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Reverse Culture Shock: What It's Like Moving Home

Reverse culture shock: airport shot leaving Singapore

It's been two months since we moved back home after living abroad in Singapore. I can't even explain how quickly the time as gone! I thought I would write a quick update on 'repat life' and how it feels to be returning to the UK after living overseas.

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock - the definition

I saw this term mentioned a few times in other blogs but didn't really know what it meant. I definitely get it now I have returned back home after living abroad! Basically things which are totally normal to you suddenly seem different and you have to get used to your regular life and routine again. 

Just think of all the things which seemed strange when you first moved abroad and how much you got used to them. When you move back home the opposite happens and things you took for granted for years can take some getting used to! It's a very strange adjustment process.

Reverse Culture Shock - the symptoms

I first realised I was going to get reverse culture shock as soon as I landed at Newcastle airport. I went to Marks and Spencer for bread and milk and got so confused when the lady didn't automatically give me a bag. 

I am sure before I left for Singapore, although bags were chargeable, they still asked if you wanted one? Anyway I was very puzzled as I carried my things back to my boyfriend who reminded me about the carrier bag charges in the UK.

You feel kinda confused all the time and do some stupid things. I often forget which side of the stairs or escalator to be on and end up getting in people's way.

Prices seem ridiculously cheap after living somewhere as expensive as Singapore - my first supermarket shop was definitely a huge case of reverse culture shock. Moving home makes everything seem like a bargain and I've got to be careful not to overspend!

What it's like moving home: reverse culture shock

The Bad Bits 

Honeymoon Period

I didn't really miss Singapore for the first month or so as apart from the reverse culture shock symptoms I was so excited about the honeymoon period of moving back home. However, four weeks in I started getting these weird homesick type pangs! I was only there for just over 7 months but yeah, turns out that's long enough to form quite an attachment.


I feel so lucky for the experiences we had this year but it feels a million miles away from life now. Don't get me wrong I am enjoying the quiet life and don't spend my days wishing I was on a beach but every now and then I get this pang when I see full time travellers on Instagram. I can't help occasionally wishing I had that glamorous life back where Bali was a quick direct flight away! 

I guess getting used to travelling more was a shock to the system at the time but now staying at home a lot more feels like reverse culture shock as I need to find more to do that doesn't involve planning the next trip. I'm back into my saving mode to make sure we can afford lots of nice holidays going forward. I recently wrote a useful guide about how I afford to travel, packed with money saving tips. You can read it here.

Reverse Culture Shock: less travelling


I miss how safe it was in Singapore. If I went out late with friends there was never an issue walking home in the dark. I didn't speed up automatically as soon as I saw a random guy behind me and I definitely didn't have to rely on taxis. 

Where I live isn't a particularly unsafe part of the UK but I definitely forgot that feeling of not wanting to walk alone in the dark and worrying about nearby strangers. It's definitely been a case of reverse culture shock remembering that I shouldn't always walk home at night. The low crime rate was definitely something I took for granted in Singapore!

Diversity and Acceptance

I seriously miss how diverse and accepting the culture was in Singapore. Because the country was packed full of different nationalities and types of people, you felt free to do anything (within reason) without anyone caring or paying attention.

I forgot how different it is in the UK. I don't always feel comfortable on a night out in certain areas of the North East where I live as you've got to be so careful how you look at people. Instagram photos are a massive challenge as I get too many stares if I try and take them here so I am heavily relying on the travel back catalogue at the moment!

I wish we were more accepting as a nation here but sadly I think the UK culture is always going to be slightly more judgemental than a diverse place like Singapore. This was a huge reverse culture shock!

What it's like moving home: Ouseburn Walks

The Good Stuff

Feeling Content

Luckily moving home has had far more positives than negatives and overall I am so happy we are back. I can't really explain the feeling but I literally am like a different person since we returned.

I prioritise what matters, I don't let people get to me as much and I just have this nice feeling of contentment and happiness! Moving abroad seriously does change your mindset.

Friends and Family

The obvious one - there's a reason it's top of my list of the 10 common worries about moving abroad. It feels amazing having the people I care about close by and I know who really matters in my life now. 

It's been great to catch up with everyone and feels comforting knowing you can slip back into old friendships and family plans with ease. On the flip side, I guess you always leave a part of you in a place you have called home and I miss my lovely expat friends. 

The reverse culture shock has been getting used to fitting everyone in. There have been lots of catchups to plan and it's very different from the odd night out with friends I had when we were in Singapore. This isn't a negative at all, just a change to get used to!

Moving home: days out in durham

The Weather

Yes this is in the right list... hear me out. Singapore weather isn't as amazing as you might think. Whilst it's guaranteed to be warm and this makes dressing for days out so much easier, it isn't always dry. I even have a guide with things to do in Singapore when it's raining as it's such a common occurrence!

The rain could go on for days sometimes and made it difficult to plan things. I guess coming home to the UK in Autumn was always going to be nice as the leaves are so pretty and I am also finding it milder than a usual November. I have no idea why but something feels different and I am enjoying the fresh air. 

Far from being a reverse culture shock as I expected, the change in climate is amazing and I seem to like the cold temperatures much more than before I left! I guess the Singapore humidity got a bit much in the end.

Moving home: autumnal weather


I am now teaching at the local University part time and when I am not teaching I am able to go into the University library and work on my Doctorate in a lovely, peaceful setting. 

This routine is great and makes me feel so much more at home than when I was away. As much as I loved Singapore, I struggled without a job and being at home alone most of the time got me down at times. It's not all amazing - it's been a huge reverse culture shock getting used to having commitments again as believe me when I say I got very lazy as an expat. I got used to my nice, easy life with no deadlines.


It feels so nice just chilling out on a weekend and getting all cosy with candles. I am a candle addict and missed having them on in Singapore - it's not the same burning candles on a summer's day! 

I love wearing all the cosy Autumn-Winter clothing and being able to watch all the TV I missed whilst I was away. Since I moved home I find it far easier to wind down and relax.

What it's like moving home: relaxation


I am literally food obsessed and even more so now we are home! Cooking and food shopping was the hardest part of settling abroad and I can't explain how excited I am to be back to cooking all our favourite food again. Whilst there was some reverse culture shock with food (what do you mean, I can't get a meal for £2 at a local food court?) on the whole it is much better since I moved home.

I don't take availability of food for granted like I did before we left and just love thinking of new recipes to make! I am also absolutely loving trying new restaurants nearby. 

One thing you find when you repatriate is that your mindset has changed with regards to your local area. I never really walked around my locality before and I can't believe how many epic places I have missed! The photo below was taken at a cafe literally 10 minutes from me (Kiln, Ouseburn) - how have I not been to places like this previously?!

Moving home: what it's like

I hope this post has helped to explain more about reverse culture shock and give you a taster of what it feels like. If you aren't in a repatriate position, hopefully this will help you feel more positive about living at home. Just look at how much longer the good list was for me than the bad! 

Has anyone else had their own experiences of reverse culture shock? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Reverse culture shock: pin me


  1. Great post! I had similar experience after moving home from Copenhagen and that was still Europe.

    1. Ahh thanks glad you enjoyed it. I think it would happen moving anywhere wouldn't it, always going to feel so different! M

  2. Such an interesting read Melis, knowing how odd it can feel coming back home after a weeks holiday I can't even imagine what it'd be like after months and months abroad!

    1. Ah thank you! It’s weird but in a good way - I can’t explain how much more I love living in Newcastle and feel happy. Was pretty down before we left and hating the UK, honestly feel like a different person. Thanks for reading :)

  3. YES! I first lived in Spain when I was 20, and had a complete local immersion experience. Moving back was a total shock to the system - the temperature, the food, eating a sandwich lunch and big dinner instead of the other way round... The list goes on! I still find it a bit odd now when I come back to the UK, much as I love it. I think sometimes I'm a bit too direct now, and have to remember my English manners!Great post!

    1. It's so strange isn't it when you get used to a different way of life how alien the old way feels. 2 months in I am so settled and loving all my home comforts again! Haha I can imagine that, us Brits are far too polite and scared to be direct than other parts of the world. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I found the culture shock of returning to the UK after five years in India way tougher than moving to Asia. Hopefully the experience will prove something you can draw from.

    1. It's actually brilliant a few weeks on and I'm much happier in the UK than expected. It was SUCH a shock at first! So much to get 're-used to'. Thanks for reading!

  5. I have never actually relocated to my home country, the Netherlands, but I have relocated several times to the US, my husband's and children's home country where I have lived for years. It is always difficult, but most of all because we always lived overseas in developing countries which changed my worldview. After coming back to the US it was usually difficult to find people with similar experiences and views, which makes friends not as easy. It was always easier to find friends in international communities in foreign countries. I am sure it depends where in the US you relocate to, as the culture and sophistication varies vastly from place to place. Wishing you luck!

    1. Thanks for reading. I completely agree with you about finding friends who have experienced living in similar places, it can sometimes feel like you haven't really got anyone to talk to about your life experience but at the same time I quite like having this private time of my life which I did with my partner and we can always talk about with fond memories. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone, who is able to, should experience living abroad at least once! Melis

  6. I've lived in the UK for nearly a decade now so I can't even really imagine what it would be like to move back home now.

    1. I bet the UK is pretty much your home after that length of time, things that were strange at first probably seem completely normal now! Thanks for reading, Melis

  7. Amazingly written . Yes I did I m Singaporean but been staying in India for work .2 year already I love my work but yeah I miss Sg (food,safety,convenience,getaways,beaches,friends).

    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment! Singapore felt to me like the easiest, most well-thought out place to live. Everything you can think of has been taken care of and it's perfect for families!

  8. I feel that leaving America and moving back to Britain is the only way out. Throughout my twelve year stay in America I have been extremely unhappy and severely depressed because of restriction and issues with being denied residency. I have been kept waiting several years for my green card only to be denied it; therefore I have spend every single day struggling due to being unable to escape from this hellish situation. I don't want to say that my experience of living in a new country has been a disappointment but sadly I had no idea the experience would turn out to be that disappointing. I wouldn't wish for anybody to go through this type of hell.


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