Welcome Home? Facing (Reverse) Culture Shock

View from of West Coast from St. James

Sunset View of West Coast, St. James, Barbados.
Photo by Bajan Mom

Understanding a country’s culture is a critical necessity when moving there. It helps to ease the blow of culture shock on your arrival and during your stay. Making the effort to understand Barbadian culture, as it exists today, is not only crucial for the non-national, but for returning nationals as well, since reverse culture shock is an authentic phenomenon. Many people tend to be familiar with the idea of having to learn a new culture, but fewer realise that adaptation is also required when you have returned to the land of your birth after living abroad for an extended period of time.

There are times in this article, and on this site, that I will make reference to the United States, since that is my experience, but those who have lived elsewhere can feel free to share their stories in the comments section below.

Barbados is still home to me, but I am not blind to the fact that it has changed significantly over a decade, and that I have changed in the time I have been away as well. There are  infrastructural changes, such as buildings and roads, which are new. Pertaining to the latter, I admit to getting lost in my own country because I missed a turn due to the unfamiliar introduction of a certain roundabout (traffic circle) or detours caused by two-way streets that have suddenly become one-way (Yes, I am talking about you, Wildey!) There are cultural constants which remain the same, but to which I must readapt. For example, the American pace is much faster, particularly in metropolitan areas, and I must admit, it has taken me a while to pull back and not be frustrated by the slower pace in Barbados, a pace I once considered to be ‘normal.’ Go to or call any government department in Barbados and you will see what I mean. You will eventually get results, but do not expect to get them in a hurry.

As this blog develops, many aspects of Barbadian living will be revealed but I will share a few of the tools I used to help prepare my children and me for resettling.

Connecting with friends and family members:

Having some form of a support system is important when you resettle. While there may be instances of misunderstanding that may occur because of expectations of former selves, that is, people you knew getting to know the new you and vice versa, these connections are vital. Besides emotional support, they will be a treasure trove of helpful information about how to navigate the Barbados you no longer know. Whether it is telling you the cheapest places to purchase groceries, giving you directions to places you have not visited in years, or directing you on how to save on certain services, good friends and relatives can be your secret weapon to survival.

Visiting Barbados when you can:

This is not only useful in keeping a finger on the pulse of the country, and taking care of personal business, but it can be a wonderful educational experience for children. Be sure to take the little ones to the Barbados Museum and other places of interest that will help them learn about their roots. It will assist them personally, but also in school when they have to be familiar with general knowledge facts for Social Studies.

Keeping up with current affairs:

News media such as nationnews.com and barbadostoday.bb kept me updated on what was happening in Barbados while I lived overseas. Other outlets include www.cbc.bb which has a LIVE TV option so you may watch local programming, including the 7pm evening news; and www.vob929.com which, like CBC, has a ‘Listen Live’ option.

Talk  to other returning nationals:

Speaking with self-aware friends who have had to deal with reverse culture shock has been quite beneficial. Trading stories has been quite cathartic for both parties. This kind of symbiosis helps you to realise you are not alone and it actually strengthens the bond between the other returning nationals and you.

Another imperative point . . . do not feel guilty about missing your adopted home, this is normal. There was a certain cognitive dissonance I experienced when speaking to Barbadians and accidentally referring to the States as home. I would feel uncomfortable by the raised eyebrows or comments that seemed to suggest I made some traitorous statement. I quickly came to terms with the fact that the United States was home to me for many years and it just means that I had a second home. The persons to whom I speak that want to pass judgement, as far as I am concerned, that is their issue  to resolve that has nothing to do with me.

Posted on December 31, 2013, in Moving to Barbados: Helpful Hints and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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