The risk of culture shock does not end upon your return home. Days or even weeks following a cross-cultural experience can usher in unexpected feelings: frustration, anger, guilt, anxiousness, loneliness, sadness or even depression. Everyone is unique in how they respond to their experience and the intensity of their reaction but it is important to recognize that your feelings could be related to your reentry.
This reaction is significant but there are healthy ways to work through these feelings, transforming them into positive outcomes that will strengthen your ability to adapt to culturally diverse situations in the future and enhance your cultural intelligence.
Consider these three steps:
- Identify what it is that you are feeling.
- Investigate the reasons you may be feeling this way.
- Initiate activities that will be helpful in processing your feelings.
If you find yourself reacting to certain situations with stronger feelings than you normally do, take time for self-reflection and try to identify specifically what you are feeling. Spend time in listening prayer asking the Comforter to reveal to you what it is you are feeling. Name them if you can. Are there multiple emotions arising at the same time? Even if you are not reacting adversely this still might be a useful exercise to identify any latent feelings.
Once you have identified your feelings, even if you have not been able to name them specifically, take time to investigate possible reasons you are experiencing this.
- Was your worldview challenged in new ways or expanded?
- Were your eyes opened to some new reality?
- Did you experience a high emotional or spiritual moment that you are now descending from?
- Did you experience God’s presence and power in new ways?
- Have your eyes been opened to world issues while others around you continue blind?
- Are you frustrated that others are not taking responsibility or action in social issues?
- Do you have a new point of reference when comparing things “here” with things “there”?
- Have you experienced a transformation while everybody else seems unaffected?
- Did you experience spiritual attacks? Remember, spiritual attacks will continue even after the trip.
Invest the time necessary to examine how your cross-cultural experience impacted you and may be causing any interior struggle. If you kept a journal (which is an excellent way to lessen reentry culture shock) read through it to see what impacted you the most, or times when you became more emotional.
There are many activities that may be helpful to navigating possible effects from reentry. The following could be helpful to you whether you are experiencing culture shock or not. Commit to taking some positive steps. The ideas below may help you get started in the right direction.
- Have coffee with a friend who is interested in hearing every detail of your trip.
- Report back to your prayer team, supporters and your church.
- Set up a time to meet for prayer with your prayer team.
- Journal or blog your experience.
- Spend time in quiet reflection and listening prayer.
- Make a photo presentation of your trip for yourself and to share with others.
- Debrief with other team members on your trip.
- Talk with long-term missionaries about your trip and seek their encouragement.
- Be honest with yourself and others about your feelings.
- Do not be afraid to reach out to others.
- Identify how you were impacted culturally and spiritually and how you have expanded your cultural intelligence.
- Consider how your experience will positively affect your interaction with others.
- Identify what you would do differently on your next trip.
- Read a book on the topic of reentry. (you can download one here: tiny.cc/re-entry)
- Contemplate how God would have you serve Him next.
Free resource: Reentry after Short-Term Mission Service