Advice for those who return.

Fellow adoptees: What advice do you have [in terms of language learning, culture shock, etc.] for those who decide to go back for a visit, travel back for an extended stay, or make the decision to definitively return to their place of birth?

3 thoughts on “Advice for those who return.

  1. I’d say if you can learn the basics then do. Depending on how long you intend to stay ‘back home’ try and find a friendly local to teach you more and make yourself speak the language as much as possible

  2. find an activity you can actively participate in that DOES NOT involve adoption.

    alternate with some expats so you can have a break from culture shock.

    always give the benefit of the doubt. get thick skin and let the cultural assaults roll off you.

    learn survival phrases and bridge phrases before making yourself crazy studying the language. do language exchange and study AFTER you have survival phrases well under your belt. (at year four I am just now taking my own advice)

    be open to any social invitations from natives.

    don’t compare cultures and don’t judge. don’t blame people who had nothing to do with your exile.

    it is better to ask others their opinions than share yours.

    find something to love about the culture and keep that close to your vest when you’re having a bad day.

    friends become super important when you’re far from all you know. maintain those friendships.

    (sigh) be twice as outgoing as you’re comfortable being. smile.

    don’t stop exploring and learning – it’s easy to shut down and shut out.

    (sigh) don’t spend all your time (like me) on the damned computer.

    you’re going to have terrible trials where you must face all your demons. don’t run away from them. don’t drown yourself in forgetting. but do come up for air and breathe in the sun.

    it’s all about balance. your mental health must be tended like you’ve never tended it before.

    and for me – documenting my experience and recording every pain and revelation has been the greatest tool to coming to terms with being a foreigner in the country you were supposed to have lived.

  3. I posted this at first because of a post about language learning from one of our contributors. I’ll summarize some of my advice, and will come back to this later.

    LANGUAGE: Immersion is the only way. As painful as it is. If you are in a country that is stuck in some colonial adulation stage (like Lebanon) where it is easy to speak your own language, move to a neighborhood where this is more difficult. If you are in a country that is stuck in some globalization adulation stage (like Lebanon), where the local population is more interested in learning your language, try to focus on communicating with those who don’t have this luxury. This is of course made incredibly difficult by the fact that we look the part, but our language gives us away. I’ve had more interesting conversations with more people by explaining my story to them in their language.

    The advice above to learn survival phrases is critical. I’m finally more or less at home with the spoken dialect; I can make myself understood and can joke around as well as defend myself (ribbing and joking is a given on the street here). Here I’ll also echo the advice above that not judging and not comparing is critical to finding some kind of entry into our birthplaces. This also means avoiding ex-pats who maintain their class status and privilege; avoiding the hangouts where the local language is not spoken; avoiding being seen as another foreigner not to be trusted. I love the advice too “be twice as outgoing as your comfortable being”. This has not only allowed me to learn the language and “fit in”, it has gone a long way to cure my lifelong behavior of not being outgoing along these lines, and as a side effect, have helped me come into my own.

    The other side effect here is finding oneself among the class of people that one is likely of; my experience has been that there has been more of a welcome here than among the class of people who run the orphanages and trafficked us out of the country, certainly.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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