Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1963–64)
Culture Shock in Reverse
Culture Shock, a noun . . . “the feeling of disorientation experienced
by someone who is suddenly subjected to
an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” — Google
IF YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED IT, returning home after spending months or years overseas in a different culture, with different standards and perhaps another language, can be a challenge. American Peace Corps Volunteers, Japanese Volunteers or United Nation Volunteers in Latin America bring back their experiences and new found memories that have changed their person. And it isn’t just volunteers who experience these changes, military families, students, missionaries, and business executives do as well. Coming home is a challenge with special benefits that remain with us.
What author Craig Storti brings us in The Art of Coming Home is an awareness of the changes in those of us who have lived overseas, but also in the family and friends we left at home. He provides a “manual” to consider the many benefits of living in a host country, and sharing what we have brought back — both our country and our host country reap the benefits of our experience. As an Army brat before I became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, my family moved every two or three years within the USA or overseas. Home was where we happened to be at the time, but memories were always kept in our scrapbooks or photo albums . . . to remember and share!
Now with “selfies” and WhatsApp so much a part of our lives, we can share memories with our host families to see where we came from, and on reentry, we can show our families and friends what we did with our hosts in their respective communities. We are not far away anymore.
Returning expats may see coming home as temporary, planning to return to their host country for visits, maintain contact with their “new” friends, or even marry. The challenge is to see and understand that we change, our family and friends change . . . even our Host families and friends change. Use the experience that you gained and what you left behind both at home and overseas to see yourself as a better person. Coming Home is the manual that can open doors to who you are and what you plan to do with the new you! Personnel officers need to listen to their expats or new employees or students . . . we want to share our experience!
Keep this manual with you when you have doubts. Share when you get excited someone really wants to hear about your experience. Then con them into taking the challenge and go live in another culture.
Reviewer Bob Arias was a rural community development PCV in Colombia, an Associate Peace Corps Director in Colombia from 1968 to 1973, and Peace Corps Country Director in Uruguay and Argentina from 1993 to 1995. He returned to work at the Peace Corps from 2001 to 2003 assisting in establishing the agency’s Safety and Security Office after 9/11.
Now retired from Los Angeles County where he was the Compliance Officer, Bob has served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (formerly known as Crisis Corps) since 2009, in Paraguay, Colombia, and now for a second time, in Panamá.