about culture shock and re-entry shock

Thoughtful reflection

Prior to my trip I spend time thinking about my past trips, and also about the effect of having lived in a foreign country in the past. On thie first trip I knew I was going to learn about the culture and customs of Nepal, and was happy to do so. An unexpected thing happened when I came back, though, which was to discover how outlandish my own culture was. I did not know it at the time, but the depression and maladjustment I experienced was “reverse culture shock” or ” re-rentry shock”.  this phenomenon propelled me to write my book; to learn about it was a valuable lesson. I think re-entry shock is worse for a person who did medical work abroad, because the nature of medical work in Low Income Countries is to go behind the scenes and see parts of the host country that are not usually shown to tourists.  After the Haiti earthquake I was approached by various people who served there and who also experienced re-entry shock – they didn’t know the name of the phenomenon either!

the obvious answer is to Google it. There are dozens of sites on the internet that provide resources. here is my personal favorite>


This gem of a resource comes from the University of the Pacific, which sends many students for experiences abroad. The actual link brings you to an online workbook that defines the elements of culture shock and re-entry shock and shares coping strategies.  The key is to plan for re-entry shock before you even get on the plane from the beginning.

After resolving my re-entry shock, I did make changes in my life – I am now nowhere near as materialistic of a person as I formerly was.

My Nepali friends tell me that they experience culture shock on both sides of the travel to and from USA.


About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

Experienced nursing educator and problem-solver. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background, and fifteen of adult critical care background. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. I travel outside of Kathmandu Valley as well. When the recent violence happened, I knew the cities - I had trained people in those locations. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011. Global Health Nursing is not all sweetness and light; not solely milk & honey and happy moms and babies.
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