Navigating "Reverse Culture-Shock": A Diaspora Story

For Patricia Maina, the move back home was a calling.

The former marketing and communications manager for the Xerox Corporation had spent 13 years in the U.S. --ten years with Xerox-- and felt that she was missing a major piece of her life: a strong community.

As much as I was loving my career and my work, I felt that there was a bit missing,” she tells Kenyans Come Home. “It was a sense of family and community that I was lacking.”

It has now been four years since she moved back to Kenya, all of which she has spent working for herself as a marketing consultant. She only recently started her new role as the partnerships manager at the African Management Initiative (AMI), the pan-African social enterprise that empowers African managers and entrepreneurs through practical and accessible learning and development tools. In her new role, Patricia is charged with managing and cultivating relationships with AMI’s strategic partners.

Although she is enjoying her new work, Maina says that the time since she moved back hasn’t always been the smoothest transition. She advises new returnees to prepare their minds for a type of reverse culture shock.
"You are reintegrating into a culture that you know but it has changed,” she explains. “And it is something new and you kind of feel a bit lost. It’s okay to feel that way as you figure your way around and as you try to find your new normal.

She says that she wasn’t prepared for that culture shock. But being away for almost a decade and a half meant that the shock was inevitable. 

Life had been going on here just like I had been building my life in the U.S.,” she says. “And [Kenya] had gone through so many changes. I was worried about whether I’d be able to adapt to the changes.

But Patricia says the support of a great network, and an openness and flexibility to change are the ultimate survival weapons to any transition back home, especially if things do not go as planned.

When you are coming back to so many unknowns, having a strong support network made such a difference,” she says. “Also, you have to be open to the fact that things have changed and they might not be how you remember them.”