This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
In today's world, many organizations are choosing to send their employees abroad, training them to be prepared for the cultural changes they will have to endure, and the new experience they will face as an expatriate. On the contrary, organizations and expatriates both do not expect to have gone through the same procedure of training for when they return home.
'When expatriates return to their home country, they often unexpectedly experience difficulties readjusting to their familiar environment psychologically, socially and culturally' (Lerstrom, 1995 as cited in Miyamoto & Kuhlman, 2001). This is said to be known as Reverse Culture Shock. Expatriates seem to go through another type of culture shock when they return back home after a long period away. By analysing the depth of reverse culture shock, and its processes and stages, many solutions for the issues have arisen, making it easier for expatriates to deal with this issue, and easing the process of going back home.
Reverse culture shock derives from the term culture shock. 'Culture shock is the term used to describe the psychological and physical state felt by people when travelling, living, working or studying abroad, or even moving to a new environment in their home country (where the culture may vary considerably by region and social class)' (Survival Books, 2010). This means that when an expatriate goes abroad for work, he may incur certain cultural changes that he may not be used to. For example, in most Asian countries, it is normal for families to live together. On the contrary, most families do not do this in Western countries. Adjustments such as these will take the expatriate some time to get used to as the culture is new.
In the same way, when expatriates return back to their home country, they also go through a culture shock but of their own culture. This is known as reverse culture shock. (Munan H., 1991)
EFFECTS OF REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
Many returnees go through certain symptoms of reverse culture shock. These symptoms can include:
Reverse homesickness-missing people and places from abroad
It is natural to miss the friends that have been made in the country an expatriate was working in. When moving abroad, the expatriate feels this way about their family and friends. However, when they return back home, the returnee will miss friends and colleagues in the country they were working.
Boredom, insecurity, uncertainty, confusion, frustration
In the same way when experiencing culture shock, the returnee may not be sure if he will be able to fit into society once again, and be accepted by his peers and colleagues. Activities and the lifestyle on a whole changes, which can create for uncertainty as well as confusion.
Need for excessive sleep
The returnee can have severe jet lag when returning back to their home country, which can account for excessive sleeping. However, this is not the only reason for excessive sleeping. Some returnees also go through depression of missing their friends back in the country where they were posted, and also of feeling that they do not fit in. Depression can cause people to sleep for long periods of time, which is the case for returnees.
Change in goals or priorities
Many people tend to feel that their country is more materialistic, and have unimportant goals compared to the previous country they were stationed in. A returnee's priorities tend to change with the return home, as the returnee himself has changed.
Feelings of alienation or withdrawal
When a returnee socializes with family, friends, and colleagues, they may feel that they do not fit in and cannot keep up with the conversations, as the mind-set of the returnee has completely changed. Stages of withdrawal can also take place.
Negativity towards American behaviour
Many returnees that come back from a third world or developing country may feel the difference in values and culture from that of a modern developed country. They may feel that the values are different in retrospect, and that the returnee may have a different idea of what is really essential and important. For example, a country such as India shows a lot of poverty, and on returning to a country such as America, an abundance of food is readily available in every corner
STAGES OF REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
Just as there are stages in culture shock, there are four stages of reverse culture shock. These stages show the behaviour of an expatriate when returning home or planning the trip back home.
Returnees are self-assured that they can reintegrate into their home country easily.
Expatriates who are returning home do not feel as if they would have a problem adjusting to their own country. They seem to be oblivious to the fact or in denial that they have not been to their home countries for a long period of time and may not be used to the way certain things are there.
Returnees realize living in their home country is not so easy.
Once returnees realize the difficulties of going back home, they become pessimistic about the reality of the situation. Returnees should be encouraged to take this fear, and make it into something positive and to find a way to solve the problem instead of becoming negative about the fact.
Returnees' thought replaces reaction.
The perspective of the returnee will change into the way they behave.
Returnees will have realistic goals, confidence, self-worth, persistence and resourcefulness.
When returnees come back to their home country, they will have a better sense of the world as they have experienced more, which in turn, will give them more self-confidence and be able to be more resourceful to the organization.
(Hogan, 1983 as cited in Miyamoto & Kuhlman, 2001).
LOSS TO COMPANIES DUE TO REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
It is crucial for the organizations to take actions to help reduce the effects of reverse culture shock for their employees. If not, the company will also be facing problems as reverse culture shock will also affect the returnees performance in their professional aspects of life.
Motivation Level Dropped
The companies face a lot of difficulty when the employees return to their respective host countries after the spell of expatriation. The employees go through a phase of reverse culture shock and their motivation level drops. This usually happens due to the changes in the surrounding, organizations and the place. They had gotten used to staying abroad and by coming back they are not able to adapt to the host country and cannot give their best effort. Due to reverse homesickness, returnees may not feel up to working at all which will obviously lower their productivity rate, and will affect the company.
Performance Level Drops
With the motivation level of the foreign assignees dropping comes the performance level. Since the employees lose their focus and the motivation and dedication level drops, their performance also declines. The employees are not able to give their best effort and are not able to do their assigned jobs efficiently and productively for which they were elected for. This leads to the loss to the companys productivity.
No Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction is one of the major factors that help an employee put in its best effort. If job satisfaction is not there then the employee is not able to perform the job effectively and this affects the company's productivity and performance. Decline in job satisfaction is one of the effects of reverse culture shock that indirectly hampers a company. Like it is explained above that when these foreign assignees come back to their host country after their spell of expatriation they are less motivated and cannot really perform that well like they used to back in the foreign country.
Returnees may also sense a difference in the internal organizational culture of the company. It may take some time for them to adjust to the new culture of how business works. The norms and ways of going about the office need to be learnt again by the returnee.
HOW TO AVOID OR REDUCE REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
Reverse culture shock cannot be removed in totality. However, there are certain steps the organizations and expatriates themselves can take to help the shock, and to help with adjusting on returning home.
Communication can be said to be of two types when taking reverse culture shock into consideration.
The first type of communication will be with the returnees and their friends and family in their home country. The returnees friends and family should be aware of the fact that it will take them time to adjust to the new change. This will help them understand why you aren't immediately jumping into your old lifestyle (CAPS, n.d.).
The second type of communication should be with the returnees and their friends and colleagues back in the country where they were posted. Nowadays communication to other countries has become quite easy via Internet, phone calls, etc. Just because an expatriate has returned home, does not mean they should forget about their friends they had made in the other country. By staying in contact, returnees will feel less away from the country and will not miss everyone there so much, making it easier for them to adapt back home.
Accept the change
Many returnees do not accept the fact that their lives have changed from when they were last back home. The experiences that they had in the other countries tend to stay with them making them change as a person.
Recently returned Peace Corps volunteer Curtis said coming to terms with the effect of her time away made her able to readjust to life at home (Anjarwalla, 2010).
Think about your changes. It is always nice to reflect on the ways a new experience has impacted us. Your time abroad has probably changed you in some ways. Others (friends and family) may feel that you are different while you feel frustrated that they are the same. Be positive about your growth and your changes and be accepting of others that have not had the same experience (CAPS, n.d.).
Share experiences and find an audience
When returnees are with their friends and families again, they want to share everything they experienced in the other country with them all the time. Although they will listen for a while, they will become bored of the topic and will become agitated with the returnee only talking about their time abroad.
Returnees should find an appropriate outlet in where to share their experiences with others who are going through the same things. Many online forums and social group are available for returnees who wish to discuss their experiences and time away.
The Peace Corps' Hammer said her biggest tip would be to know how to use your experience to network. A lot of people think of it as dirty. It's not schmoozing; it's building your alliance, your web of people who know about you and might be able to connect you with people who know what you're about" (Anjarwalla, 2010).
Organizations should provide training of how expatriates should adjust to their move back home, so they will not have to face the shock when they arrive. By providing continuous training, the expatriates will be able to adjust better and will not have such a high level of shock on returning to their home country. Many organizations provide repatriation briefing, in which a consultant will explain to the expatriates what they need to know so they are not affected highly from reverse culture shock.
(Marx E., 1999)
To conclude, it is quite difficult to expect expatriates to return home with no signs of reverse culture shock. By organizations and expatriates preparing themselves for returning home, the effects of the shock can be minimized and to some extent, avoided. Organizations who send their employees abroad must understand the importance and effects of reverse culture shock on their employees. If not, it can cause both personal and professional issues for the employee. Many organizations have implemented repatriation briefings for expatriates returning back home. On the contrary, some organizations still do not value the importance of it. Reverse culture shock is as important if not more important than culture shock itself, and thus, should be implemented within all organizations. Awareness should be created for the sake of expatriates, families, and the benefit of the company itself.
Thus, reverse culture shock can be reduced with the above mentioned methods, having more satisfied expatriates returning home.