What I Wish I Knew About Culture Shock Before Moving Back From Japan
I thought I was prepared for arrival.
I was, in fact, prepared for the culture shock of moving to a new country. Struggling with the language, difficulties making friends, fitting in around the office. Well tread culture divides I knew ahead of time and was ready for.
In What I wasn’t expecting was how bad the shock was coming home.
The hardest hits are the ones we don’t see coming.
I was elated when I boarded my flight from Tokyo to Boston. I was done. Weeks of rowdy goodbye dinners with friends. Endless tears and hugs in the airport lounge. A budding romance cut short in its prime. The hard part was over, I thought.
And yet, two months later I was still struggling fitting back into American society. I couldn’t wrap my head around why. This was the place I felt most comfortable in the world, so why was I so deeply depressed?
I struggle the most with things I can’t recognize. Issues that wait in the shadows and lurk in the unexplored corners of my mind. I couldn’t fix myself before thinking through why I was struggling so hard.
It’s my hope that my realizations will help others prepare better than I did.
People moved on without you
Who the fuck are these people, and why are they hanging out with my friends?
They can’t have broken up, they were a perfect couple!
The neighborhood looks so different!
Yes, these are things that I said (out loud and to myself). While you were out experiencing new things and enjoying a new chapter in your life, all your friends and family had the audacity to move on with their own lives as well. Take a moment to recognize the beauty of this, embrace the change, and reconnect with the people important to you.
The spark of the new and interesting is gone
When you’re in a new place, even an hour long train ride gives you a fresh perspective. Back in the places you grew up around, appreciating your surroundings and what they offer requires a more active approach.
Think about what you enjoy at home and how to make more of it. There’s a reason you came back. For me it was the salty attitude of the locals, the vibrancy of the city, and the nearby options for nature trips. Find the things you love about your home and grab onto them.
You feel unmoored and directionless
When I was in Japan, I had two objectives: Be good at my job, and enjoy the time I had. Life was simple, and my short stay made it so that I didn’t need goals any more lofty than that. I came back into a life filled with more responsibility due to a promotion, and no overarching goal to tie them back to. Looking back, taking some time to consider what I wanted out of the next year or two of my life would’ve made the adjustment smoother.
The biggest challenges we face are the ones that surprise us. With these things in mind, I hope your landing is smoother than mine