Do you or someone you know suffer from RCS?



“Reverse culture shock is the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after a number of years overseas. This can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.” 

Reverse Culture Shock is real, powerful, and can control ones emotional state for quit some time after being abroad. If you know someone suffering from RCS keep reading my story. This may help you deal with the symptoms that come back with your friend who travels.  

I had never in my life heard of reverse culture shock we will call it RCS. When I returned from Africa a few years ago, I just thought I was irritable because I missed Tanzania. Upon returning to the U.S 4 weeks ago (feels like a lifetime ago) I have been suffering from RSC; it’s worse than I ever imagined. Let me get off my chest what has been driving me nuts while being back in these United States. 

Public transportation or the lack of it is killing me. When I moved, I sold everything from clothes to my car; why would I need that stuff, right? Flying into a large U.S city from a country with exceptional public transport helps you acclimate but not fully. While waiting for the train from BWI to D.C I sat in a cold not so sterile room with 20 chairs; people looked bored and angry. Also the 1970’s called, it wants it train station back. There was a cartoon on the TV warning parents of the dangers of kidnappers and kids falling on the tracks…seriously. The next “show” was about bomb dogs and how they became so. I have been in a lot of train stations over the past year and have never seen such craziness as those two infomercials. I had been in the U.S for 10 minutes and fear was everywhere. Yes, be aware, be vigilant, don’t do stupid shit, and you will most likely be ok. But do we need to be reminded of it over and over and over again, I guess so since they make cartoons about it. 

Once down on the platform, the train arrived 10 minutes early and left 5 minutes early. This is the complete opposite of the precise schedules in Germany of which you can set your watch to. Once back in a town with little to no public transportation I realized how lucky people are that can afford the cars, car insurance, gas, property taxes. What does the other half do? Reverse culture shock doesn’t stop there, far from it, let’s move onto dinning out. 

I was a waitress for several years in my early 20’s, I feel like I did a good job and didn’t annoy me customers, made decent money. Well, going out to eat now annoys the every lovin’ shit out of me. Servers do not leave you alone. The other day I met up with a friend for lunch. I arrived first. I was seated and the server came over. I ordered a water and said I was waiting on a friend. As I was waiting he came over 2 more times to see if I “needed anything”. I told him I am still waiting for my friend. She arrived, we hugged, and as she was taking off her coat to sit down the waiter came over to get our order. I looked at him like he had lost his damn mind. Politely asking him for a few minutes to get settled; my friend and I began to chat, I mean we had not seen one another in a year. Oh we were the only people in the restaurant so they were not busy. Within 5 minutes he came over 3 times to see if we were ready. I, again, politely, asked him his name, he told me, I said I would let him know when we were ready. Whew…this worked. When we were ready we order; our food arrives and during the meal he comes over about 7 times to see if we needed anything. For goodness sakes, it’s lunch, we are pouring our own water…wtf do we need? This was not the first or last time this has happened while being back. Give me a restaurant  in the U.S where I am left in peace to enjoy my meal and catch up with friends, that’s all I ask. I dream of the days when I would go out to a restaurant and be completely ignored by the staff. 

I could go on and on about the effects of RCS but I won’t. But let me tell you about not being able to buy alcohol in one place on certain days. It was Christmas Eve 2017, it fell on a Sunday and I wanted to run out to get a bottle of wine for dinner. As I am thinking about leaving for the store, I tell my step dad I will just run out and get a few bottles. He looked at me and said, “ No you won’t”. I am slightly confused and reply with, “why not?”, it’s Sunday he says. I become enraged. If you don’t know, in some parts of the southern United States you are not allowed to buy alcohol on Sunday due to certain laws that have been on the books for hundreds of years; you know to make sure us heathens go to church on Sunday instead of drink. 

Not only can you not buy alcohol in some states on Sunday alcohol is sold in separate types of stores unlike everywhere else in the entire world from Bangkok to England, believe me I have seen it. So if you want a bottle of wine or beer you can get that at a market but if you want liquor, well now you have to go to a liquor store to get that; the only reason I can think of the separation is to inconvenience humans to the point they don’t want to go to two separate shops to buy alcohol. I am sure there is a better reason but I don’t know it. 

The symptoms of RCS can be mild to server depending on the length of your time away. Symptoms include mood swings, low tolerance for things that could be better but aren’t, and irritability. If you know someone who suffers from this tread lightly for a few weeks. After a few weeks the symptoms will subside but will never  fully go away. There is no cure but if you want to keep the person in your life comfortable buy them anything travel related, help them plan a trip, or just give them your airline miles.