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Returning Kiwi? How to cope with ‘reverse culture shock’

Are you looking at relocating back to New Zealand? 'Reverse culture shock' is quite common. So, here are some expert tips on how to deal with it.
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You may have heard of culture shock before, and perhaps even experienced some when you left New Zealand to live in the UK. Now that you’ve decided to relocate back to New Zealand after years of living overseas, the last thing you’d probably expect is a ‘reverse culture shock’.

But as our partners Mobile Relocation Experts point out in this guide, reverse culture shock is common amongst people who come back to their home country – and dealing with it isn’t always easy. Read on for some expert tips and insights to help you make your relocation as smooth as possible.

What is reverse culture shock?

First of all, what is reverse culture (or re-entry) shock? It’s when a person struggles with returning to their former way of life after a lengthy period of absence. As author Robin Pascoe described it in her book Homeward Bound, “re-entry shock feels like you are wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes. Everything looks almost right.”

The reality is, there’s more to repatriation than just going home. You’ve changed during your time overseas. You’ve experienced another way of life – not necessarily a ‘better’ way of life, just different. Life in New Zealand has moved on too in the meantime, and so have the people that you used to hang out with before. That’s why, depending on how long you’ve been away and the reason for your return, it can take a while to re-adjust.

What many returning Kiwis struggle with

What makes return culture shock particularly challenging is that it’s unexpected. “When moving overseas to a country with a different language/lifestyle/climate, people anticipate challenges. While moving home can, in theory, seem like going back to what’s familiar,” notes Bridget Romanes in her article on

So, make sure you learn to recognise the signs. Some common struggles that many returnees face include:

  • Boredom;
  • Difficulty explaining how you feel;
  • Reverse homesickness;
  • Feeling that your relationships with friends and family have changed;
  • Loss or compartmentalisation of experience;
  • Feelings of alienation.

“Challenges to self-esteem and a feeling of not belonging are the many ways people are affected,” Bridget explains. From having to re-establish a credit rating to not being known anymore in your profession or industry, or not understanding how the property market works, people can feel left out for lots of reasons.

Here’s what you can do about it

While starting again and fitting back into the NZ culture can be difficult, a good starting point is to expect that reverse culture might happen and understand what you’re going through.

Getting back into the swing of things at home will not always be comforting. Probably, not everything at home will be the same. Patience is the key. And while you establish new friendships and re-establish ties with family and friends, it can also be a good idea to keep in touch with other Kiwi repatriates, to share your experiences and talk through any concerns you may have. recommends working on your coping skills toolkit. Think about what has worked for you in the past, when you started living overseas. What did you do to practise self-care? It could be exercising, creating something, journaling, cooking… any activities that bring you joy.

“Part of the reason reverse culture shock happens is because people attempt to go back to a place that no longer exists as a person that longer exists,” the article reads. So, another important step is to create your home and identity, finding ways to incorporate aspects of your life abroad into your new life at home.

Here to help with your UK pension transfer

If you’ve moved back to New Zealand from the UK, transferring your UK pension closer to you may be worth considering. This is a complex decision to make, so it’s a good idea to work with a UK pension expert like us.

Click here to contact us or give us a call on 0800 UK 11 NZ to book a review. At Pension Transfers, over the past 20-plus years, we have helped thousands of clients make informed decisions about their UK pension transfer and future financial needs.



Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance. Past fund performance is no guarantee of future returns.