Reverse Culture Shock – Were You Born in the Wrong Place?


great guana cay bahamas

images borrowed from Linda Thompkins 

As many of you know my area of study in University was Socio-cultural Anthropology. One of the first subjects students are taught is that of Culture Shock. What it is, the stages, how to prepare and cope. Brushed over in the day was Reverse Culture Shock which not I, but my family found the most difficult to cope with.

One may be able to prepare for Culture Shock and expect to experience it. But do we know how severe Reverse Culture Shock will become after we return home or if we will experience it all?

Millions of people travel each year, return home and never suffer a thing. I would argue those are usually the ones who tend to stay in their resorts and keep themselves semi-removed from the new Culture by exploring the sights via tour companies.

Those of us who experience a Culture through participant observation and deeply immerse ourselves  in the ‘ new way of  life’ are unfortunately more susceptible. I say unfortunate, because it can become debilitating.

I’d like to think there is a cure but I can’t. Only acceptance, understanding and more travel seem to alleviate the shock.

After an extended stay in the West Indies years ago, and upon my return home, my family told me I was depressed. They were concerned and sent me to my doctor.

He asked me what the pleasure of the visit was and I explained my family sent me as they believed I needed anti-depressants. He asked what the basis of this depression was and I explained.

He looked at me for a long time, studied me most bemusedly, then launched into a statistical speech regarding the over use of meds in our society, especially in regards to depression.

“Are you depressed when you travel?” he questioned. My reply, “Of course not, It’s the only time I feel content!”

According to him people often confuse lack of contentment for depression and they all want pills for it.

“Unfortunately some of us,”  he smiled, “Were born in a place we don’t belong. It just doesn’t suit our character. Or perhaps, we are simply descendants of the great explorers who made the world what it is today. If we lived the lives that made us content the pharmaceutical company would have to find different pills to push.”

He patted me on the shoulder as he passed me a piece of paper, “You aren’t suffering from depression Kelly. Go home and tell your family my prescription is an airplane ticket and Vitamin D in the form of sunshine. It is people like you who make the world a better place.”

I hugged him. I love that man!

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