Experiencing Reverse Culture Shock

Monday, 15 August 2016
I am incredibly guilty of occasionally (or frequently) reminiscing about home. I miss my friends. I miss my family. Lord knows I miss good Mexican food. I've found it’s somewhat easy to miss American food/culture because it is similar to Australian culture. Please don't jump down my throat with this statement and allow me to elaborate:

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They are similar in the fact that British settlers came over, took the land from its original owners, and made it their own. With migrants from all over the world and strong British background, there are not a whole lot of things that are distinctly Australian (just as there aren't a whole lot of things that are distinctly American). Of course, there are plenty of differences between America and Australia. If you would like to read about them, please click here or here. But overall, both are a pretty big cultural melting pot.

I recently returned home for a short visit. When I hopped off the plane at LAX, just kidding it was SFO, I expected everything to be just like it was when I left. I frequently get told in Australia how American I still am. The last thing I was expecting was to go back to America and be told how Australian I've become. When I got off the plane, I walked up to a bar, look at the bartender, and say "hey, how are you going?". The look that I was given by that bartender resembled the look you give someone when they yell at you in a foreign language. In my mind, there really isn't that big of a difference between "hey, how are you" and "hey, how are you going" because I had forgotten how foreign this phrase sounds to Americans.
I do love a good trip to SF
I thought my weird encounter with the bartender would be the last of my Aussie side sneaking in whilst in America. This was not the case. I frequently got made fun of by friends and family for sounding Australian. They often told me I needed to come with a translator because they had no idea what I was saying. Let's be honest, is shortening everything and basically adding an -ie or an -o to the word that much different than the butchering to the English language Americans have adapted? I surely did not think so. My friends and family wanted me to stop being so Aussie and act more American because I was in America. But here was my dilemma, I was only going to be in America for a short period of time. I had spent months constantly coping shit from friends and strangers about how I was too American back home in Australia. I go to America and cop shit for how Australian I am. While I did not revert back to my American ways (because I was trying to avoid getting made fun of once returning to Australia), when I got back home, to Australia, people commented on how much more American I sounded. Yes, I realise I now have a weird hybrid American/Australian accent. It doesn't make me weird. It makes me a bloody bicultural unicorn princess of awesomeness.

But it wasn't just the language differences that made me feel like a foreigner in my home country. I also struggled with simple things such as the side of the road Americans drive on. I remember frequently freaking out when I first moved to Australia and was in a car. Never did I ever think I would go back to America and freak out there as well. It was also mannerisms and interactions that I found foreign. People were definitely not as friendly as they are in Australia. I frequently had my friends and family telling me that I couldn't do (insert random action here) because it wasn't safe. This really started to confuse me. Had America really become that dangerous in the 2+ years since I had left? I'm still that girl who walks with keys between her fingers from the train station to my house even though I live in an incredibly safe neighbourhood. I still frequently look over my shoulder when I'm walking and avoid walking at night unless I have my scary, tough dogs with me. It was incredibly strange.
My tough, scary doggo back home
I've recently reached this weird limbo phase: I still identify with being American but knowing my life is here in Australia, I've tried to assimilate to the culture here. I often feel I'm too foreign to go home but still not Australian enough to be accepted here. I always knew I would experience some form of culture shock moving to Australia but never did I imagine that I would experience the same when visiting America. I surely can't be the only person to have experienced this.

To my fellow expats, have you ever experienced reverse culture shock when returning home? Feel free to share you experiences in the comments below!

And until next time...
Stay Curious!


  1. Absolutely agree with everything! I was a California girl through and through for 28 years until I moved to Australia 7 years ago. Every time I go back to Cali I'm terrified to drive even though I learned how to drive there and drove there for 12 years. I can't remember who goes first at a 4 way stop?! I also get teased about my new vocabulary. Trying to tell my American friends about the time 'a lady's trolley scratched my bonnet in the Woolies carpark' would basically be a different language! Lol!

    1. I feel the same about 4 way stops. I used to be so anti-round abouts but now I adore them! I had the same problem when I told my friend back in America that I "had to stop at the servo for some petrol and a V".

  2. I can relate to this soooo much. I am returning home to good old San Francisco, for the third time next year and each time I return, I can't help to be shocked! The homeless problem becomes worse and worse and I do not feel safe when on public transport. Yeah, the tone in my voice has changed a little and I am assimilating to the Aussie culture but no huge differences to note when I go home. Since I arrived in Australia almost 2 years ago folks back home say I look healthier and I have a beautiful glow. And I lost weight! No hard alcohol out here for me which attributed to my weight gain in the states. Spirits are expensive as all hell out here yet so cheap in the states. Funny how that is. The US has an agenda to keep you sick and fat hence why so many things we purchase that are bad for us, are cheap. Australia on the other hand, is the opposite and that is a great thing in my opinion. Australia is not perfect by any means but they sure do show more interest in health and wellness for many of its people,than the US. Overall, the US is not a country, it is a business and for that, Australia will continue to be my home for many years to come.

  3. This resonates with me so much! Having lived in Spain for six years, and abroad for the better part of the decade, coming home to California always involves many bittersweet layers. Whether it be accidently greeting a sales clerk with 'buenos diás!' or ordering a 'café con leche' at the coffee shop - or trying to make dinner plans for 10pm, my friends always have a good laugh at my new found ways :)