I was expecting reverse culture shock
It didn’t happen, until…
About a year ago when Feyma and I decided that we would move back to the United States, she told me that I might have a hard time adjusting to life in the USA, after being gone for so long.
We were not overly worried about Feyma adjusting, because for each of the previous two years she had spent time in the USA, and had already made the adjustment.
Because of what she told me, I did some research and found that when you experience “culture shock” when you return “home”, that is called Reverse Culture Shock. The more research I did on the topic, the more I expected that I would have a problem.
When we arrived in Indiana
On January 17, we arrived in Indiana. It was very different from what we were used to. The first thing that hit me in the face was when I stepped out of the airport door onto the sidewalk and it was around 35 degrees. It was very cold compared to the 80s and 90s that we were used to for the pst 20 years.
The weather only got worse. In less than a week after our arrival, it was 45 degrees below zero (wind chill factor). Although this kind of weather was indeed shocking, I took it in stride and I forced myself to adjust.
Just about every part of life was challenging for me. Bid adjustments. Things were much different from the Philippines. To be honest, things were much different from when I last lived in the USA, back in the 90s.
I forged ahead
Even though there were a lot of personal challenges, I forged ahead. I took everything in stride, accepted those things, and pushed myself to make the necessary adjustments.
My attitude of acceptance seemed to be working. I thought that I was not experiencing reverse culture shock. I was handling everything.
Reverse culture shock? It was not affecting me.
After 6 months
After having been here for about 6 months, my life started getting more difficult. Not really much in the way of bad things happening, just I realized that I was struggling with my feelings.
Should I move back to the Philippines?
I recently talked with Feyma about my feelings. I had more or less kept my feelings private, thinking that it was just a phase that I would pass through.
When I talked to Feyma, she asked me, “do you want to move back to the Philippines?”
Do I want to move back to the Philippines?
Truth is, I don’t have a desire to move back to the Philippines. I won’t say I will never move back, maybe we will retire there when the time comes.
But, my feeling is that I have lived a long time in the Philippines, and I was ready to move on. Ready to go to the next chapter of my life. That new chapter is not in the Philippines.
There are people I miss in the Philippines. But, I would not say I miss my life in the Philippines or want to go back at this time.
What kinds of problems am I experiencing?
The biggest issue I have is loneliness. During the late afternoon until the early hours of the morning, my wife and 2 kids are at work. I am home alone. I am also working during those hours. I work at home doing reselling – eBay, Amazon, that kind of thing.
I enjoy my work, but I just miss having people around. It is quiet in the house every afternoon/evening.
Another problem I have is just understanding the way some things work here. There have been so many changes in society here, in the way things get done, etc. It can be confusing.
I find myself calling my closest friend, LeRoy and asking him “stupid” questions of things that I really should know, but these are things that happened during my time away, and I am just trying to catch up and learn how everything works.
How can I remedy these issues?
As for the loneliness, I have a few ideas.
I have been looking into getting involved in the big brother program. I like kids, and getting involved helping a kid that does not have a father or something like that, would be very rewarding to me. I read an article a while back saying that the big brother program had been discontinued in this area last year. However, when I talked to a friend today, he said that he thinks that the program still exists. I will look into that more.
My friend also suggested that I might want to talk to some people at the local high school about doing some mentoring for kids that are interested in business or something like that. I think I would enjoy that, and I also think that I could offer some good information to such kids.
As for the other issue I mentioned, catching up with the many changes, I think the only real way to deal with that is to give it time. Learn the things that I missed out on. This will require more help from my friends, and I know that they will be willing to help me with those things.
My final conclusion
In the end, the best thing I can say is that I have learned that Reverse Culture Shock is real. I did not realize that I was experiencing that until recently, but looking back, I would say that the past 2 months or so I have really been dealing with the problem.
I’ll overcome it. It just takes time. It took me time to adjust to living in the Philippines too, of course.
I feel like an immigrant in my own country.
I’ve been there, Bob, and it does take some getting used to.
I still miss the Philippines–sometimes I really miss it. But I’ve also been re-adjusting to life here in the States since 2013. I’m not sure my wife or I would feel 100% “at home” if we moved back.
Send an email to me if there’s any way I can help.
Thanks for that offer, Kevin!
So you still feel you are adjusting after 6 years? I suppose it is a lifetime thing, you are always caught in the middle.
Some years back I wrote an article on LiP about once you are an expat you can never go back.
I think I’m pretty well adjusted by now, but I still miss the Philippines at times. Maybe that never goes away.
Hi Kevin. After reading your comments, I think feelings of trying to fit in, missing one place or another, etc. are going to be a lifetime, or at least long term thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I love the idea of you volunteering at the local schools or a Big Brother program. Your need for kids to work up to their potential, your life experiences and your genuine good heart could be used in so many ways. I am glad you are here and I believe good things are coming your way. Welcome home!
Hi Sandy – Thank you so much for your nice comment! I really appreciate it so much. I would really enjoy working with kids in some way, and I have been good at that in the past. Maybe I could teach kids about how to make money online, kind of an after school project.
I kind of understand after only a one year away trip. I found things more expensive than I expected during this visit….which makes a few things interesting.
Heading back as soon as they’ll let me leave because, for now, I’ll be on that side of the big pond.
Interesting comment, Byron. Especially the cost of living part. Feyma and I feel that the USA is way cheaper (at least here in Indiana) than we expected. We don’t see much of a difference between the cost of living here in Indiana than in Davao City.
Well you will find the difference in costs comes with the medical wealth extraction industry.
Food if you are a good shopper is quite a bit cheaper here. Except for fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course with all the cold wet weather world wide ruining crops that is going up world wide.
Rent is crazy here compared to rural Philippines.
Hi John – Really, my article has nothing to do with costs. Frankly, we find the cost of living here right on par with Davao where we lived. Rent is half here what we paid there. Medical is not a huge concern because we have good insurance through my wife’s job.
My feelings are just more cultural, and personal.
For many cost of living is what it all comes down to. For me, I did not move to the Philippines because it is cheap to live there… I moved there to live good.
Thanks for stopping by here!
Loneliness has never been an issue for me I’m a bit of a loaner anyway. If anything I could use more time alone still yet. My wife doesn’t understand it of course. Even she enjoys living in rural Missouri with the nearest neighbors 1/4 mile away though. So much different than the Philippines.
She goes crazy with thrift stores and yard sales. She hates to buy new things when you can find them cheap used.
She really does miss her family though.
We lived in Costa Rica for a year and a half then here in the US about that long so its been a while, fortunately her sister married someone with with parents in MO so she see’s her occasionally now.
I would also say I’m a bit of a loner, but I do really enjoy spending time with my wife. Being alone with her, that is really the ultimate loner experience for me. I miss that a lot.
I have many of the same feeling during my brief family vacations back to the States. I wasn’t going to comment until I read the last line of your post:
I feel like an immigrant in my own country.
I really feel that if I moved back to the States full-time the strangeness of so many things might be overwhelming. I have to be “helped” with so many things.
Perhaps Thomas Wolfe was right: “You can’t go home again”.
you are right, Dave, and if you ever decide to make the move, you will experience the things that I am describing, and what you are fearing. but, I guess it’s just a change in life, and probably we should not fear those things.
I spent just one week back in UK, to attend my son’s wedding – that was in 2017, after being in Philippines for ten years.
UK no longer felt like ‘home’, and I was pleased to land back in Davao (even though martial law had been imposed just four hours after I flew out).
Lots of things had changed during my ten years absence – I even had to ask in the supermarket, somewhat apologetically, whether it was still okay to pay for my groceries with cash!
Hi Peter. I kind of feel stuck in the middle. I don’t feel at home here, and I have already left there and not interested to return.
Try to stay involved still in the Philippines you can send a whole container for a low price think what you can put in there that could help alot of people
Hi Mark – Thanks for your suggestion. Not sure if you read the whole article, but as I indicated, I don’t have much interest in the Philippines. I miss some people, but I am happy to not be living in the Philippines anymore. I’m afraid that if I got involved in Philippine stuff again, it would only make matters worse.
For many, your suggestion would be great, I think. In my case, I don’t think I would like that.
The Philippines is a no-win situation for everyone (and I’ve received flak for saying it in the past)—including for Filipinos themselves. The country serves as a novelty at the beginning for one’s imagination; but after you’ve exerted all your effort to change some things, or adjusted your outlook to adapt to the culture to make your life a little better, the ways of the people eventually take their toll on you and wear you out. It didn’t take me long to realize those cultural defaults after having lived in the Philippines for more than a decade. The country–for all the lush and beauty–is a paradise. But the rapid commercialization, the growing crime rate, and the stolid attitude of the people towards their country and each other made me realized that there are some things I can change and should, and there are some things I cannot change and just move on. Yes, life back in the states is tough and often lonely; but at least you know the routine and know what to expect each given day because you’re on the same ride with everyone. Good luck to you, Bob.
I would disagree that it is a no-win. There are many “winners” there. I did adapt to the culture. I had a good life there, and I will never regret that I lived there for as long as I did.
It was time to make a change, though. There were many reasons that we moved back, and I have no regrets about moving back. Like I say, it was time.
Thanks for your comment!
Volunteering is a great way to make new friends in the community. Hobbies are as well. Take the time with Feynma to have “together time” instead of letting life interfere with it.
You’ve proven your adaptability already. I’m sure you’ll get back in the groove.
Good times are ahead,
Hi Tony! How are things in Montana? Probably getting cold. We are having our coldest day so far this season today, in the 50s. It’s a bit brisk.
Yeah, I wil adapt, it just takes time!
It is cold. It’s already snowed three times and one of them was blizzard where the snow comes down sideways. I’m officially retired – I swapped my summer tires for a set of snow tires.
Actually, I am in the process of retiring to Cebu. I started a YouTube channel just so my kids know I’m still alive (it’s definitely not as a money maker – I don’t need another career.) I have my tickets for a one month stay in March to see if I hate it. If the warm weather suits me I’ll make further plans to go back for a much longer stay. In any case it’ll be an adventure which I’m always up for.
Been to a Rotary Club meeting yet?
Hi Tony – great to hear from you again.
We are getting pretty cold here too, but no snow yet. We have gotten down below freezing once, and more expected in the next week.
Good luck on your journey to the Philippines. If you would like to share the name of your YouTube channel, I’d love to follow your adventures!
Have not tried Rotary yet! 🙂