12 Things That Are Completely Foreign When You Come Back After Time Abroad

Sure, everyone’s heard of culture shock, but what about reverse culture shock? It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – you go abroad, try desperately to immerse yourself into new culture, finally get comfortable with that culture, and then you’re heading back home . . . only, not everything is what it was when you left. Truthfully, I’m still experiencing some reverse culture shock back here in the U.S. It’s hard to shake off those 9 months in Europe, though I don’t think I ever will.

Thinking about heading abroad and wondering what else will be in store for you other than amazing adventures and mouthwatering food? Culture shock is usually last on everyone’s list, but it’s bound to happen eventually . . . even to the best of travelers.

So here are some of the things that tripped me up after spending extended time off U.S. soil:

1. Sunday Funday

Want to do something on a Sunday? Sure, go right ahead. No one’s stopping you anymore. Repose, siesta, riposa . . . whatever you’ve called it, it doesn’t exist anymore. Go get that coffee, hang out at the bookstore, eat at that restaurant. I promise you it’ll be open.

2. Driving

Me behind the wheel after 9 months was very interesting. It’s like riding a bike, right? I’m proud to say that I only trampled one bush in the front lawn and he’s still doing alright.

3. Having to buy gas

Driving again is fun and all, but having to put aside a chunk of my paychecks for gas again sucks. After using public transportation for so long, thinking about gas prices makes me nervous. And at 3 dollars a gallon!?! Really?!


4. Taxes not included

Now I’m back doing that estimation/mental math while standing in line . . . and having a wallet full of pennies I’ll never use.

5. The gaps in the toilet stalls

Now I see why foreigners are so put off when they have to use a pubic restroom in the U.S. It’s awful. Why are the gaps so big? What ever happened to privacy?

6. Less public transit

Unless you’re in the busy city, living in the U.S. without a car is difficult. I miss public transit, but I like being able to leave whenever I want.

7. Having reliable data

What? My phone isn’t just a glorified clock without wifi anymore? I can message people while on the go? I can stalk someone’s Insta while on my lunch break? Oh, data, how I have missed you.

8. Not being able to buy a baguette on the way home from work

. . . * dreamily sighs while remembering the sweet smell of fresh bread in the boulangeries * . . .


9. Airplane prices

Skyscanner scares me now. Have you seen those airline prices?! Eek! I miss you, Easyjet!

10. Getting back on that interview train

Unless you’ve got everything squared away for that visa extension, you’re stuck in the U.S. for another year. That means getting a job, going to interviews . . . but you’ve met people from all over the world. How hard could meeting a few more be? (Spoiler alert: it’s still pretty hard.)

11. Knowing that you have many friends all around the world, but feeling alone

It’s been pretty much a year since you’ve left, or at least a semester. A lot can happen in a few months. Your old life won’t necessarily be the same one you go back to. Maybe all the people you knew have moved away . . . or maybe you can’t stay. You were having a blast with so many cool people, only now you’re back to square one and it seems five times more difficult than it was before. It’s unfortunate, really.

Two weeks (tops) into being back and already your search history looks like you’re about to pack up and jump ship all over again – if only obtaining a visa wasn’t like diving through a flaming hoop suspended over snarling lions, malnourished tigers, and rabid bears, but all you’ve got to wear is a meat suit that’s been seasoned with something super pungent like lemon pepper. Oh my.

12. Finding everything you want at those one-stop shops

You can bet that you’re going to have to practically drag me out of Target now. I love Target.


What are some strange things you noticed after being abroad?

8 thoughts on “12 Things That Are Completely Foreign When You Come Back After Time Abroad

  1. Reverse culture shock has lessen over the years for me, but I was still surprised at just how wide the streets were when I returned home this past summer– seriously, so much space is dedicated to three, four lanes for cars (although in a big city like LA, they’re much-needed!). Large portion sizes is also a given, but also just how greasier/more processed things tasted, in my opinion. What I did appreciate, though, was the absence of cigarette smoke– no more need to keep my windows closed at all times anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes!! I forgot about the wide streets and just bigger cars in general. One person I knew had a normal sized 4-door and she was like – sorry it’s so big! 😂And I do not miss the cigarette smoke at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally noticed that too. There were things I did or things I said that made them think “wow, what happened to Haley?!” Nothing happened to me. I just became more comfortable with myself ☺️


  4. sunday funday haha…yes it will be a nice welcome to have stores open on sunday and not have to rush to go to the gorcery store saturday evening when youve realized you dont have any food in the house!

    Liked by 1 person

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