Transitions enthusiast H.E. Rybol consults with recent repat Morgan Carver Richards about the best tools for fixing a bad case of reverse culture shock syndrome.
Hello, Displaced Nationers! I wonder if you’ve already had the pleasure of encountering the videos made by YouTuber Morgan Carver Richards? If not, you’ve been missing out…
Morgan spent four years in Dubai because of her husband’s flying career and returned to her native United States in January of this year. She has been posting hilarious videos on YouTube as a way of coping with the effects of reverse culture shock.
Here are some of my favorite sound bites from the series:
“Why are there so many cereals?!”
“This doctor bill is like 750 dollars! All she did was look at my leg and give me some Ibuprofen!”
“Kids, they don’t have bus nannies here. You’re on your own out there.”
“No, you cannot walk to the grocery store by yourself. This is not Dubai. Do you want Mommy to go to jail?”
“There are signs outside the primary school saying you can’t take your guns inside. There is NO WAY I’m the only person who finds that odd!”
Originally from South Carolina, Morgan had her own career as a flight attendant for several years. That was before the “lavish Vegas wedding of the shotgun variety” that took her to Dubai and the children that followed. Her career in the airlines industry, combined with her perpetual stir-craziness (hello, itchy feet!), has inspired several books:
Something all of Morgan’s works have in common, including her repatriation videos, is that she likes to make people laugh. Why don’t you see for yourself by checking out Morgan’s very first repat video, “Gardeners, Maids, Savages”:
Despite her skill with the video camera, Morgan claims to be somewhat behind the curve when it comes to adapting to new technologies. But she has no regrets because she thinks that growing up with social media would have made her early life less fulfilling.
Food for thought…
And now let’s find out what Morgan has packed in her reverse culture shock toolbox…
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Hi, Morgan, and welcome to Culture Shock Toolbox—or in your case, REVERSE Culture Shock Toolbox. Where on our beautiful planet have you lived?
I spent four years in the United Arab Emirates and 27 years in the United States where I lived in Phoenix, Arizona; Rock Hill, South Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee.
Any memorable cultural transition stories? Did you ever put your foot in your mouth?
I have put my foot in my mouth several times, mostly when in the United States. I feel I wrongly assume too often that other people have the same knowledge base on the United Arab Emirates as I have. It easily makes the conversation go from friendly to savage.
How did you handle that situation?
I’m actively working on handling these situations in a more tolerable manner. I’m slowly but surely learning to keep my conversations to a happy medium instead of overreacting. I am still developing the tools to convey my experiences in a way that helps people understand cultural differences and discern reality from what is reported on Fox News (sorry, Fox News, you’re savage).
“Why can’t my fellow Americans discern reality from what is reported on Fox News?” Morgan Carver Richards grapples with reverse culture shock.
Can you think of any culture shock situations, reverse or otherwise, you’ve handled with finesse?
I handled the relocation to Dubai from the US with surprising finesse compared with my move back to the US, which has had a finesse level of 0%. I think it was easier moving to the UAE because I went in knowing that I would have to learn a new culture and system. Returning to the US I wrongly assumed I would be accustomed to the culture because it’s my home country.
You illustrate some of your reverse culture shock moments in your hilarious YouTube videos. I gather the transition has been rough?
Yes, reverse culture shock has been powerful for me. I know other people repatriate more smoothly, but it wasn’t the case for me. The biggest source of counter culture shock I struggle with still is the less personal approach to daily interactions and the focus on privacy instead of the strong community feel and strong communication aspect that were a part of life in Dubai.
What has helped you deal with reverse culture shock?
Publishing my repatriation videos has led to an outpouring of support, positive feedback, laughter and understanding from other repatriates. I now see that, although each person has their own unique repatriation story, I am not alone with a lot of the feelings and experiences I’ve been having. I cannot stress how incredibly helpful and amazing that experience has been for me.
Did you hear that, expats? Make sure you include an iPhone or video camera in your toolbox. It may come in handy once you have to go home.
Finally, because some of our readers are still expats, can I ask: are there any tools you found particularly helpful in adjusting to life in the UAE?
My best advice is to take your time and check it out before you move. Don’t go into it with a bad attitude or else your experiences will reflect that attitude. Develop a few strong relationships early in the transition. My few strong relationships were what held me together in my new environment when I had a rough time or a bad day.
Thank you so much, Morgan! Building a new community is essential for handling cultural transitions, which may be why repatriation is so hard—it’s a lonely experience. But vlogging sounds like an excellent way of connecting with others who are going through something similar. We constantly need to remind ourselves: we’re all in this together.
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So, Displaced Nationers, do you have any of your own repat stories to share?
To keep in touch with Morgan, I suggest you subscribe to her YouTube channel, check out her author site, like her Facebook page, and/or follow her on Twitter.
Well, I hope this has you “fixed” until next month.
Until then, cheers! Prost! Santé!
H.E. Rybol is a TCK and the author of Culture Shock: A Practical Guide and Culture Shock Toolbox and Reverse Culture Shock. She loves animals, piano, yoga and being outdoors. You can find her on Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, and her author site.
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Photo credits: All photos are from Pixabay.