Reverse Culture Shock

It’s been a long time since I posted on this here blog, but it’s now time to get back into it.

I’ve now relocated and settled back in to Canberra, Australia after a wonderful three years living and working in Southern California. I’ll be honest and say that I did suffer quite a bit of reverse culture shock; the feeling that I no longer fit into my home country. We had been warned by fellow ex-pats to be prepared to experience reverse culture shock, but I guess you can’t fully prepare for how it really might feel.

Nobody Cares About Your Travels

OK…maybe I’m being a little harsh to say that nobody cares, but my experience is that most people will listen superficially for only a short time before losing interest. At first this was hard, but now we just keep our experiences to ourselves unless someone specifically asks. One of my saviours has been talking to people who have also been ex-pats. They understand what it feels like to return ‘home’ and are actually interested in the experiences we had overseas.

Normality Hits Hard

For the first couple of weeks back in Australia we were excited to see family and friends, eat all our favourite foods, sit in our favourite cafes and see kangaroos again. However after about two weeks the ‘normality’ of Australia began to hit us hard. When we moved to America, everyday tasks were interesting (although sometimes extremely frustrating) simply because they were different. Even though some things had changed in the three years we were away, Australian supermarkets still stocked all the same foods, the cars on the road were still familiar and the Aussie slang which was a shock when we arrived home began to sink back in. 

People Just Don’t Understand Us

Most noticeably, we came home with many new opinions about things. Our minds had been opened while away and we came back seeing Australia and the world in general, in a totally different way. Unfortunately for us, people back here still think the same way they always have, so we have had a difficult time trying to find common ground. For the last few months we have felt very isolated because we couldn’t fit our new beliefs and knowledge into our old lives. However we are now starting to find ways to mesh the two together and are starting to feel more comfortable.

It’s only in the last couple of weeks that I have started feeling comfortable with my life back in Australia. Our house is mostly unpacked, we have caught up with all of our immediate family members, I have settled into my new job and actually think I know what’s going on and have received a couple of exciting opportunities which I’ll tell you more about soon.

Despite the uncomfortable transition, it’s good to be home.

Image by: Garry


  1. Hi Mia……

    I know what you mean about people not understand you. I haven’t left Australia, and they still don’t understand me! This comes with being properly informed instead of thinking you know what’s happening because you know which footy team’s heading for the grand final…

    We’re thinking of moving ourselves. Tassie! I’m over the heat and humidity, and whilst I never ever thought I’d leave this place I created, the town of Cooran has some serious baggage that I wasn’t aware of, and there’s no community feeling here, try as we might. Even (especially the people who’ve lived here 30+ years are complaining. The town’s been taken over by “city people” trying to live the city life only not in the city……. sigh.

    1. Hi Mike. Glad to see you’re still here! I’m sorry to hear Cooran is not working out as well as you hoped.
      We have also been considering Tassie as a long term option. It seems like a lot of like minded folk end up down there. The only thing that gets me is how isolated we’d be from the mainland, although that might not be a bad thing.

  2. Hey, I am here, I get you! Come hang out with me & tell me about your travels (I love your photos, I would gladly sit through a slideshow!!) But, yes, even without having been anywhere, I still often feel like an alien in my own country! However, after 3 years in Canberra and we are only just finding likeminded local families who get us & our lifestyle…

    I hope you can settle in soon, find people who get you guys… funny, I was just checking out your blog yesterday, as I saw your FB page link, and wondered if you were back to blogging! Thanks for coming back…

    1. Hey dixiebelle. I definately want to catch up soon. I see that you are really busy though, so let me know if you have some time free one weekend.

      I’m also starting to get involved in ‘stuff’ around town and will talk more about it soon. Very exciting times.

  3. Good to have you back I’ve been lurking for a while and have missed your insights. I’m an American now living in Australia. I’m new to Australia but have not lived in the US for 9 years and I’m pretty sure if I ever had to go back it would be very hard to adjust. Sounds like you are through the worst of it.

  4. I feel ya! I lived in Laos for 3 years and am now back in America. It’s okay when you are the foreigner that sticks out people go out of their way to help you but when you are the foreigner that blends in and no one really extends a hand it is a lot harder. Friendships just take time and the old ones are not the same as they used to be. It can be lonely but time heals the soul, at least that is what I am counting on.

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