When we moved to Lebanon three years ago, we were prepared to deal with culture shock. Now, we weren’t actually sure which aspects of culture we’d struggle with, but we were armed with information & statistics, realistic expectations, and cute little phrases to help us through (“it’s not bad, just different;” “you’ll need to make at least a million mistakes if you want to learn the language well” and so on). That’s not to say we didn’t struggle, we definitely had out moments of frustration and annoyance and “how can people live like this” thoughts, but overall, we managed well, and I think a lot of this had to do with the preparation we went through.
When we went back to the States this summer, we were prepared to deal with reverse culture shock. We expected it, we looked for it, we found it. But it was more funny than traumatizing (Caleb going to the store for diapers, for example, and coming home an hour and a half later with…. let’s just say he had two grocery bags very very full of stuff). More funny than shocking because we we prepared for it.
But no one told me about coming BACK. We aren’t coming back to somewhere new – we’ve spent the past three years exploring and learning to love this culture. And it’s not like we were gone very long – just the summer. But man, culture shock hit us like a ton of bricks this time around, and I was surprised by that! We’ve talked to several other families who spent the summer outside of Lebanon, and it seems many of them had similar feelings upon their return.
I’m wondering…. is it just a natural part of living overseas? Will this happen every time, or just after the first big trip away?
Or maybe it has more to do with bringing a family back? (When we first moved here, it was just Caleb and me. Isla was born here, and this summer was the first significant amount of time she’s spent in the States).
Or was it just because we were totally unprepared and expecting a smooth transition?
I’m curious to hear those of you who’ve been doing this longer than we have… was coming back after your first home assignment difficult? Did it get easier? What can we do to help others be more prepared than we were for re-entry?? Would love to hear your thoughts!!!