Information on Reverse Cultural Shock & Re-entry Stress

Reverse Cultural Shock and Re-Entry Stress

Coming home can be a very difficult time for your team.  They can feel overwhelmed, grieved over the separation from new friends in the target country, frustrated and angry at their home culture, and like their lives at home are meaningless.  This is called reverse culture shock.

You will not be the same after participating on a Ministry/Missions trip.  The new friendships, the team’s close fellowship, intense prayer and the joys of seeing people saved, healed and delivered by the power of God will change you forever.  The shock of being in a new culture will draw new feelings from you, but coming home may be even more difficult.  Even after a trip of a few short weeks, you may find yourself having some difficulty readjusting to being back in your usual routine.  You may find yourself reacting to what appears to be complacency all around you and as a result experience some re-entry stress.  You may start asking yourself “What now?”  These feelings and questions are normal reactions to this kind of experience and will be shared by every team member to some degree.

Re-entry stress or reverse culture shock generally is experienced to a greater degree the longer one has been in another country.  Disillusionment with America and American Christianity play a part in any re-entry stress that is experienced (when traveling to foreign countries).

  • Be aware that you may experience some depression, loneliness, fatigue and illness as re-entry symptoms of stress.  You can be stressed by either happy or sad events.  You may go through a grief process.
  • Be alert to your own expectations and the expectations of others.  Value conflicts may occur.
  • Allow for rest, reflection and rejoicing in what you have seen God do.  Go over your experiences and ask the Lord to show you the various aspects of your trip and grow from them.  Evaluate what you have been through.
  • Take your time to readjust.  Be patient with others who do not understand what you have experienced.

What can happen:

  1. Self-concept – Any life-changing experience can cause you to re-evaluate who you are in light of the experience.  Questions about the meaning of life and its direction may be a part of the re-entry process.  You may decide never to go outside the United States again or you may discover that there is a call on your life to ministry outside the United States.  Questioning life can be good, but the uncertainty of the answers may cause some stress.
  1. Value Change and Choice – Clashes between you and those to whom you return may occur in several different areas, such as material possessions, family life, racial prejudice, national priorities in ecology and politics, and Christian community conflicts.  Some workers develop a “holier than Thou” attitude towards those who did not go.  This can lead to you becoming disillusioned with Christians at home and cause you to consider them more tolerant of sin and not as committed as the Christians you met while outside the United States.

You may face the problem of integrating what you have just seen with what you see around you at home.  Your eyes may be opened to the shallowness of Western Materialism and you may want to react by telling others they are wrong to own so many “things”, eat so much food and waste so much.

  1. Expectations – You will have had many expectations for your trip about the culture and language differences, the new and exotic country and God’s purpose for you making the trip.  However, you may not have expected the reactions you may encounter when you return home.  You may find that you feel like a stranger now in your own country.  You may have expected your family and friends to be as excited as you are about your experience and become hurt if they show little or no real interest about something that has made a tremendous impact on your life.  Realize that many will just not be able to understand what you have been through.  This seemingly lack of interest can reinforce in you an opinion that American Christian are just not interested in the rest of the world and re simply lovers and pleasers of self.  You must guard yourself from becoming resentful toward family, friends and American Christians.
  1. Sense of Loss – You may experience a sense of loss over newfound friends and places or from being disconnected from the rest of the team.  Your recent experience is not the nitty-gritty reality of everyday life.  Being in a strange country, away from all familiar cues and the security of familiar faces and places can facilitate a tendency to become extremely close to fellow team members an when you return home you may experience a sense of void.  It may take sometime to readjust to your life as it was before your trip.  You may also feel a loss of purpose and self-importance.  God has just used you greatly to minister to the needs of others in a different country and when you return this purpose may seem somewhat lessened.

STAGES OF RE-ENTRY

  1. Initial Euphoria – You are pleased to be home and everyone is glad to see you.

  1. Irritability and Hostility – After the initial euphoria you may become irritated and hostile toward others for any number of reasons.

  1. Gradual Adjustment – It may take time for you to readjust to the way your life was before your trip.

  1. Adaptation – You have been changed.  Life went on when you were gone and it may take time for you to catch up.

RESPONSES TO REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

To minimize the effects of re-entry stress find methods of “closure”.  One example is to stay in touch with other team members after returning home.  Be sure you should share things about the present with them and not just the memories of your trip.  See your experience realistically and allow God to show you how to use this use it.  Have a right perspective of God’s total plan.

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1 Comment

  1. Post trip prayer requests… « Team Lifespring Thailand’s Blog said,

    […] July 31, 2009 at 4:47 am (Lynnette) Please continue to pray for our team members as we are still readjusting to our regular routines.  It’s not uncommon for mission trip participants to face mild depression upon re-entry…see page on Reverse Cultural Shock & Re-entry Stress […]

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