No matter what you may think now, chances are you will get some kind of culture shock on return to your home country. Home probably won’t have stayed the same waiting for you to get back and neither will your friends and family. Certainly you have changed in some way in order to be able to function in Japanese society, and you may not function so well in your “home” culture as you used to. This is a stressful thing to come to terms with. Think about in what ways you and your home have changed since you’ve been in Japan.
Try to deal with the loss of Japan as much as possible while you’re still here. Make lists of what you’ve achieved; what you would like to take home with you (abstract and concrete); and what you can’t take home and will have to say farewell to. What you will really miss about Japan and what you really won’t. Set long-term goals.
Be sure to have appropriate farewells with the people you may not see again for a long time. A big night out may be an appropriate way to say goodbye to some people but maybe not others. Think about how you want to say goodbye. Don’t say a hurried farewell to your close friends because you’re caught up in the business of preparing to leave. Emotional preparations are just as important as packing, holiday planning and preparing for your successor.
When you get home, be sure to take plenty of time to reflect on your Japanese experience. Probably you will be able to make sense of it all a lot better from a home (or is that foreign?) setting. Just as most of us learn a lot about our home culture from our time here, we can expect to realise a lot about Japan from home. Remember though that just because we are fascinated by the beauty and intricacy of Japanese culture doesn’t mean that our friends and family will be. They can’t possibly relate on the same level. Join your local JET Alumni Association, exchange language with a Japanese student, take night classes in Japanese – go looking for ways to keep your Japan connection going.
Don’t stress about getting stressed! The worst re-entry shock you experience may be that you can’t find your favourite soy sauce to put on your tofu. However, do take the time to prepare adequately for the emotional side of going home as well as the material stuff.
More information is available in the JET Programme General Information Handbook.
Thanks to Dr. Jim McRae from the CLAIR Counselling Committee for this information.