It is entirely normal to feel slightly out of your depth when going abroad—one of the main points of travel is to expose yourself to different cultures, customs, and ways of living. Not only does this broaden our knowledge about the world, but it can also make us value what we have at home far more once we’re back from our adventures.
Redditor u/draiou recently asked their fellow internet users from Europe to share the biggest culture shocks that they experienced while visiting the United States, and they delivered. Scroll down to check out what surprised them the most on their travels, from just how B I G everything is to the (over)work culture and how friendly everyone seems.
#1My uncle from Ireland driving around Texas: "Is there some sort of national holiday going on that I don't know about? Why does everyone have a flag showing?" I had to explain about the flags.
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#2Everyone calling me honey/love/sweetie. Those words/terms of endearment aren’t used that casually over here (Netherlands).
Image credits: Pale-Assistant-9561
#3I know it's popular to dunk on Americans, but honestly, for me, it was how friendly everyone was.
Image credits: Lexi_Phenex
In our experience, probably the best thing that you can do while traveling is to develop an attitude where you embrace everything that comes your way. The good. The bad. And the ugly. Think of your trip as an adventure and a chance to see and experience many things that you otherwise might have stayed oblivious to.
And so, whether you’re traveling to the US or anywhere else in the world, remember to maintain a sense of wonder, instead of one of grumpy criticism. Travel isn’t supposed to be a competition about whose home country is ‘better.’ It’s about respecting each other’s differences while finding the small things that unite us, no matter what corner of the world we might call home.
#4Being from The Netherlands: severely bike unfriendly roads/urban layouts. Everything is designed for car traffic mostly.
Image credits: TheJurri
#5When paying in restaurants they took my debit card away from me and took it away with the waiter. I thought that was really weird.
The waiters were also like obsessive at the table every 2 minutes “everyone okay? Can we get you another drink?” And then before I had even asked for the bill they brought it at the end of the meal, I wanted a pudding but I didn’t know what to do after they brought me the bill without me asking.
Also the meals and drink sizes were huge, the McDonald’s and coke tastes weird and off. All the food had like weird after tastes.
In the supermarket you have like a 100000 different versions of each food, like I had never seen so many different types of Oreo’s in my life.
Having to tip someone 20% for simply doing their job was annoying, like I ordered a pizza and the person yelled at me for not giving him a tip and I had no clue we were even meant to do that
Image credits: BoardingSchoolBoy
#6The homeless problem. I couldn't believe the extent of it, it made me really sad.
Image credits: AnnaLiffey
It’s perfectly valid to marvel at mundane things as well. Not every culture shock needs to be something as grandiose as the redwoods. Things like how there seems to be air conditioning pretty much everywhere in the States, the massive range of Oreos at the local supermarket, or how you almost certainly need a car to get where you need to go can leave you thinking about how vastly different life in the States is from many parts in Europe on a day to day basis.
Before you pack your bags, it’s incredibly helpful to do some background research about where you’re traveling. Google some facts, read some forums, talk to some friends who’ve visited the States before. Ideally, you want to start your trip without (m)any assumptions (positive or otherwise). You also want to steer clear of hype because it can leave a very sour taste in your mouth if your experience is nothing like what you’ve seen in the movies.
#7THAT EVERYTHING IS SO BIG.
Cars, food portions, tips, roads, people, attitudes.
Always fun tho.
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#8Toilets with not enough privacy.
What’s with the big gaps around the doors and rest of the cubicle?
Image credits: HeyHeyBitconeeeeect
#9I Lived in America for a year when I was around 8, and foolish me didn’t understand the tax system.
I remember my mother giving me money to go to the store to get ice cream, and being really confused/upset when the cashier told me my $3 was not enough despite that being its labelled price.
I remember thinking to myself how stupid the cashier must be that she couldn’t read the label properly.
Image credits: shakypancakey
Paris Syndrome, when you’re disappointed by your trip because you had very high expectations for your trip, isn’t limited to just the French capital. It can happen everywhere you go. Usually, the more popular a destination is, the more hyped up the tourists can get, only to get let down.
For instance, as we’ve covered on Bored Panda previously, Los Angeles can be quite different from what people have seen on the silver screen and on Netflix. It’s a very crowded place, massive in size, and Hollywood itself can be a headache: it’s not as glamorous as on TV. Instead of waddling about, hoping you’ll run into a celebrity, you could go on a professional studio tour. Again, the advice of those who have traveled somewhere before you is absolutely invaluable! And it can help mitigate the worst that culture shocks have to offer.
#10Everybody smiling to one another, as a polish person i just can't understand that. Everybody is expected to smile to you even if they are sad.
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#11The food. This was 2001 and I'm from the UK/France. I'd never seen refillable drinks before. I couldn't believe you could just have as much soda as you wanted and no one was going to think you were stealing. When we ate dinner, entire loaves of bread and a ramakin of butter. Supermarkets packed so high and wide. Turkey drumsticks the size of a t-rex. I was bowled over.
Image credits: The_Queef_of_England
#1256 flavours of donuts in a gas station in the middle of nowhere. 56! I counted!
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#13- pretty much zero public transport
- the bars are all so...clean? Every bar I went to was like a fully air-conditioned sports bar, with the tvs and everything. Where I live, the more lived-in, the better the pub.
- everything is sweet. The beer was sweet, the bread, the traditional, home-cooked meals, the f*****g cheese
Image credits: Russiadontgiveaf**k
#14Kids on a leash in parks. Omg i was not ready for that.
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#15Military fetish. I knew it existed but just wasn't prepared for how pervasive it was. Any kind of public event there were announcements asking veterans to stand up and be applauded. Not special military events. The two that come to mind were the Grand Ol' Opry and a Labour Day thing in Washington DC, but there were other occasions.
I was in the (British) Army Reserve andso kept joking to my wife that I would stand up too and we had a laugh about it . Like "imagine actually lapping this stuff up, lol."
People wearing an army uniform in public. Weird. (And I was told I mustn't do that off-duty when I was a reservist.)
People wearing baseball caps with like "USS Eagle. Operation Iraqi Freedom." And medal ribbons on it or something. Never ever seen a British soldier or ex-soldier wearing something that indicated military service just while they're going about their civilian life. People who have been in or are in the American military seem to define their *life* by it, even in their civilian affairs/day-to-day life.
In a Bass Pro shop and other places there were all kinds of s****y themed wall "art" like clocks and random ornaments and s**t that said like "LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE."
A (chain of?) Military fetish themed BBQ restaurant with like uniforms and medals on the wall and stuff.
Compared to any place I've ever been that whole thing is what stands out as the MOST weird and uniquely American. Nowhere else does anything like that.
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#16Entering a store in Germany: opening the door to silence or a brief hello. Entering a store in the US: 'Hello! How are you today? What can I do for you?' Aaargh, can't you just ignore me like at home? That was way too much communication.
Image credits: Satures
#17As someone who grew up there, returning now always gives me culture shock. The worst is probably when I go to Florida to visit my sister. The radio is nothing but pay day loan advertisements. Even my son listening to them says, "that sounds like a scam." Just the amount of blatant and obvious predation on consumers is jarring and it didn't used to be that bad.
Image credits: GrumpiestOldDude
#18Everything is loud. All the time. The TV ads, the billboards, the radio, the air conditioning. Everyone is trying to get heard in a country where being #1 is the only acceptable goal. It's a loudness war to get to your brain, and it's exhausting.
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#19Some of them would eat dessert for breakfast - things like pancakes, syrup, fruit, sweet waffles etc
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#20you guys have air conditioning in your house????? i was astonished
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#21Not necessarily related to the country, but more to the people itself. Americans are by far the most social people I have come across in my travels. It seems like they have mastered the art of small talk with strangers. This has been mostly positive for me as it is really easy to be featured in their social groups. Kind of the opposite is the case in my country (The Netherlands). It has helped me understand why American immigrants in my country struggle with being happy.
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#22Honestly two things that stuck me, lack of walkability and repetitive buildings or grid layouts
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#23Root beer. I always wondered what that was. I was not prepared to sip on carbonated mouthwash. Why on earth is it called beer?
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#24The work till you drop culture.
There have been people who are proud of the fact they don't see their families or miss occassionas because they work for 'the company'..
I used to work for a grocery store and it was close to a cult.
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#25I hate, with a flaming passion, those fake hot dogs. I believe they're called water dogs. The ones that taste like plastic. When I went to New York City, we got one of those, and it was disgusting. It tastes like nothing. Why not just use pork sausages like the rest of the world? It has a weird chewy outer skin, and then the squishy 'meat' on the inside. And why is it a beige/pink color? Two bucks for a hot dog that tastes like my local landfill. I have eaten Lego bricks more tasty.
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#26Every traffic light left-turn had a dedicated "you can go now" light-sequence! I loved that.
But then also these "be polite"-4-way stop crossing where you gotta trust the other guys that they abide to the "you reached this crossing first. Damn that was WEIRD.
I LOVE Dragstrips. So comfy, so simple, so homestyle-nice and 98% nice people.
Sooooo much space, not just corn fields, but in cities (except LA, f**k you, for that traffic!) there is so much space on the roads, so much parking, wide this wide that, was a treat. Nothing is close to each other and supertight like European big cities.
But f**k your tax on everything and then monster tips expected everywhere. I gave a 5 usd tip every time i got served food at a table, no more no less, it was confusing for the rest with f*****g math everywhere.
I loved the basically free gas (European so anything under $10/gallon is "free" to me, especially $2.80 in AZ!), cause it meant I could go explore 500 miles for fun and not think "f**k me burning money, lets gets a plane or google photos of that place instead".
Food is more simple, it can be hard to really find fine dining restaurants but there are some pearls in between and even in "s**t cities" such as Tucson and Phoenix and non-gaming Vegas I found good places to eat by searching for "foodie", "artisan" or "cooking from scratch". Even tried a Jewish restaurant in Phoenix, cause why not, best f*****g Reuben sandwich I ever paid for! ... And then 84 sour cucumbers as snacks for free, that bit was odd, but hey, when in erh Phoenix do whatever.
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#27I moved to America for 3 years when I was 18. The first time I walked into Walmart there was a very tall man with a gun and a knife strapped to his belt. It definitely took me by surprise and at first made me feel a little uneasy.
#28It's been almost a decade so things might have changed, but I have a few:
Positive: it's very easy to connect to complete strangers, up to the point me and my wife got invited to a pick-up beach volleyball game after we met some people in a bar. Was great fun!
Negative: price on fresh vegetables in a grocery store was just staggering, I completely understood why poor families would buy take away instead of freshly cooked meals.
Negative: the amount of "normal" looking homeless people in San Francisco was just insane.
#29Seeing guns just hanging there like casual groceries in WalMart
#30Adverts (commercials). We generally don’t have medical or adversarial (mentioning competitors directly) adverts, at least in the UK
My kids picked up on this when we went to the cinema and there was a Samsung advert directly trashing Apple. They were like “what the hell was THAT?”
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#31Mine is going to sound really dumb, but just the way I was treated when in a shop buying clothes. Hello on the way in, always someone trying to help, and then they actually asked me if someone helpe med when I went to pay for my stuff.
In Spain you walk in, buy what you want and most of the time you're lucky if the cashier is nice enough to say hello (in all fairness they get paid a s****y wage and have to deal with lot's of idiots).
The rest of the stuff (I was in New York) didn't shock me much. The tipping situation is certainly different, but I was expecting that.
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#32On a first gas station in New York state after crossing border with Canada, I started pushing my car for fun. Just to check if I am able to move it. Imiedialetly some man in an old pick up truck stopped next to me and asked if I need help. It was mind blowing to me because in my country even if I would wave to people asking for help I would wait at least an hour for somebody who would willing to help me.
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#33how hard everything is.
i tried getting some sim cards. paid 150$ for two sim cards, neither worked, spent hours on the phone with Comcast, they offered me a 5$ refund.
cannot walk anywhere.
crossing the roads is a challenge.
got a parking ticket because I failed to decode a sign. tried to pay it, they were adamant that i pay it, bit only accepted US address when paying, (i owe Boston 240$.
buying something at the shop? surprise tax at the end,
eating out? how much do you think the waiter/delivery person deserves for their service?
and i was just visiting. cannot imagine living there
#34I was prepared for taxes not being included in price tags and the tipping stuff etc. I was not prepared for the "I love Jesus"/ "Jesus loves me" people with megaphones, banners, t-shirts and flyers walking around everywhere.
#35The price difference. First time I went to NYC I was living like a god damn king off my normal average wage. Last time I went it was basically an exchange like for like with currency.
But the big thing on ever trip, Americans are for the most part really really nice people and friendly.
Image credits: DuckyDublin
#36How big the cars are. Free refills for half litre sodas even for breakfast. How supermarkets with nutritious food are rarely ever in walking distance if you’re in a city.
#37Everyone driving on left lane and in consequence, people overtaking on the right lane (driving culture seems to be very bad and I'm from Poland)
people leaving trolleys all over the mall parkings
people leaving clothes/shoes randomly in shops after trying on
No one is walking like we do (normally)
very old people still working
Everything is far away and you need to drive by car there (hardly seen any public communication)
everyone super nice and smiling
a lot of random small talks (nice)
(Still in US )
#38How nice people where I went to NYC last month y'all call them rude how my first thought was how tf are people depressed here
#39how wide the streets are. like in the middle of nowhere suburbia. took like 30 to 45 secs just to cross them on foot. I guess that was my mistake. going on foot.
#40Having expected much less formality in the USA, I was pleasantly shocked to find elements of courtesy and good manners that are no longer common in the UK. The use of the terms ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’m’ between equals is a delightfully civilised exchange to hear and to experience, and one which implies a hierarchical relationship here in the UK, rather than one of mutual respect as in the USA. I also love the elements of eighteenth century grammar and syntax which have survived in American English. The word ‘gotten’ has long since fallen out of use in British English.
#41I "visited" for 5 years. The one moment that really sticks out above all others, was getting passed by a row of big yellow schoolbusses. Just like in the Simpsons.
I grew up in the UK, and schoolbusses were a) rare, and b) just busses. The same busses you'd see anywhere else. And I mean exactly the same - after 9am they'd go back to doing their day jobs. They either set their sign on the front to read 'school', or they'd have a yellow placard in the window, with two kids on it.
Big yellow schoolbusses with flashing lights, a pop-out stop sign, and a flat a**e .. just like off the telly. But in real life. Just cruising down the street like it was normal.