What is it really like returning home after a long period of extended travel?
Everyone will have a different experience when they return home after a big adventure. I had never heard of ‘reverse culture shock’ but it is a very really thing. I had spent 14 months away from the UK before coming home to visit for a month. I was really excited about coming home and told no one that I was flying back. I wanted it to be a surprise. Sitting on the plane for 21 hours felt like 21 hours! I literally lost the will to live doing that journey. However the excitement to see friends and family was my anchor. What I wasn’t expecting was the ‘reverse culture shock.’
When I first flew to Australia in 2013 the first few weeks were emotional. I questioned whether I had made the right decision. I was overwhelmed by the differences nothing was familiar not: accents, cars, roads, supermarkets, celebrity culture, currency etc.
I was staying at my cousins house in Melbourne and I remember coming home from work and bursting into floods of tears. I didn’t like my job and I missed home. I came very close to flying home. In fact my sister was ready to jump on a plane to convince me to stay. I decided however to fly to the Gold Coast for some sunshine because Melbourne was absolutely freezing.
Flying to the Gold Coast Coolangatta was the best decision I made. This is where I truly fell in love with the Australian lifestyle and the hot surfers!
Fast forward 14months, after finding my feet I spent most of my time in Western Australia basking in beautiful sunshine.
When I arrived in London I was expecting it to be cold. I flew from 40degrees to -4c. What I wasn’t expecting though, was the 3 hours of sunshine a day and the severe jet lag. I remember sitting in my bed at 6am waiting for the sun to rise, it was pitch black and cold. I have lived in England all my life how could I forget that for 4 months of the year we go to work and its dark and we come home from work and its dark. Why all of a sudden was this a shock?!
My body clock was on a different time zone for around 2 weeks which caused me to feel disorientated sweaty and generally sick. Everything appeared smaller and cramped. Houses seemed tiny and stacked on top of each other. The roads became scary. I was convinced that cars were going to crash into each other. In comparison roads and highways are colossal in Australia enough space for everyone.
Travelling around London felt like hell on earth. People are everywhere scurrying around like obedient mice and squashing themselves on to the tubes like sardines because the next tube is an entire 60 seconds away! My brain was wired to dollars instead of pounds the policemen looked hilarious in their black helmets.
I missed the familiarity of the Australian accents and humour or lack of humour as some Poms (British) may say! But the strange thing is when I am in Australia if I am not surrounded by the Irish and the British I feel home sick. ‘Weird aye?!’
I have now returned back to England for a second time with no clear return date to Australia. It took me a few weeks to pinpoint my feelings and relationship with Australia. Being home with no set return date in sight feels like a sense of loss. I feel as though I have lost or losing a part of myself. I have immersed myself into a new culture, made new friends, found new interests.I have a tax number, bank account, drivers provisional licence, medical card for Australia. I am back in my own country but I am no longer a resident here. I can’t claim benefits I need to prove I am living here to be put back on the electoral role. I was taken off the list of my local doctors. I need to gather reference checks and police checks from Australia to apply for jobs in England. I feel like I am neither here nor there. My visa is still active in Australia so pointless closing my bank account because I can’t claim certain monies back until my visa expires.
Apart from feeling like an illegal alien there is also the boredom factor. The highlight of my day is spending money on necessities in the local supermarket. I gauge whether it’s worth leaving the house by the weather. [If it’s raining I ain’t leaving.] Luckily the weather for October has been pretty awesome. It’s almost like an Australian winters day. My top tips on combating reverse culture shock is:
Don’t lose yourself, if your style of dress is international. Keep it! Be you!
Keep eating the same diet that you have been eating. Granted it’s hard to get some things. I miss Sippah and Bunderberg Pineapple and Coconut drinks.
Write a blog to relive your journey.
Talk to your friends and family about how you feel.
Plan your next getaway!