Reverse Culture Shock: How To Come Back Home After Years Abroad?

Culture shock is a topic largely tackled by the scholars, and companies sending their assignees abroad - who are aware of the challenges it brings along - the latter often aiming at minimizing the side effects that could hinder their performances and well-being.

However, when it’s time to come back home, the global employees are believed to undergo the homecoming process smoothly, which appears to be a misconception.

ASI Movers has been helping expats coming back home for more than 10 years, providing them the logistics support they need to manage their relocation effectively, we thus decided to break down the concept of reverse culture shock.


Culture shock is the psychological, emotional and cultural aspects of reentry after several years spent overseas, often leading to emotional and psychological distress due to an unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country.

Breaking Down Reverse Culture Shock

If you have been living abroad, or even if you are a traveler, you must be familiar with the concept of culture shock, which happens when one is facing a culture totally different from one’s own, ending up in one not knowing the social codes, habits, values, and environment and experiencing disorientation.

Culture shock is commonly known for consisting in 4 steps: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and adaptation; and has been described by Craig Storti as following a U-shape (Craig Storti, The Art of Coming Home).

Storti added that if we also consider the reentry, the whole process follows a W shape.


Why Does One Experience Reverse Culture Shock?

Why the place we once called home suddenly becomes foreign to us when returning?

To answer this question, we have to define home not only as a place, but also as a routine, a set of habits, feelings and acquaintances that makes us feel at ease. As stated by Craig Storti "the essence of home can be described in three key elements: familiar places, familiar people and routines, and predictable patterns of interactions".

Therefore, three main reasons explain why home no longer feels like home:

  • You have adapted to your life abroad: following the U-curve previously described, you have adapted to your life abroad, picking up the habits, the codes, and the way of thinking of the local. Being abroad has changed you, which explains why home does not completely feel like home anymore.
  • You have changed because of your experiences abroad and what you learned being far from your home country.
  • Home has changed and/or is not similar to the image you kept in mind: being abroad also means life continues back home, the environment you were used to (economic, political, cultural, and even physical) has evolved, and even your friends have aged with time. You also kept in mind an idealized image of home, and comparing it with the reality when returning is often disappointing.

Consequently, you can feel marginalized, become critical toward your home town/country which can eventually lead to exhaustion and depression.

How can one avoid the negative outcomes of coming back home?

How to Manage Reverse Culture Shock?

  • Prepare before coming back and take the time to say goodbye to your life abroad, visiting the places you did not have time to, inviting your friends, and accepting to let all of this go.
  • Take some time to review what you expect from returning home, what are the disappointments you might face, and how you can cope with them.
  • Define a routine incorporating elements of your life abroad. Not only is having a satisfying routine good for your mental health, it is also a way of building the feeling of “being home”. Moreover, by adding elements reminiscent of your previous lifestyle, you can avoid feeling totally foreign to your new environment by retrieving your habits.
    Adopting a balance diet and exercising regularly have been proven to increase one’s wellbeing and reduce stress.
  • You might miss the thrill which comes with being abroad, as such try to recreate it by enrolling in projects and activities that stimulate you.
  • You can reach out to associations and groups of people who have also lived abroad as to find like-minded individuals who understand your struggles and can provide you support. Often, your friends back home do not pay the attention you expected them to display to your stories and are not aligned anymore with your views, which makes having people with whom you can relate is essential.
  • However, we would advise you to make efforts to reconnect with your family and friends back home. They were used to live without you, which makes it easy for them to not change their routine when you come back. Take the matters into your own hands and organize your upcoming reunions.

Reverse culture shock will be a more and more common phenomenon with the globalization of the economy and the increase in international assignments.

That is the reason why, at ASI Movers, we believe it is important for expats and global individuals to be aware of this concept as to prepare beforehand and avoid the side effects. We are here to simplify your international relocation from, to, and within China!

Wanderlust: The Expat Gene Explained by ASI Movers

When one tries to learn more about expats and what drove them into choosing this lifestyle, the first reason that comes up is career.

Choosing to become an expatriate is usually a great way to boost one’s career either because the opportunities are booming in one specific location, or because companies are demanding one valued employee to do the same magic one did before but in a new market, and thus prove one’s capabilities and value for the enterprise.

Nevertheless, and as many people are saying that they couldn’t expatriate, or at least would not do it long-term, is a clue into thinking that there is something else motivating those who make this leap.

The answer might lie in one German concept: “wanderlust”.

What is Wanderlust?

According to its formal definition, Wanderlust is both “a very strong impulse to travel” and “strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”. Etymologically, this term is composed of two words: “wandern”, which means “to hike” (and not “to wander”), and “lust” which means “desire”. The association of these two terms literally means “enjoyment of hiking”, but the true translation would rather be the enjoyment of wandering, roaming around.

One needs to trace the imaginary coming with this concept as to grasp its true meaning: German romanticism, the peculiar form of apprenticeship that characterizes this country i.e. going on a journey, and the tradition to seek unity in the Nature are the major elements.

It is then easy to see why this term has been associated with experiencing foreign countries: one being in a new location does not have other occupation but to – precisely – roam around in the attempt to learn more and get more familiar with the location and its people.

What Does Wanderlust Means Today?

Rather than seeking relaxation and comfort, the individual having Wanderlust is thriving for engaging in new cultural experiences.

These people are indeed interested in facing unfamiliar environments, and being challenged by them. Sociologists also argue that by doing so, by putting themselves in relatively uncomfortable situations, individuals also try to learn more about themselves. Being far from what one calls home would be the occasion to concentrate on one’s self.


Nowadays, Wanderlust is usually associated with tourism, but it appears that the expat lifestyle is even more prone to attract minds with the Wanderlust gene, as scientists might have found the DRD4-7R gene to be the root of this taste of enjoying discovering new places, new cultures, and find happiness in it. This gene is indeed believed to be a variant of dopamine receptor (the neurotransmitter involved in the reward-motivated behavior, well one can say the neurotransmitter associated with satisfaction). The result? Those bearing it would be more prone to liking new experiences, discovering places and cultures, them being intrinsically curious.


As such, even though this term has become extremely popular lately, truly having Wanderlust is not about just dreaming about your next vacations in a paradisiac island. As stated above, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, taking this time to truly discover the place you headed to, adapting your behavior accordingly, and enjoying learning more about your attitude towards this new paradigm, are more relevant elements.

How to Turn Wanderlust To Your Advantage?

Besides encouraging you to experience as many places as you can, having wanderlust is also a great chance for several other reasons:

  • Having Wanderlust is a wonderful occasion to accumulate knowledge. Because people bearing this gene are naturally attracted to new places, it is easy to assume they are curious. Take the most of these occasions to learn more about the places you visit and the cultures you meet. It is both beneficial for you personally as it will enrich your general knowledge and but also your employability.
  • In the workplace: not being afraid of change, being curious of new cultures and trying to grasp as much as you can from them, being mobile and not reluctant to relocating often are key elements in nowadays job market. Companies are taking full advantage of globalization and are searching for people with an international mindset, and who can easily dive into the local culture as to enable the company to answer the specific demand of the market. As such, if you have this kind of aspirations and mindset, playing this card during interviews is recommended.
  • Having wanderlust means that change does not frighten you. As societies are evolving quicker than ever with the Internet, new technologies in general, and globalization, you will most likely not suffer from having to adapt to new paradigms on a daily basis.


Putting the emphasis of the pros of having Wanderlust does not mean there is no cons. Being driven by your taste of forever seeking new experiences and places also means leaving behind what you have built each time you head to a new destination. It can be frustrating for your close ones, and even for you. When you can call everywhere home, it can sometimes feel that nowhere truly is. It nevertheless appears that being with your family/partner is the key to a stable wanderlustful life.


ASI Movers has been helping expats in their relocation process for more than 10 years. Because those bearing the Wanderlust gene are more prone to changing location on a regular basis, they need a logistics service provider that goes beyond simply moving belongings, but provides you the fittest solution to your needs and enables you to put your trust in the people who help you build and achieve your relocation project.

Eager to explore what ASI Movers can do for you?