Reverse culture shock: Life after COVID-19

Reverse culture shock: Life after COVID-19

How do we cope with returning to normal life when it took so long to adjust to life with COVID-19? (Image Source: Maybe Sammy)

By Chelsea Shepherd | @Chelsea15183902

If you feel anxious or uneasy about returning to work with COVID-19 restrictions easing, you’re not alone.

Many Australians, myself amongst them, are currently experiencing reverse culture shock.

Reverse culture shock is most commonly defined as the emotional and physical distress associated with returning home from living overseas for a long period.

Although the travel aspect isn’t relevant in this current climate, there are vast similarities between the feeling of re-entering the country and life returning to normal following COVID-19.

As much as I hate to throw the word ‘unprecedented’ around, COVID-19 really did throw the whole world off its game and continues to shake up our idea of normal. 

Reverse culture shock can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed, as well create a feeling of dread towards social interactions and a sense of unpredictability when returning to normal life post-COVID-19.

Although reverse culture shock is often described as a challenging period of adjustment, excitement can often be associated with it too.

We look forward to opportunities for meeting up with friends and family and being able to experience more of the things we like to do such as eating out at restaurants, nightclubbing or travelling locally.

It seemed like a long three months of dreaming about when the nightclubs would be re-opening, but now that it’s in my reach I find myself feeling extremely anxious about the whole experience.

The outfit, the effect of alcohol on me as I haven’t drunk in over three months and interacting with more than five people at a time all play on my mind.

These are all things that normally wouldn’t weigh too heavy on me, yet now I can’t seem to shake the nervousness I feel about it.

The same goes for returning to work and any other aspect of normal life resuming.

The Manager of Marine Operations at the State Emergency Service (SES), Darryl Wright, was working from home for three months during the pandemic and returned to work last week.

Mr Wright found working from home to be generally good, “thanks to the establishment of IT systems to access workplace files being relatively painless, largely as a result of pre-workplace preparedness and briefings about what to take home and how to maintain connectivity”.

“Returning to the office came at a good time. While business continued during ‘work for home’, there is no doubt that productivity was down, in my view largely through the lack of face to face collaboration.”

However, not everyone holds the same opinion.

“The main focus points in returning to work were ensuring that staff were informed and comfortable, and reassurance was provided regarding safety and workplace precautions,” Mr Wright said.

Supporting staff at a time like this is crucial in the transition into returning to post COVID-19 as everyone adjusts differently.

Lion Hotel barista Annie Schwenke was stood down from her job when the pubs were closed on March 23 and has yet to return to work as the hotel has not yet reopened.

“Before closing for COVID I was working five days a week, eight hours a day, so the thought of taking paid time off felt like a dream,” Miss Schwenke said.

“However, as time went on I realised how much I needed work to feel like I had purpose. I’ve recognised that my job makes me take charge and pushes me as a person.”

“I adjusted to not working quite easily, and started making routines, such as morning walks, workouts, daily cleaning and cooking,” Miss Schwenke said.

Despite enjoying the small break, Miss Schwenke is unsure about returning to work.

“I definitely feel anxious about going back to work as it has been so long without it. I obviously want to go back but that doesn’t mean I am mentally ready,” she said.

This feeds into the idea of finding it challenging returning to an all too familiar routine.

It is important to remember that many people are feeling the same way about restrictions easing and work and social circumstances becoming more relaxed so in order for us all to combat reverse culture shock, it is important to embrace positives and keep connected with friends and family as well as slowly ease back into ‘normal’.

One response to “Reverse culture shock: Life after COVID-19”

  1. this was such an interesting read! i’m also a bit hesitant to return to normal. things are opening up again here in the uk but i can’t help but feel like it’s too soon… Thank god for the internet so I can keep connected with everyone important to me!


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