Things NOT To Do After Returning From Abroad

You have been abroad for a while and now you are back home. You have become more worldly, more cultured and very excited to share your overseas experiences with your family and friends. You feel like a changed person spiritually but everyone else is the same! And if that was not enough, they expect you to be the same old you before you left on the trip. Well how do you relate without coming on too snobbish or bragging about your travel experiences abroad? Here are some suggestions.

What Not To Do After Returning From Abroad

Collection of passport stamps

Collection of passport stamps | (c) Photo By Ho John Lee

1. Don’t pretend to be from the country you visited

Yes it is true that spending time in another country does make you adopt to new customs. But let us not loose perspective, you are not actually from the country you were abroad when you return home. You will still be Mary Smith from Toronto and not Martina Sawicki from Poland! While you are abroad, it is exciting and your mind is filled with new things, but remember that you can’t bring it all back home with you.

Think twice before you:

Greet your friends with two kisses on each cheek you learned from the country you visited. I had a friend who went abroad and when she came back she started greeting our friends with two kisses on each cheek. Obviously we never did that in North America.


Stick to the usual way of greeting in the home country that you and others around you are accustomed to. If at all you feel ‘home sick‘ from where you were at, you can always connect with people at your schools, work place or community. This way you can continue to learn about their cultures and maybe practice some of those customs with them.

2. Don’t go on and on and on and…

Your friends and family are interested in your abroad experience, but that doesn’t mean you have to start every sentence with, “When I was abroad…” followed by an hour-long narrative. People only want to spend so much time hearing stories and looking at pictures. Remember, no matter how fascinating an experience was for you at the time, not all experiences make for interesting stories.

Think twice before you:

Turn a discussion about what kind of pizza your friends should order into a half-hour ramble about Thai stir fry.


Keep your stories specific rather than just vaguely commenting on how nice this museum was or how awesome that monument was. Consider inviting your friends to a slideshow, during which you can share all the highlights of your experience during an allotted amount of time. Or, let your friends learn about your experience in their own time by sharing pictures and stories online.

3. Don’t act “holier-than-thou”

One of the most exciting things about living abroad is being exposed to different tastes, perspectives and practices. Sometimes this means reevaluating your own, whether that results in a new-found appreciation for quality coffee or new-found horror over the quantity of plastic bags that your compatriots use at the grocery store. Still, nobody wants to be lectured to, or hear you bash their tastes.

Think twice before you:

Say something like, “I can’t believe you take 10-minute showers” or “I can’t believe I have to drink boxed wine again. We never drank that in Florence.”


Find positive ways to channel your new-found interests rather than lecture to your friends about water waste. Take action by starting or joining a student group. If you want your friends to appreciate quality wine, take them to a nearby vineyard or a wine tasting. They will have lot more fun by actively partaking in your interests than hearing you rant.

4. Don’t flaunt it

It’s important to remember that it’s not possible for everyone to go abroad. There are factors that hold many people back, like financial restraints, academic requirements, or family matters. You’ve been afforded a great opportunity that isn’t necessarily available to everyone, even though it should be.

Think twice before you:

Say something like, “Going to Denmark was the greatest experience of my life. You really need to get out of the country, Colin.”


Remember how lucky you are to have had this experience, and be sensitive when sharing stories with someone who hasn’t been abroad yet. You can also get involved in campus-level or national initiatives to expand study abroad so that more people can have the opportunity that you did.

5. Don’t hate your own country

Yes, it can be hard to settle back into your old life. Maybe it seems boring and unexotic, or maybe new things suddenly bother you like the pace of life, individualistic mentality or mass consumption. The fact is, there are many things that are wonderful about each country including our own. They should not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Think twice before you:

Spend your weekend sulking in your dorm room or in your parents’ basement complaining about the inferiority of your native country.


Walk through a new neighborhood, find a new restaurant or meet a new person. Go on a road trip with your friends, or take a cheap flight to somewhere you’ve never been. Sometimes we forget how many cultural enclaves exist right here in our own country. Take time to explore them. Bring that eagerness to learn and explore home with you. And if you don’t always like what you find, use your newly expanded perspective to figure out how to make things better.

Have I missed any?

6 Responses to “Things NOT To Do After Returning From Abroad”

  1. Julia says:

    I totally agree with not hating your own country. My fellow Americans can have a real problem with this. Certainly there are some things that I have found myself wishing for upon coming back to the US — universal health care, grocery stores stocked with local products, and a popular-vote electoral system. But we also have far less poverty than a lot of places, freedom of assembly, speech, and religion, and amazing regional diversity. If you’re a tourist, it is easy to idealize a place, but over enough trips and long enough trips, you can also see that every country has its problems. I find that makes it easier for me to return to the US and still love it.

    • Shamis says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Julia :) It’s when we travel that we realize what our own country has to offer us. We should be thankful for the place we call our home :)

  2. I was definitely guilty of most of these… after spending time back in the states, I realized there are many things I enjoy about our country. While spending time abroad allowed me to discover delights in other cultures, it also helped me realize what I value about my own.

    • Shamis says:

      It’s very, once we travel abroad and come back we realize the things we sometimes take for granted as well. It gives us time to appreciate our own country as well.

  3. Megan says:

    Great post! I think you’ve covered most of the important points. Under “don’t hate your own country” I think it’s important (especially for those that have volunteered in 3rd world countries) not to feel guilty for what they do have in their home country. It’s easy to feel this way after experiencing poverty, but guilt doesn’t help anything. Instead, as you suggested, becoming involved in a group or organization that combats those issues or even supports the nation of your visit can be a great way to combat that feeling of guilt and use our resources well.