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Expats, once they’ve returned home after a long time abroad, can have trouble adapting.  Their vision of their mother country is somewhat strange and out of day, colored by the reactions and beliefs of host nation locals.  There is a such thing as reverse culture shock, and routinely, overseas brats and third culture kids feel once they step arrive in the airport.  There are many different ways this can manifest itself, but speaking from my own personal experience, there’s one thing that has happened to me.  As noted elsewhere on this blog, I used to not like answering the question, “Where are you from?”  My reason for hating that question had another wrinkle to it for the longest time.  Some lesser informed people tend to react poorly when given the answer.  In my experience, some have reacted with, “Will you please stop bragging about your travel experience?”  The thing is: I’m NOT bragging.  It’s just the way I was brought up, moving from base to base.  That’s like saying to somebody, “Will you stop bragging” when they talk about growing up in small town North Carolina.  So, the result is thus:  you clam up.  It’s just one facet of the Third Culture experience.

I’m thinking about this because recently found an article that seeks to dispell some notions about living abroad. There’s a paragraph, though, about alienation that hits pretty close to home:

Adult TCKs also recall occasional feelings of painful isolation and adjustment, most frequently noted in the form of reverse culture shock upon re-entry into their home country. Not surprising, most of these memories were concentrated around the teenage years. “Most people in their early teen years don’t want to be different,” said Peters. “So feeling that you’re out of synch with other people your age can be really frustrating.”

I moved to America when I turned 18 and entered college.  The above aptly describes a good bit of my college experience.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m an Army Brat from wayyyyy back. I wrote a book about my experiences as the daughter of an army officer from 1938 to 1958, when my dad retired. That makes me really old….but I saw things others coldn’t possibly have experienced, such as culture shock. After living in a foreign land for perhaps three years, landing at New York was a culture shock. All the signs were in English! And we had advertisements on the radio — AFN had only “re-up” ads, to my recollection. My mouth, accustomed to speaking broken German/Austrian dialect, became dyslexic in trying to order a meal at a soda fountain. It took a while.
    BTW, blantant self-promotion here, my book is Once a Brat, available on Amazon and other book sites. I’m working on a sequel, Always a Brat, about how our brat childhoods affect us as adults.
    Brat On!
    Marilyn C. Morris

  2. Marilyn, AFN likely got more sophisticated. When I was over there, we got to watch American programming — a year delayed, but still. Still, I think that insulated the Americans more from the host nation locals, especially as the DOD created more and more amenities on base. One of the things that people often ask me, as a TCK, is “do you speak any languages,” and the become surprised when the expception of very bad, illiterate Dutch, the answer is “no.”


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