Happy Holidays, Reverse Culture Shock style

Hi there! It’s the holidays!

If normally a high percentage of people could kill me with their looks right now, Reverse Culture Shock sufferers would certainly beat me to a pulp. I can perfectly understand that this year you might no be very excited about the holiday season, and rightfully so! You might be wishing you could be at your host country celebrating with your loved ones from there, and now, back “home” you could be feeling quite out of place. After all, people spend obnoxious amounts of money and eat unhealthy amounts of food, shoppers cram the streets and horrid music drills your ears.

You are not alone my RCS friend, please know that it is totally fine and normal. However I still very, very, very much want you to have a good end of the year with your home country, your family and friends, especially if your re-landing was rough, and that’s why I am posting about how you can do it. Unbelievably it can actually be done! Here are some ideas:

1) If you are missing the traditions from your host country, do them at home yourself! Contact an expat group from your host country and make sure you celebrate their way with them. So what if the neighbors look at you in amazement because you are doing things differently? This year you get to do it your own funky way. Yeah, you are cool like that.

2) Cook a typical festive dish or a whole meal from your host country and have everybody taste it. You can do the thing the way it is done abroad or tweak it a bit to mesh the ingredients and backgrounds of the foods into your own culinary creation. You can have turkey curry, or candied durian or lychees, a different version of panettone.

3) Share a tradition or a typical holiday story with your special ones back home. Explain beforehand that this is important to you and that you expect some attention towards your way of seeing the holiday season so they don’t crush you with a culturally insensitive question or comment.

4) Mix your celebration cultural background and your holiday plans. In other words, they are YOUR holidays, pick what you like from whatever cultures and countries you choose and have them ways that make sense and are special to you! Some ideas:

– Organize a Festival of Ligths (Diwali) mixed with a Saint Lucy celebration or an end of the year glow stick party.

– Plant a Christmas tree in the middle of the beach and decorate it with typical winter sweets from your host country.

– Make a gingerbread pagoda, igloo or skyscrapper, whatever type of building you miss.

– Eat 12 olives, raspberries or pieces of durian instead of the traditional 12 Spanish grapes to greet the New Year.

The possibilities are endless! Overall be brave and patient, it WILL make you feel better to have your own way of celebrating integrated into everybody’s and bringing something cool into your home country celebrations instead of just feeling like a goose who’s being force-fed everybody else’s holidays.  You are back, you don’t have to do what everybody else is doing, as a matter of fact we want to see what you are doing these days, SEND YOUR IDEAS AND PHOTOS and we will SHARE them with other repatriates on the blog so that we all can have a very happy holiday season!



Focus on the bigger picture and don’t get caught in the small stuff

When you allow yourself to miss too much the little things from your host country (your favorite brand of cereal, the morning air…) you prevent yourself from appreciating the little things and the bigger things you have in front of you at home. Also when you focus too much on the little things that annoy you from back home (bad customer service, obnoxious people…) you are wasting energy by getting caught in the little hurdles, and making yourself more miserable. Doing these things could is a way of expressing your longing for your host country, but deep down you are using these things as excuses to allow yourself to feel bummed. However, it is just too easy to get caught on these “little trees” and feel stuck. Focusing instead on the big trees that of the forest you have in front of you and realize it is also made of little things that can be lovely, fun and interesting, even if they are from home, will make you feel better and more in tune with your surroundings. It is funny to think about how returnees we seem to transition much easily if we focus our energy on bigger trees. You would think it would be easier to transition with the little things, but human nature often proves picky and difficult when it is about the details and brave and wise when it is about the bigger stuff. So make a choice: are you going to be picky and difficult or are you going to be brave and wise? In other words: are you going to make it hard for you to re-adapt and feel miserable because of small stuff or are you going to step up to the challenge and feel empowered by it? I want to hear your thoughts about this! Email me at howtosurvivercs@gmail.com or comment below!

Re-adapt and substitute items in your Routine

When I got home to a big city after living in a runner’s dreamland in Boulder, Colorado, I stopped running. I know I shouldn’t, but I did. I looked for green spaces but couldn’t find any but the funny thing was that it was all in my head! This makes me feel really stupid, but I have to tell you: I happen to actually live right in front of a pretty big pine forest in urban Madrid, but I was so caught up in my memories of endless and wild spaces that I literally couldn’t see the great running space I had in front of me.  I didn’t run for months, adding misery to my RCS. Running has always been such a simple and quick way to relieve stress for me. Every time I would feel like running I would remind myself that I was not in Colorado anymore and stayed at home being super grumpy and unhappy. Until one day I grumpily tied my running shoes and started running there. What a discovery!

I am not going to lie, that pine forest is not a great, great open space packed with wildlife. It is the only single option I have here right next to my house, instead of the many options Colorado had on the menu for me, close to home and without driving, but hey, I started appreciating it a lot. I realized I am extremely lucky to live right next to it in a big city. It was very dirty and I started putting up posters with plastic bags attached asking for people’s help in cleaning it up and inadvertently I started getting more integrated in a cause that is important for me, now the neighbors pick up trash so efficiently that very little help is needed, and I get a much, much greener and nicer space to run in.

The point of this video and post is that our activities make our routines, and that you get to pick which ones you want. You can pick being grumpy and staying home eating your buggers in your misery or you can tie your shoelaces and go look for a place to do what you like.  When you move you change your environment and it is very likely that your activities and routines will change, but you have to make the best out of it either by re-adapting your routine using the available activities and resources that you have there or substituting activities that you can no longer do for others that you can do.