Monkey Abroad

Videos and stories of the life abroad – food, culture, travel & work

reverse culture shock

Feeling Reverse Culture Shock in America


Like a whirlwind of warm hugs, high-fives and rekindled romance, my two-week vacation in America is over. It passed as quickly as it came, spitting me out feeling jet-lagged and reflecting on this strange new sensation of reverse culture shock.

While home in the States, I mused on the possibility of reverse culture shock, the odd sensation you’re susceptible to upon returning to your home country after a prolonged period abroad, like your own home is a foreign place.

After reading about how this odd feeling can be more profound than original culture shock itself, I had artificially built it up for myself to be something it wasn’t. Sure the food, driving, language and a bunch of other things were expectedly different, but I was prepared—even excited—for that stuff.

reverse culture shock

My sister and me, about to jump in the pool for our annual winter-time “polar plunge” tradition.

Turns out, that devilish minx reverse culture shock struck me in an entirely unexpected way. I felt detached, like I had a great gift that couldn’t be shared.

Spoken and written communication are poorly equipped mediums to convey the adventure, the aloneness and the pride I feel living in Asia. The most frustrating part of my brief return home was my impotence to disseminate that feeling.

I’m a young guy still trying to figure out who I am and what I’m doing with my life. I’d probably feel this way regardless of reverse culture shock, lost checked suitcase, and the jet lag settling in after my travel-themed affair with Xanax.

As you’re reading this, my checked baggage is sinking deeper, probably forever, into the mix of thousands of other nameless black suitcases floating around in the Chinese luggage abyss during this hectic Chinese New Year travel season.

Good news: I have my computer and camera, and it’s about to become the year of the horse this week in China.

Bad news: All my clothes and the electronics chords to my phone and camera bit the dust. That means no new photos or videos until I buy a new USP plug-in chord. I’m disappointed that I can’t share my photos from home yet. Plus, I actually have to wash my underwear this week. Talk about a bummer.

reverse culture shock

A textbook analysis of reverse culture shock.

At home, some close friends gave kind suggestions for my blog. Others asked to be mentioned in a story about my return home. I’d originally planned on posting a photo essay about my experience detailing the not-so-bad perils of reverse culture shock, but that’ll have to wait.

My two-week vacation in America was a soul-refreshing celebration of life with my best homeland friends, tying up loose ends, and the revival of a volatile long-time romance.

Like a blurred time warp, I’m in my PRC home again, unscathed physically, but tired and cranky. Now I’m back in my on-campus apartment, exactly as I left it two weeks ago. My thirst for remigration satiated, my fervor for intercultural exploration reawakening.

Beijing, here I come.

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!


  1. Just don’t walk the Great Wall “Bieber” style…. PS: Great Post!

  2. I just began my American return over the weekend. Cashed in miles to fly Business/First Class between Shanghai-Detroit via L.A. & Miami, leading one of my Twitter buds to ask if Mr. Magoo handled my travel booking. Definitely wish I could afford to fly Biz on future overseas flights, enjoyed the pampering and lie-flat seat!

    Once I stopped moving, jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks. Today is the first day I feel “normal.” Hanging out at home in Ann Arbor, then off to Chicago for the weekend to reunite with friends (lived there until my Asian move). Ann Arbor again, then spending a few days in Hong Kong until I go back to Haikou. Next semester I’ve been assigned to the screaming tweens of middle school. (I’m buying out earplugs!)

  3. That is an interesting chart, never seen that one before. I think after two years of being back in the States from Asia that I am in the ‘reintegration’ phase, although I still find it hard to relate to some people that I know here back home.

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