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Reverse culture shock can be defined as a situation where one’s emotions, psychology, and culture are at the state of reentry. In many cases, reverse culture shock goes unnoticed. Moreover, it is not understood by many people because of the assumption that they simply return home so they do not find any reason for this process to be awkward. Nevertheless, the situation of culture shock is well-recognized, and many people often prepare for it when they travel to a foreign country. One should understand why reverse culture shock matters, its implications, and the ways of approaching it. Among the main aspects that shape this phenomenon one should mention the feeling of loneliness and the perceived change in one’s culture (Flanagan, 2013). Reverse cultural shock can be adverse among those who travel from collective societies such as the United Arab Emirates. In such societies, family relations are highly valued since they serve as the pillar of morality and unity among family members. When people from collective societies travel to study in foreign countries, it is advisable for them to preserve their culture to safeguard themselves from an extreme reverse cultural shock.
The Main Aspects that Shape Reverse Cultural Shock and Their Functioning
The first aspect that shapes reverse cultural shock is a feeling of loneliness. Staying away from home makes one feel detached from their family members and friends. This feeling makes one fantasize often about the moments, spent together with friends and family members while at home (Flanagan, 2013). While away, many people receive messages from home where their friends and relatives express how much they miss the lovely time spent together. Consequently, one starts imagining that they would be warmly welcomed upon returning home, but the opposite happens upon arrival. Contrary to the expectation, it becomes evident that life changes, and one’s friends at home have made new friends, hence their lives have also changed. The worst experience is that one realizes that their closed ones seem to have no time to listen to the narrations about their life experiences in a foreign country. This realization leads to the feeling of loneliness in society where everybody was once a friend.
Secondly, reverse cultural shock is shaped by the feeling that one has changed. Moving from an Arab country to an English-speaking one subjects one to new cultural aspects that are likely to lead to various forms of behavior change. Among the main changes experienced is the acquisition of a second language (L2). Flanagan (2013) asserts that in some cases, L2 may influence one’s first language (L1) in such a way that one would eventually hardly speak L1 like a native speaker. Living in an English-speaking country such as Australia, the ability to acquire an Australian accent is a big achievement. However, the feeling completely changes upon arrival back home and accepting the fact that one’s accent leads to a cold reception by the traditional Emirati friends. People rarely understand that the changes have been inevitable. In the long run, accent makes one appear as a member of a foreign group in the home country.
The third aspect is the feeling that one is no longer special. In a foreign country, people feel so good when everyone regards them as exotic foreigners and show interest in knowing them and where they come from. It is always exiting to be treated as an interesting foreigner (Lamine, 2010). The situation changes drastically upon one’s return home where people are hardly interested in listening to their experiences abroad. One feels the loss of value because contrary to the expectation that everyone would gather around to listen to one’s stories about their life abroad, they do not show any interest in such stories but continue with their activities.
Another aspect is the development of a constant state of missing the place that one left. Based on the cold reception at home, one obviously starts reflecting on the nice time spent and the new friends one has made in the foreign country (Lamine, 2010). At the moment, people start looking at the country that they have left with too much fondness and start missing everything that has remained there. Although there must be a good reason for returning home, one always yearns for an opportunity to go back to the foreign country. For example, some items in the foreign country may be available at home as well, but it is disappointing to note that one has to pay more to acquire them. Such an experience leads to reverse cultural shock.
How to Avoid “Impersonating the Others” Lifestyle
As people mingle and adapt to the new culture over time, they learn how to interact with people from a different angle and become used to their customs and norms, hence creating new identities to themselves. Despite the advantages that come with an ability to interact with citizens in a foreign country in their language, it is advisable to avoid overly impersonating them to prevent a possible change in people’s views towards the social life in their home country and their native mother tongue. Therefore, one of the practical ways of avoiding this issue is through the appreciation of ones’ mother tongue. According to Lamine (2010), language is a vital aspect of a people’s culture; hence, the ability to preserve one’s L1 can lead to their acceptability upon arrival to the home country. When people value their native language, they are likely to search for the slightest opportunity to speak it even in a foreign country. For a true Emirati national, it would be necessary to maintain their linguistic competence in L1. Although one may need to learn a foreign language for the interaction in the foreign country, it is important to preserve their mother tongue by avoiding the excessive adoption of a foreign accent.
One can try cooking family recipes to have a connection to the memory of their native country’s lifestyle. According to Primecz, Romani, and Sackmann (2011), eating habits form a basic element of people’s culture. Therefore, one’s ability to cook their family recipes while in a foreign country can help them avoid impersonating other people’s lifestyle too much. When preparing or eating traditional meals, one reflects on their life at home and connects with family members despite their physical absence.
Sharing one’s culture’s art and technology can also help avoid the impersonation of others’ lifestyle. People should understand that every culture has its distinct clothing, visual art, and music among others (Primecz et al., 2011). For a student in a foreign country, one of the practical ways of maintaining their home country’s lifestyle is by listening to their traditional music. Although one may dress like the citizens of their host country, it is advisable to occasionally use traditional clothing to connect with their home culture. In so doing, it would be difficult to forget one’s native lifestyle as the result of the influence of the foreign country’s one. People should also make efforts to identify and spend time with the members of their native community. When foreigners with a common cultural background meet in a host country, they are likely to hold discussions in their native language, eat traditional food, dress in traditional clothes, and show their appreciation of traditional lifestyle (Primecz et al., 2011). In any foreign country, one is likely to identify their compatriots with whom they can interact and feel some connection to home.
The Importance of Family Relations in the UAE
In comparison to many other countries of the world, the United Arab Emirates highly values family relations. The UAE is collective society where the members of a family tend to live together and share their experiences. Thus, family relations are very important due to a number of reasons. First, collective society values the unity of family members that is only attainable when they live together. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (2012) state that in the UAE, family time creates the bond of oneness among family members. The time spent together makes people develop a sense of belonging and unity that can hardly be attained if they live separately in their individual homes. Thus, this enables people to pull resources together for their development, which enables the citizens of the UAE to realize their economic prosperity.
In the UAE, family serves as a building block for morality; hence, family time helps in raising responsible children. Moreover, the fact that people adhere to their laws strictly, staying away from other family members in the UAE might make people unwelcome, when no one in their family wants to associate with them because they show some unfamiliar lifestyle that others regard to be uncouth (Primecz et al., 2011). Therefore, people should maintain their family values when they travel to foreign countries so that they could be easily accepted upon their return in the UAE. When having time together as members of a family, parents can point to the issues that they feel should change in their children’s behavior, which inculcates respect and continuity of family values.
Family time helps avoid negative influences and behavior. According to Ulrichsen (2014), the bond of unity that develops when members of a family stay together facilitates communication between parents and children. The author asserts that the valuable time, which parents and children spend together, enables the latter to open to the former about the things bothering them (Ulrichsen, 2014). Consequently, this will help develop a high level of trust in this family. In turn, such a relationship enables children to receive pieces of advice and guidance from their parents, which can help them resist the influence of exposure to undesirable traits.
Family time also helps in strengthening relations between members. When living together, family members in the UAE have time to enjoy leisure activities together and this strengthens the bond between them. According to Ulrichsen (2014), the members of a divided family cannot build the ties with each other because they cannot share in the happiness and grievances of one another. The way people raise their children also tells much about the kind of parents they are since in the future, their children will also have families of their own. When people spend more time together as members of a family, they learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, they are in a better situation to support each other when necessary.
The Need to See the World from Another Perspective
For a young person who has the passion for exploration, the world is open enough, and it provides many opportunities for one to travel beyond the borders of their country. However, an Emirati national needs to be cautious when following this route because of the high standards of discipline and morality in their country. One always needs to give back to society. For this reason, Flanagan (2013) suggests that wherever an Emirati national goes, they should always remember all their time spent with the family, lessons learnt, and the guidance given on the ways of life. People should also remember that their country appreciates law abiding citizens due to the value for Sharia laws. At the same time, for a young person who returns home, it is necessary to demonstrate ability to offer service to people since attempting to fully copy foreigners’ character exposes one to several challenges. Unless one is appointed by their country to take new aspects of a foreign country’s culture, they turn detrimental upon their arrival back to the UAE. As long as people’s approach towards their land is constructive, they follow their dreams, work for their heart’s desires while always showing gratitude to their country, an opportunity to travel to a foreign country nurtures them and enables them to achieve their goals.
Young people who want to travel and explore the world should not be afraid to do this because exposure is always good for an individual. Through traveling, people can learn their strengths and weaknesses as it exposes them to challenges and opportunities. Despite the benefits that one can enjoy after being in a foreign country, it is important to understand that the excessive adoption of a foreign culture can expose one to reverse cultural shock upon their return to the home country. This can lead to the feeling of isolation and disappointment. Such an experience is common in the situations when people avoid associating with those who clearly show the influence of a foreign language on their mother tongue when they return from a foreign country. The feeling can be quite traumatizing in the UAE, since it is collective society where family relations are highly valued. In this country, family is regarded as the basic unit that helps uphold unity among members and instill discipline in children. When one gets an opportunity to travel out of the country, it is advisable for them to preserve their native culture.