Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting past reverse culture shock: My Australian story

Long-term readers will know that every now and then I rave on about reverse culture shock - that awkward feeling you get when you don't quite fit back into your own country after spending an extended amount of time abroad. I do think it took me a good couple of years to really feel at home again here in Australia, even though it's a country I really do love.

Australia ... a country where you can enjoy the beach in winter
But today I read a column by Nikki Gemmell, one of my all-time favourite novelists, who has just returned to Australia after living in London for many years. She had a similar reluctance, over the years, about returning to Australia - she even wrote a whole book about it, Why you are Australian. Something she wrote in her weekend column summed up my experience pretty accurately (and much more beautifully than I could!):
I feel like I’m being marinated in a sense of belonging, something I fought tooth and nail against in the younger, wilder years. But I need it as I age. Returning is about the serenity and stillness that comes from being part of a deeply known world; the ease of it. My husband and I spent years being outsiders in foreign lands and revelling in that status; but my God, the relief, now, of belonging.
Of course, enjoying a feeling of belonging doesn't mean I don't constantly have the urge to travel, or the desire to live somewhere other than Australia for a while some time in the (probably distant!) future, but I certainly don't feel the same unease I had when I first returned to Australia. I'm pretty sure that part of this comes from having started a family here and wanting to see my son grow up enjoying all the perks of Australia - and certainly his obsession with being outdoors would make life in a less sunny country pretty tricky! But I think I'm also just at a stage in life (I don't want to say "age", just stage!) where being at home fits in pretty well with me.

I know I often have readers drop by who are going through reverse culture shock - I hope this gives you some hope for the future - it does get better! Do let me know your experiences below in the comments.

7 comments:

  1. I'm starting to get pretty itchy feet again. I feel like if i could hop on a plane and take off again for a while that would be fab...also incredibly difficult with two little ones in tow but oh so awesome for all of us. it will happen one day, i'm sure but for now we are happy to be here :)

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  2. Some days I feel the same, Rachel - although mostly these days I'm happy to bide my time a bit ... it all depends on what I'm reading and the pictures I'm looking at, sometimes!

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  3. I've lived in the same place my whole life so I've never had culture shock, but I can imagine how hard it would be after experienceing so many amazing things!

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  4. I'm a big advocate that travel is a state of mind. I like to think I carry the same 'Yes Man' attitude at home as one has when they're abroad - taking risks, being open and action orientated.

    There is an extra element that is a little harder to manufacture which is touched on here, the special magic that comes when we're seen as outsiders. We become trustworthy, fascinating and novel to the people around us which can lead to great adventures.
    If only we could bottle "novelty", it would be as precious as gold.

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    1. Another excellent point - yes, "novelty" is key, isn't it? Plus being unknown - being away from thinking that someone you know will see you. These two in combination are a pretty powerful force.

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  5. Sometimes I could feel that I want to be in a place where I can make up my mind, relax and the feel that I belong. There's this urge and need, i think that it's the reason why some people are travelling.

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    1. Ariana, that's a beautiful reason to travel, you've described that very well!

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