Battling Reverse Culture Shock: How to avoid coming across as pretentious after a backpacking trip…
“Then there was that time in Croatia….”
“This club is cool, but it’s not nearly as cool as this one place in Barcelona we went. You wouldn’t believe it…”
“It’s hard to describe to someone who just hasn’t been there before…”
So, you just got back from your Europe trip, eh? You’re frustrated, broke, stuck in a cycle of reminiscing and just don’t understand why people aren’t interested in your stories. Here you are, feeling entirely different, while everything and everyone else seems to have stayed the exact same…
Welcome to Reverse Culture Shock. Now, try not to let your ego make it worse.
Reverse Culture Shock, or post-travel depression refers to the difficulty in adapting to life back at home after an extended period away. It’s diagnosed by moodiness, heavy criticism of old habits and an elevated sense of self-importance and ego.
Everyone experiences the shock of swapping your flip flops for closed-toed shoes – it’s hard going from ultimate freedom to the strictures of society after returning home from a backpacking trip. You’ll have trouble sleeping without the eleven other bodies in a room – you think beer for breakfast is a good idea and have no sense of personal space or privacy. I remember switching T-Shirts on the street without a second thought the first week I got home (if anyone’s unclear, this is not acceptable behavior outside your hostel dorm).
While people are still ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over your travel stories, elevating your ego, you can’t help but think of how different you feel about yourself. Pro-tip: Do not tell people this.
Yes, you’ve experienced a considerable shift in your worldview: you have probably expanded your experiences so-much that you feel you don’t have a lot left in common with your old friends. You’ve been exposed to so many different elements of your own personality that you’re left feeling irrevocably changed.
These are compounded by the sadness you feel knowing your stretch of freedom is over and you’re back to everyday routines. You’re in a perpetual state of mourning, having returned home to pick up the threads of your old life. To beat the reverse culture shock and avoid being insufferable for your friends and family and friends there’re a few things to keep in mind…
Strike a balance between sharing and bragging
People will want to hear about your trip out of courtesy and out of genuine affection for you. Tell them about it. Share your experiences, but learn when to cut yourself off. No one wants to know about that time you and three Bolivians got soooo drunk and made friends with some gypsies in Bucharest and had a massive cultural awakening. To you, it might be a pivotal moment in your life. To them, you sound like you’re boasting.
Don’t force your travel stories into every conversation. The best way to share and recollect your experiences is organically. Learn to listen and stop talking about yourself and where you’ve been any chance you get. It’ll be difficult, as this is the culture you’ve lived and breathed for however long you’ve been away. You might not have anything else to talk about so your recent travel experiences are the obvious connection. Back home, sit back and listen to your friends’ summer stories instead of one-upping them.
Don’t complain about the prices or the differences of home VS away
Yeah – beer abroad might’ve been 50p, but here it’s not. Deal with it. Every time you’re getting starry-eyed, bringing up how cheap and wonderful it was away, your friends will be rolling their eyes behind your back. Accept it and pay the cashier his money. Remember, no one likes a whiner.
While coming home might be infuriating as you find yourself painfully longing to get out and go away, there’s something that can help.
All pretentious jokes aside, travelling lights a spark in you. It gives you the confidence to go out, talk to new people and try new things. Don’t let that adventurous spirit fade.
Instead of dwelling about what you left behind, treat your home as if you’d treat a new city
Travelling often gives you a fresh perspective and you can keep yourself busy by acting like it’s your first time visiting. Look beyond your usual routines and stomping grounds and go exploring. You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do.
So do yourself a favour. Put a smile on your face, think about taking off your travel bracelets (they probably smell by now anyway) and embrace life at home. Your travel depression will fade and your friendships will endure.
If nothing else, you can always distract yourself by planning the next trip away…
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Words by Samantha Lego. For more of Sam’s travel stories and top tips, head to her twitter @samanthalego