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Reverse Culture Shock

Here's where to discuss the practicalities and issues involved in moving back to the UK.

Reverse Culture Shock

Postby wonderlust » Thu 23 Mar 2006 14:41 GMT

Last October I returned to the UK after having spent 2 years living and working as a TEFL teacher in Taiwan.

My experiences of returning to the UK have not been great. Aside from having to reaclimatise to the cold, wet and dark British winter, and get used to high taxes and a comparatively astronomical cost of living, I have found it very difficult to "settle-in". I have found that while my family and friends have been great at welcoming me back into the UK, that it is harder to find common ground than before. It is hard to make new friends, and in fact the only people I have really bonded with are other returning ex-pats.

While inevitably I miss things and people from my life in Taiwan, at the same time I am aware of all the frustrations I had while living there. Similarly, when I was in Taiwan, I missed the UK but was also aware of all the less pleasant aspects of life here.

My life in Britain now seems to be filled with stresses and pressures to conform and compete, and I am without any sense of belonging or community. I am beginning to weigh up my options with a view to a permanant move abroad. However I don't want to end up like some of the frustrated ex-pats I have met who don't really feel like they belong anywhere.

What are other returning expats' experiences of reverse culture shock, and how have they dealt with it?
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Postby Kay » Thu 23 Mar 2006 16:41 GMT

Sorry you're not settling in as well as you might be. Everyone's experience is different so let's hope you get a variety of views. Personally my way of dealing with reverse culture shock in the UK was to go somewhere else again as soon as possible.

Your situation is obviously different, though, as it seems you have friends and family whom you want to be near. Perhaps a compromise would suit you? Maybe France or Spain where "home" isn't so far away and where your friends and family might even visit you. Much more chance of that than them going to Taiwan presumably.

Good luck and keep in touch to let us know how you're getting on.

Kay 8)
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Returned after living in the US - life is great here

Postby harunys » Thu 25 May 2006 06:14 GMT

Our experince is different than yours - I returned in 2003 after living in the US for 14 years. My wife is an American. We both love it here.

I have never been to Taiwan so I'm not sure what you are missing. However, after being away from the UK for so long, and maybe being married to a Yank, I no longer felt the need to conform or be so anal about everything.

What I do notice about my relatives in England is their unwillingless to try anything new or foreign, which I found extremely frustrating at first; and their fear of the unknown and adversion to risk. Most of my friends and family have not moved more than about 6 miles from where we grew-up.

Once I learnt to ignore their silly rants and basically not waste too much time with them, I see them about as often as I did when I lived in the US, my wife and I find life in the UK great.

I think the secret is that when you return don't try to return to your old way of life, but start again. The UK has a lot to offer.

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Postby ruggie » Wed 4 Oct 2006 12:58 GMT

That's good advice, Rooney. Even people who move around within the UK can find it impossible to fit back into the social set they came from - particularly if it is a set whose world view doesn't extend to the other side of the county it inhabits.

You're not the same person any more, so don't expect to be at ease with all the same friends.
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Postby Purley » Thu 12 Oct 2006 22:46 GMT

My sister and I have found the same thing. She says that when she is in England, we both live in Canada, nobody is at all interested in Canada, whereas any Brits coming to Canada are always bombarded with questions about England.

We get along well with our sister in England, but we both have the feeling that if it is not British - it's no good. If it's Canadian, they know before they find out about whatever it is - that they won't like it. When my sister was in England once, round about this time of the year, she decided that she would make a pumpkin pie, which is traditional at Thanksgiving which is the second Monday in October in Canada. She said the family were just rude about it. They said it was disgusting and tasted of cinnamon and spices and who would want to eat that?? Now, I am not saying that everyone likes pumpkin pie - but it seems rather strange that everyone hated it.

I guess I have got off the topic a bit - sorry about that!
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Taiwan too!

Postby willow leo » Sat 16 Feb 2008 17:13 GMT

I'm not sure if you still get notified of replies but I just found this thread.

I lived in Taiwan for 2 1/2 years before moving to Hong Kong for the same and I still don't feel "settled" back in the U.K. - I also live in England now when I originally come from Scotland (my home town felt very strange after lving in big cities). It's been over a year and still get homesick for Hong Kong (made worse by the fact my brother, sister-in-law and tiny niece still live there). I didn't know it would feel like this. I never felt this strongly when I left the U.K. in the first place so I didn't expect to feel so displaced.

I was wondering how things are for you now?

Are there any factual sites for this on the internet?

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Postby web-kitten » Sun 30 Mar 2008 12:52 GMT

Hi Kirsty, I'm glad you found this thread. We are about to move back to the UK after 4 years in the UAE. I'm quite apprehensive about moving back. What aspects have you found hard (apart from being so far from some of your family)? Is it just because you feel Hong Kong is better than the UK? (I WISH we could have lived there, it's amazing). Did your UK friends treat you any differently on your return? What things are you happy to have returned to?

Any advice you can give me that might make the return a little easier? Do you think you'll stay in the UK now or you'll go on somewhere new?
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Postby Mariama » Fri 25 Apr 2008 09:00 GMT

So glad to have found this thread, I can relate to your stress Wonderlust and I hope you are feeling better adjusted now. My experience was; horror at the amount of water we use over here, supermarkets were WIERED places for me, mind you I never liked them. What I really miss is the; caring, the sense of community and involvement, the sisterhood and an acceptance of who I am. Living in Gambia there is so little 'consumption' and bureaucracy compared to here.

To be real though, there were things about living in Gambia that I found very hard to cope with, maybe living elsewhere allows us to build up a world viewpoint 'perfect picture' of how we would really like the world we live in to be. This isn't possible of course. My trite answer to 'what is it like living in Africa is; "same s**t different style" and I have come to really believe that.

It’s hard to find your 'place' when you hold different values in life. I knew this before I went to live abroad; I was raised in a Jewish family and I was a follower of the 'hippy' movement in the 60's (we were all about changing values!) Knowing that it 'doesn’t have to be like this' is one thing but finding all that you want from one place is, I think, an impossibility and having your mind broadened inevitably makes you 'different'. My answer is to be with people and share the things I can and keep to myself and my soul/mate friends for all the rest.

I now share my time between the two cultures, I have family in both places, to be honest I wouldn't want to have to make a choice. In fact thinking about it I can’t it would all depend on the particular circumstances at the time, too much choice is not necessarily an aid to happiness!

I would love to know how you are coping now, cheers Mariama
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