Family Transitions: The Return Home


As summer comes to a close, many families are finishing their relocation journeys, whether to a new home abroad or back to their home countries. While the journey is no doubt exhilarating, moving an entire family to an unfamiliar country presents a unique host of challenges, not least of which is cultural adaptation for both yourself and your children.

In an effort to support new families in comfortably settling into their new homes in Beijing, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Head of Student Support Services Ron Drisner, drawing on over 10 years of student counseling experience abroad, has offered a variety of useful advice and suggestions for newly relocated parents and their children.

The third and final part of a three part series, we explore the potential challenges that parents and children face when readapting to their home country’s environment after spending time abroad.


What Is Reverse Culture Shock?

Reverse culture shock is a way of describing the feelings of anxiety and stress that are felt when a person moves back to their ‘home’ culture. Often people can be taken by surprise by the challenges of returning home largely because they feel the adjustment will be easier. This is partly due to the fact that there is a sense that they will be returning to the familiar and not taking into account how much they have changed and how much life at home has changed and, in many cases, moved on. If you have lived abroad for an extended period of time, it may be helpful to take some precautionary measures to avoid facing this issue when you return home!


Anticipating Reverse Culture Shock

When judging how severe you think your or your children’s reverse culture shock might be, you should consider several factors:

  • Length of time away – The longer one has been away, the greater the changes that have taken place and the more difficult it is to adjust to routines back home.
  • Depth of Engagement – The more someone had adapted to their new culture in terms of language, food, and customs, the greater the challenge can be in letting these go and adapting back to cultural expectations at home.
  • Differences in Cultures – The greater the differences between one’s host culture and their home culture, the greater the potential ‘reverse culture shock’ might be. For example, someone moving back to the United States from the UK may have some adjustment issues, but it might not be as difficult as someone moving back to the US from India.
  • Personality –All of the previous factors are heavily impacted by personality. Each person reacts to and handles change and the accompanying stress differently. Some individuals embrace the challenge of adapting to new circumstances and are very flexible while others in the same situation react completely differently because of the lack of structure and predictability.

Judging your time abroad through these specific lenses will help you to predict how much of an issue reverse culture shock may be when moving back to your home country.


The Readaptation Process

????????????????????????????????????The major miscalculation that many families make during their return home is that after living overseas, you aren’t the same and neither is ‘home.’ To prevent the resulting shock and depression, the first thing to do is to be aware once you know you are moving. Allow for discussion and for family members to express their feelings about what they’re going through in regards to the move. Second, find supports. Look for people who understand and that can listen when you’re having a bad day.

Lastly, be informed. There are many great resources available on this subject! A great place to start is the seminal work about living overseas: “Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up among Worlds” by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken. By starting with being aware that moving is packing and unpacking emotionally and then being informed about the process, one will be taking significant steps in handling the challenges that come from reverse culture shock.

Interested in learning about culture shock and other related parenting and family-related topics? Visit YCIS  events page to learn about upcoming parenting seminars at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing. These seminars are free of charge to all members of the YCIS Beijing community!


Miss the earlier parts of this series? Read Part One and Part Two now!


Contribution from Rodney Hope, Marketing Officer @ Yew Chung International School of Beijing, 北京耀中国际学校

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I am living in China since 2007. I am sharing my experiences for other expatriates to make their stay in Beijing more enjoyable. As I am writing this blog for SCOUT Real Estate agency, I am also computing updates about the Real Estate market in Beijing, not only on residential properties, but as well on commercial locals and offices. Hope you enjoy your reading!