Humanitarian workers and reverse culture shock

You’re in a country where everything feels different. The food isn’t what you’re used to; the people don’t make sense. It’s sensory overload and you’re bewildered by all the things around you — the language, the music, the faces, the smells.

Everyone is moving at lightning speed, and you’re still staring at the food in the grocery store, confused about what to buy.

Erin Curtis, a Peace Corps volunteer, isn’t talking about her time in Kazakhstan. She is referring to her trip to the local grocery in Lexington, South Carolina, last month.

Curtis, like many long-term volunteers and workers who return from abroad, was feeling what is known as reverse culture shock.

Five common grievances of returning workers and volunteers
  Waste – “The ridiculous amount of trash we produce in the U.S. was hard for me to look at every day,” said returning Peace Corps volunteer Erin Curtis.
  Choice – Many volunteers feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of choices in the U.S.
  Pace of life – “You feel so rushed in this culture and bombarded with things,” said returned Peace Corps volunteer coordinator Jodi Hammer.
  Relationships – Not only do volunteers miss the connections they made abroad, but they may find they’ve grown apart from their friends at home.
  Language/Communication – Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words after speaking another language for a long time.

For many volunteers and workers, coming home can be harder than going abroad, said Jodi Hammer, a coordinator for returned Peace Corps volunteers.

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