Reverse Culture Shock

If you go with the Christians to their school in the north, do not plan on coming back.”

As acting head of the family, my older brother’s emphatic threat carried full force. And yet how could I not go when I had already accepted Christ as my Savior and longed to learn more of His teachings? After two years at the Christian high school, my family allowed me to return to visit. However, I never lived in Southern Thailand again until now.

During our pre-launch missionary training, our instructors spent several days discussing the reality and implications of culture shock and a few minutes mentioning something they called reverse culture shock — the disorientation a person feels when returning to their own culture after a significant time away. I watched my husband go through reverse culture shock when returning to the States after more than twenty years in southeast Asia and when I witnessed other returning missionaries struggle upon returning home. Is this something that I will experience? I thought to myself. I have been gone from my native culture for 35 years. What will this mean for me? The instructor’s following words shocked me.

“When someone leaves their home culture for a year and comes back, there are two years of separation between them and their home culture. Every year away counts for two years because the home culture does not stay where it was, and you also do not stay where you were. You grow in separate directions.”

I made a quick calculation. I have been gone for 35 years. That is 70 years of separation!

And now we are in Southern Thailand, living five hours away from where I grew up. After six months here, my conclusion is reverse culture shock is real! People talk about fish out of water. That is me! It will take time to adjust.

But God is good all the time. Despite the emotional challenges of battling reverse culture shock, I am confident in God’s timing. He will give us the strength to face every challenge as long as we rely on Him and follow His leading. Please pray for us and God’s work in Southern Thailand.

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