travel while I work. Yaaay.

    • Alex

      Hi Judith,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us all about your experience. It sounds, like the rest of us, that you had trouble getting readjusted. Now however sounds like you have a pretty sweet set up! Keep on keeping on

  2. CourtneyCourtney Cantrell

    I was born in the U.S., grew up in Germany, and have lived in both countries as an adult. It would take a book to describe the different times I’ve experienced culture shock and reverse culture shock.

    When I moved back to the U.S. for the second time in my adult life, I called it reverse reverse culture shock. Steering clear of depression was definitely a challenge. But I found the same remedy you did: just plunge into the “new” life, find the adventures awaiting in *this* culture, get out of house, get out of own head.

    For me, part of reverse (reverse) culture shock has always been a sense of emptiness at losing the place I just left. The most effective cure is to fill up that hole with new, interesting experiences that connect me with the new place.

    Thanks for sharing, Alex. : )
    CourtneyCourtney Cantrell recently posted…what is her back beachMy Profile

    • Alex

      Thats a great take on things Courtney! Thanks for reading and taking the time respond 🙂