Reverse culture shock vs. Reality shock

In my opinion, reverse culture shock is the culture shock when someone went away from his country/hometown for a while then came back. Culture is such a broad term, but concisely, it is the way people live defined by surrounding environment, with certain values and beliefs. People get used to a certain way of thinking and assume others are weird and non-sense. Some people do not even tolerate such manners that go against their values.

Reality shock is another term that I came up while trying to figure out whether I’m suffering reverse culture shock. Trying to google it, I found a simple explanation for reality shock which is the difference between what is expected and what the real situation turns out to be. Hence, the suffer is at a lesser extent as compared to reverse culture shock

I stayed in Australia for 4 years, and am used to living alone. I enjoyed a lifestyle that I had to take care of myself for everything, from cooking food to cleaning the room. It’s such a small small stuff to mention. What I’m trying to get to is that, I know what I have to do and when I will do that. No one forces me to tidy up the room or wash the dishes or wash the clothes. I can be busy doing assignments and leave the mess for later. I would agree to have dinner with friends and stayed late, hang out and went home very late without worrying whether my parents have slept already. I would not have to sleep at my room if I don’t want to. Basically, I decided my own life!

I only have a room – not a house – when living abroad

Coming back home for just 6 months, it’s a dramatic change for me. Parents are still strict and they treat as if I’m still a high school kid. I have certain rules that I cannot break such as going home before 11 o’clock. I broke the rule few times and hence, few fights happened. Parents still have bad perceptions about people who go clubbing or even, just go home late. I was seen as a lazy bump, doing nothing and mess up the house even more. I was told to wash dishes, I was told to wash clothes and mop the floor, I was told to do XYZ, etc. Basically, parents expect me to follow the rules, which I have ‘forgotten’, and sometimes I don’t think those rules suit me any more. I know that rules but I don’t expect them to be present.

An example of what-I-never-see when living overseas 😀

I remember (and I expect) to have a to-do list for every day after waking up. I remember (and I expect) to do tasks, and motivated and inspired to have more and more ideas coming up to my mind. I don’t expect to keep complaining every time when hanging out with friends at coffee shops. I remember (and I expect) to have people at the same stage of life (i.e. students worry about exam and part-time jobs and cooking, etc.). I expect to have the same working and studying habits even though I have returned home.

Life situation has CHANGED, through time and space, I could not keep the past though…

I understand the so-called culture here very well. People and friends in my hometown are still the same, and they seem to be quite happy with their life. I am comfortable with they way how people mostly hang out at coffee shop because they find no where to go. I am comfortable with the food that local people eat, the conversations that they share, the jokes that they tell, etc. I understand what I am expected to behave.

Hanging out at Long Coffee – the most popular coffee place in Da Nang

It is just the problem that I cannot accept that reality that I have to settle my life here. And consequently, I’m stressed out so much for not meeting my expectation – my ‘real’ reality. I’m stressed because of finding something ‘meaningful’ to do. Maybe I don’t have to try so hard, or maybe I should have tried harder. I’m just getting lost because I don’t know what I am expected is expected for me.

So, I think I have suffered what is called reality shock. It is when I keep the standard of expected reality and not try hard enough to adapt with the real reality. With culture shock, people may help you out but with reality shock, it’s the matter of overcoming the self.

And I wonder, is it just me suffering that problem?


8 thoughts on “Reverse culture shock vs. Reality shock

  1. I think parents will be parents no matter what age you are as you return home from either living 30 minutes away or 30 hours away by plane. While I too enjoy the comforts and amenities of visiting parents after being abroad, I also kind of struggled with adjusting from having one room for everything (and mine was sparsely decorated during my 5.5 months in South Africa) to the dorm room my senior year that was a part of a 4 person apartment and quite spacious. I wouldn’t say I experienced reverse culture shock – just more of the reality shock.


  2. So how is everything after a while? I mean, you said you had to stay here in VN for 6 months, were things getting better or it’s just as exactly the same as the very beginning? Sorry, just curious… 🙂


  3. i currently experience the same situation, so called ” reality shock” :)))) its a few weeks holiday after 4 years lve been living in oz. i find its hard to adapt the culture and environment in the place where i had grown up too. but just take it easy, since thats the FACT that we cant change. Obviously, people always assume things in their own perspectives . its just the matter of time and your thinking. if you kept thinking of oz, and compare the life style and culture which totally different to vn, i’d never ever get over it. and why not having a good talk with your parents, telling them how you have changed, what do you think and show them what you can do. fater all, they just try to protect us from the “dark” society out there :). cheers up mate!


  4. I faced quite the same things when I came back to Viet Nam for a month after just 4.5 months in Australia. Life seemed to be boring. People just hang out in coffee shops in the morning and restaurants in the evening. I could find no incentive to study or work. Coming back to Australia is like having a meaningful life again. Btw, did you really stay in Australia for 4 years and have never come back home until now :O


    1. While studying in Australia, I came back once a year. First time coming back, I stayed home for 3 months. Next time, 1.5 months, then 3 weeks. It’s shorter and shorter and I think it’s better that way.

      The most recent time coming back home, I plan to stay just for 3 months but then it extended to 7 months now and it is really a struggle. I don’t plan to have the lifestyle of what you said: hanging out at the coffee shops all day. I also can’t have a proper job as I will leave ‘soon’ anyway. So I have some casual jobs or find something to do.

      It’s still boring because people surrounding are used to with that life’s speed and they’re Ok with it but not me.

      It’s like…”Oh life is so boring, so i’m gotta do something…. but that something still not get me out of boredom…”


      1. I see. Congrats! You’ve come back to Aussie! So how can you struggle to adapt to life in Da Nang after graduation 😛


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