Moving overseas: dealing with culture shock twice

Written by Douglas Ross in Moving House on May 17, 2017

Moving overseas: dealing with culture shock twice

You would have heard about culture shock when moving overseas, but what about culture shock when returning home? Here are a few things to know when not only moving overseas but moving back home again.

Moving overseas: make it less messy

Make friends with those you can understand, and those you can’t.

Make friends with someone who comes from the country you move to. They will be your support when you come across something you don’t understand, while introducing you to things that will become support structures for you (eg. cafes, utility services, accommodation, sport groups, jobs). Also befriend someone who has also moved to the country you are in, a fellow ex-pat. They will be someone who you can relate to and laugh and complain about the various things you encounter in this foreign land of languages, cultures, customs and landscapes.

From foreign to familiar.

Do both something familiar each day, as well as something that takes courage. It is ok to create a routine, such as finding that café around the corner you like and that you can go to each morning, as this establishes an emotional safety net from which you can branch out and explore each day. However, it is important to not use places like these, such as a café or a library or your very home, as an excuse to hide in a corner and not experience new cultures. Finding new things you love about a culture are the things you will miss if and when you return home one day. New experiences do not have to be huge, and they don’t have to be repeated. If you want to go to a yoga class on the other end of town, do this and know that you only have to do it once. Seek experiences that stretch you geographically, so that you get a larger view of the city.

Finding the perfect house location.

Scout the area in the beginning and figure out the perfect location for you. You might want to find the Fitzroy of Toronto, or the Surrey Hills of London. Whatever the lifestyle you want to lead, do a little research on locations before signing a new lease.

Keep home close.

If you are on social media, write regularly about your experience but rather than bore your friends with your pictures of European canals or cute little French markets, engage with your friends back home and ask them what they want to know, or ask them to give you tasks in the new city that they will want you to report back on. Use them as a driving force to get you out and about, while they can live vicariously through you.


There is nothing better when backpacking then getting into a city at night and knowing you have a bed waiting for you. This goes for moving overseas on a long term basis. Research those fundamental things that will help you feel safe and secure in those initial months.

The reality of moving back home

When you told your friends you were moving overseas did they say you were really brave? That this was going to be an exciting but challenging adventure? What they probably failed to mention was that coming back home would be a little more than strange.

The adventure is over.

It is understandable after living overseas, meeting people from a variety of countries and having access to all sorts of new cultures, that you feel a little flat when returning home. You are of course home but somehow while everything feels and looks familiar, it also feels and looks a little dissimilar at the exact same time. You thought your friends and family would be the same people you left, but they have had their own experiences separate to you, and are inevitably a little different. As such, it takes a similar effort you made when you moved overseas to become comfortable once home again.

Avoid falling into the same traps you can fall into when moving overseas. Don’t use a safe space as a corner in which to hide. You will need to make extra effort to seek new experiences and new perspectives. Australia is an isolated country and as such it can sometimes feel like there are limited experiences or fresh perspectives around you, but making an effort of finding new cultures and people will show you the error of this thinking.