Hey Pandas, What Are Some Cultural Shocks You’ve Had When Visiting Another Country?


It could be anything you were surprised by!


#1

Having to poo into a hole, whilst squatting. Suez, 1989. I have since learnt that defecating in this fashion is actually a better posture for your body, than sitting on a Western toilet.

#2

Children in Cairo playing in the dirtiest water in the Nile but waving and smiling like crazy at the tourist buses going by, not for money but they were just so excited to see people waving back.

#3

People in Dennmark find it rude to tip the waiter because they actually get paid well unlike in america where waiters have to depend on strangers to pay rent

#4

USA - everything is HUGE. You have to drive 9 hours to get from one side of Texas and still end up in Texas. Do you know how many countries I could drive through in Europe in that time? Food portions, buildings, roads...your nature is awesome btw and also huge

#5

Live in Uk. Went to Morocco and went shopping in a souk. I needed to use the public toilets. Went to the area, where you a pay a man to go to a cubicle (no doors). It was just a hole in the ground, that didn't bother me. What was a shock was, uh there was a cut off milk carton full of grotty, floaty brown bits water.. with a sponge on a stick. It still makes me shudder years on!

#6

Went to rural India for three months. Discovered that a LOT of people have never seen a white person and wanted to touch me and talk to me. It was very weird to be the foreigner for once. I learned a lot.

#7

I visited India twice in the 1990s. And both times my culture shock happened when I returned to the US. In the US, I missed the sound of people singing at all times of the day. I missed the amazing smells of food, incense, etc in the streets. I missed the openness of people toward one another. I missed the proliferation of bright colors in clothing and decorations everywhere.

#8

When I came to the UK I was absolutely shocked to find out people refuse to drink their tea without milk, I've had people ask me what kind of tea is green tea and why would you drink it without milk.

#9

The hot chocolates in Italy are thicc. Almost as if they got some chocolate shoved it in the microwave and put it in a glass along with some sweet butter (the thick cream). But hey I’m not complaining it was delicious

#10

As a little child, my parents took the family to Jamaica. Apparently its normal there for shopkeepers to grab your child (in this case, my sister) and run off into their store as a ploy to get you inside their store. I guess you get your child back and then decide to buy something?

#11

My culture shock came from Dominica (not the Dominican Republic). While the 2nd poorest nation after Haiti, the abundance of nature was incredible. Fruit on the trees everywhere. The day I arrived was washing day, so there were people in the rivers and streams doing laundry, scrubbing clothes on the rocks. The people are physically beautiful with a kind, generous sprit. I fell in love with the place and returned 15 times. The mountains, jungles, and volcanos are beyond my ability to describe. I say Dominica makes Hawaii look like a flat brown desert by comparison.

#12

I havent been to any countries abroad but i had friends coming to Turkey from other countries and they are usually surprised with how much we insist on nearly everything. Like, eat this try that, buy this buy that, go this place or never go that place.. We are trying to be kind and helpfull but i see that other people may find it overwhelming

#13

I'm french and i've recently gone to Guadeloupe, which is also french. But i had the feeling to be in Africa. And i found it full of charm personnally. lot of things were cooler than in the metropolis. like people selling coco water right in the middle of the road, or chicken roaming the town centers. it was really cool

#14

Love hotels in Japan, they rent rooms by the hour, I thought I was staying in a rough part of Tokyo. Turns out they're everywhere and it's a pretty normal thing in japan.

#15

The only other country I've been to is England, and that was my first time. Some of these may be "duh-duh" for more experienced travellers. Please be understanding.


My friends left a restaurant with their beers and walked down the street without a care, still drinking. In Canada, it's illegal to drink on the street.


At the cinema there is no butter for popcorn. I thought it was just a British preference to use salt or sugar. Nope. But I discovered mixing salt and sugar makes a sort of buttery flavour without the soggy, greasy factor. I've been using salt and sugar on my popcorn at home now.


There was some confusion when I was asked what I wanted for supper mid morning. Supper is their midday meal and tea is their evening meal. There is no use of 'lunch'.


No screens on windows. I was having a bit of an anxiety attack as we were watching TV with the windows open and it started getting dark. Was expecting a swarm of bugs to come in. Not much, actually. No gnat, fruit fly things, mosquitos, June bugs. Maybe one black fly. That was it.


British humor is not as funny when you're the target.

They do not hide their thoughts about your stupid question.


Store clerks do not do anything extra for the customer, no matter how minor it is or how normal a simple request is back at home. Something like, throwing out your old, broken shoes for you at the shoe store when you're buying new ones is considered offensive. At least for the place I went to.


The coinage is confusing and a bit harder to distinguish. They have more coins for pence than we do for cents. It took me longer to pay for things and I needed help often. After I burned through most of my change I stuck to just using my credit card.


It's not as car-centric as I'm used to. There were actual pedestrian streets. A lot of pedestrian friendly streets. Open malls, people crossing the street all over the place. I only learned recently that cars have to allow people to cross the street. No wonder they asked me why I ran when crossing the intersections. And the parking lots at department stores. Either none or not as big. So nice.


When you ask people for directions they will give you the most confusing way possible and maybe the longest way to where you want to go. Whereas in Canada, we become your tour guide. Heck, we'll walk you to where you want to go if we're not in a rush or it's close by.


It's okay to leave your tray on the table at a fast food restaurant, like McDonalds, or the mall food court. Their trash can receptacles openings aren't even big enough to slide a tray into to empty it, and there were no places to put the dirty tray. It's an unwritten, expected, customary rule in Canada. My friends were asking me what I was doing and a staff member offered to take the garbage from me as I was trying to squeeze everything into the small hole in the lid. (Git yer minds outta the gutter, folks.) I was just trying to be nice lol.


When you're offered coffee and tea, take the coffee and tea and you better drink it all even if the coffee is terrible.


The English can be the warmest people you'll ever meet and more polite than a Canadian.

#16

I am German and live in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Both countries are typically considered rather orderly and clean, but I was completely smitten with the Japanese trash culture. The streets are super clean, and there are no trash bins anywhere except at the train/metro stations and at the hotel (not on the street, not in a museum, not at a department store). Everybody just carries their trash with them. Once in the town of Uji I went past three small pearly white truck serviced by white-clad gentlemen—that was the garbage collection for the neighborhood, without any noise, smell, or dirt. First thing I noticed after I landed in Frankfurt: trash bins in the middle of the walkway every 5 meters, it was strangely disturbing to look at all that prominently displayed garbage.

#17

Lived on the island of Malta for a bit over 2 years. Lovely place but far too noisy! A typical thing there is for people to just shout at each other through their balconies. Oh its 7 am on a Saturday? I don't care, "Ma! HEY MAAA, I FORGOT MY KEYS!..Forgot whaaat?..MY KEEEEYSS!". Yes, there are doorbells and phones, but what fun is that.

Also the fireworks. Wonderful sight if you just arrived, but when you get woken up by an explosion at 8 am every...single....day, it gets to you. Also every evening for several months there are fireworks until midnight, due to most villages celebrating their patron saints on different days. It becomes maddening after a month or so, just pray that you have proper doors/windows and AC so you can close yourself inside.

#18

Had a fry up in America. There was sugar in the sausages!

#19

I was really surprised at all the trash/litter along the rural coastal highways of Peru.

#20

The big gaps around toilet cubicle doors in the US so that people can see you having a wee! Us Brits tend to prefer a bit more privacy. (Absolutely love America though)

#21

Soweto, South Africa. Under the bridge there were men cooking the donated food for the poor in barrels and such. Also the difference between the housing in Soweto, I never realized that there could be million dollar villa's in Soweto smack bang next to a shack. I loved it there though, the people are fantastic.

#22

Went to one of the Mayan sites in Belize, near the border with Guatamala. At first glance it looked similar any Canadian national park as far as washrooms and signs went. Then I saw the armed soldiers standing guard everywhere. That was a bit of a shock.

#23

UK: I was surprised that you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner in the pubs and there are even those specialized in pizza. In the country where I am from pubs are just places to drink and maybe have some nibbles such as crisps, nuts. Maybe if smoking wouldn't be allowed then it would be possible in "our" pubs too.

#24

Went to Quebec, Canada. Everything was so quiet!


Here in Mexico we've got so damn much noise pollution (from vehicles, street vendors, people talking loudly, stores and homes blasting music so freaking loud), everything seems to scream at you!


I absolutely loved the silence, more than anything!

#25

I went to Krakow,Poland on a surprise trip from my family for my 60th birthday to visit Auschwitz/Birkenau. I was very humbled and also heartbroken by what I seen. The little boutique hotel I stayed in was beautiful and nothing was too much trouble. There was no kettle in the rooms but one would be supplied if you ask, the people are so friendly but they do warn visitors who are driving to be careful of the police as they have been known to pull people over , give them spot fines but pocket the money! I don’t know if this is true. Beautiful town with lots of history. Heartbreaking to see the poorer parts. The synagogues were amazing and the Jewish people very very respectful, also in the cafes and restaurants, the waiting staff cannot do enough for you and you practically have to force them to accept a tip, well I got used to one certain little cafe and the young lad that served me was so pleasant and helpful and it was him that I had to force tips on. It got to the point where I just left it under the plate for him and he would always smile and thank me. I was sad to leave. Can’t wait to go back. The roads can be a bit dangerous though as they drive extremely fast.

#26

When I went to Germany if there were three tellers people would wait in 3 lines instead of one common line for the first available teller

#27

Egyptians don't usually form lines. I found this out at a government building, where my host family started encouraging me to "push, push!" As I was slowly being aqueezed out by adament lil old ladies.

#28

Had been in Rishikesh, India. It’s not aloud to eat meat there and forbidden to use plastic bags and straws.

I was really surprised by it because the common expactation is that Indias Environment ist the worst.

#29

Went to Mexico and the moment I left the tourist area the prices went down, like really down. My dad and I got a meal with tacos and drinks for $3.50 US dollars for the both of us. For a broke teenager it was heaven!!

#30

Visiting Aruba for the summer. Found out they keep their milk outside of refrigerators. Which is strange for my family and myself.

#31

Married a Peruvian, so I have been there often...love the country, epecially the

Andes but Lima is not my favorite place. It reminds me of LA but dirtier, people litter all the time, the roads are torn up with no safety cones and the people drive like lunatics. We were being driven on one of the few freeways in Lima when the driver passed the exit we needed. They stopped in the lane and backed up to get back to the exit. We were sure we were dead... Also, its frowned upon to burp in public yet, walking in the financial district and a well

dressed man walking down the sidewalk stops, whips it out and pees on the wall of the building we were walking by. The disparity between those with money and the poor is saddening. My American friend married a well to do Peruvian and had an amazing home in a gated community, with guards with machine guns at the gates. She loved her home but felt like she had a target on her back every time she left home. There are also guards with machine guns outside banks...its just a little unnerving.

#32

In the Gambia, if your husband dies, you are supposed to marry his brother. Found this out the day after my Gambian husband died. Luckily it turned out not to be mandatory but to help widows who have no means of survival without a husband.

#33

Seeing a Santa Claus figure attached to a cross at a store in Japan. Not sure if it was a joke, a statement about the commercialization of Christmas, or what. I thought it was hilarious.

#34

I live in Spain now, so my biggest culture shock going home to the US is and has always been the hugging, as a greeting and goodbye to people you don’t know well or have just met. So weird to me now. I do miss the friendliness of Americans, just not that friendly bit.

#35

I went to the USA. I was surprised how loud people are, in the restaurants, on the street, in the hotels, everybody is always shouting.

#36

Russia, Moskou. There are vending machines on the streets that dispense water or beer. Not bottles, just the fluid. There are glasses everybody uses and just rinses before filling up.

#37

In Tanzania a room was used as showers for the campground during the day and urinals for the bar in the evening.

#38

In Tokyo, I saw a Christmas tree decorated with crucifixes.

#39

Prague. 14 yeas ago quite well dressed retired loving people wandering along would casually look into even bin. I assume to see if anything worth selling for recycling

#40

A positive shock were the prices in Poland and the quality of food you get when shopping. They might produce lower grade products formall Europe, but obviously produce better quality stufd for themselves. And if you get off the highway, it's a wonderful country with diverse nature. Fell in love with Krakow and Zakopane. Been there many times now and plan to go back this winter.


Malta is a recent thing. People are noisy and sometimes seem even rude. There's dog s**t on streets and traffic is pretty mad. Also the quality of food in the shops is not the best kind. Better to eat out - cheaper and better food. Also I'm a huge coffee fan and it isn't a big thing there. But this place grows on you so bad that you want to go back there again and again... Crystal blue waters, Valletta, smaller fishing villages, the taste of really ripe fruits, fireworks... Wonderful place.

#41

Restroom hygiene habits in the US.

1- (Generally) those who present as male tend to stand when using a sit down lavatory, no matter whose restroom they are using.

2- no bidet or washing. My understanding is that the only (generally) use tp.

#42

Not another country but a different part of the U.S. . I'm a city girl from the southwest. When I married (my now ex husband) he had just gotten out of the military and wanted to move back to his home state in the rural upper midwest. Nothing prepared me for the culture shock. I come from not only a very diverse family, but a very diverse area, where people are simply people. Up there though wow...I honestly didn't know racism still existed in America until we moved there. There were a lot of wannabe skinheads who just had so much hate for everyone who wasn't just like them. Needless to say I didn't fit in (I made a few good friends 3 total) but other than that it was the worst 7 years of my life. I finally packed up and left and I couldn't be happier.

#43

Clean air! I live in the US near the mills. Spent like 2 weeks in Costa Rica. 2 weeks it took to get used to the clean air. Get home n step outside the air port and broke into a fit of coughing n gagging from the air. And had bad allergy flare ups for a week.

#44

I’ve never been outside of the U.S. but my dad lived in England. So I’ll tell you what surprised me from his stories of 1980’s England.

1. You have to hold your knife and fork a certain way. Even if you were left handed.


2. You ate peas with forks. How do you stab a small spherical pea?


3. Ditches that were big enough to fit my uncles lower half. He was abt 4’ 6” when that happened.

#45

The first time i went to Mexico when i was around 8/7 and i was surprised by how they did everything there. How they washed their clothes, how my dad had friends everywhere from when he grew up there. I loved it. I go there every year now for around a week or so.

#46

This isn’t visiting another country, but it is a culture shock. I was shocked by how small most cities are! The city I live in you can drive for an hour and still be in that city. It’s crazy how tiny most cities are.

#47

Friend of my parents had a Malaysian delegation for dinner back when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, including a sitting minister. Apparently all went well until the amuse was served -- melon wrapped in parmaham -- and the host toasted his guests with a glass of champagne. As you might imagine, pork and alcohol did not go down well with the staunchly muslim minister, and he had the whole table cleared.

#48

I'm from the US and I went to Jamaica for a week. The amount of people who ask for money blew me away. Constantly being approached to buy necklaces, drugs, help with your bags, taking your pictures. It was so abrasive, when we flew back into the US it was almost a shock that people weren't constantly coming up to us.


Also how beautiful the country is, but how it's not taken care of.

#49

No TP, but a bucket of sand nearby.

#50

THE GAP IN THE TOILET STALL DOORS IN THE USA!! Whyyyy!?!

#51

Went to Singapore, very much impressed with neat and clean areas. Asked a guy for the location, he pointed with his hand. Appeared long hairs on armpit. I was just getting nauseous. From Pakistan, yes a country with no care of garbage and litter. But middle class people in Pakistan are much clean then any country people in the world. Although the middle class people of Pakistan are way below the poor line in developed coutries.

#52

I was staying in Boston with some friends of friends, when I was 16, and I went to Concord to visit Louisa May Alcott's house. There was a thunderstorm, and I thought, "Wow! Even their thunderstorms are bigger!"

#53

UK: That crisps have small packages inside packages or you can just buy small package separately. It is not common in the country where I am from at all.