“Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What”: 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community
Traveling is a great way to learn and really soak up all the cultures, customs, traditions, etc. that differ from one country to another. It broadens one's horizons and teaches us more about the world we live in. However, sometimes what one experiences in a new place can cause a mild shock due to too much of a difference from their home.
I got curious about what our pandas found surprising while traveling, so I asked our community to share some cultural shocks they've had when visiting another country, and oh boy, they delivered. Scroll down to read all those answers! What cultural shocks have you experienced?
The first time I visited Ireland with my wife to visit her family, I was surprised that in Irish culture, it's accepted that family and friends can just drop by without any advance notice. And they are sooo hospitable. Unless they have terribly urgent, pressing business, they will go out of their way to be welcoming.
A great example is that we visited her uncle in Dublin. We drove clear across Ireland to go see him - without calling. We surprised him and his wife early in the morning. He took the day off from work, and drove us around to several local points of interest, and we stayed the night.
Ireland is a beautiful country, and their people are just as wonderful.
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!
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.
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.
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 spirit. 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.
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.
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!!
The lack of billboards when I visited Wales. It was wonderful to view the gorgeous countryside without obstruction. Billboards are everywhere in the U.S.
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
As a little child, my parents took the family to Jamaica. Apparently, it's 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?
I haven't 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 helpful but i see that other people may find it overwhelming
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.
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 squeezed out by adamant lil old ladies.
The hot chocolates in Italy are thick. 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
People in Denmark 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
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.
Had a fry up in America. There was sugar in the sausages!
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.
I was really surprised at all the trash/litter along the rural coastal highways of Peru.
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.
In Tokyo, I saw a Christmas tree decorated with crucifixes.
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.
Visiting Aruba for the summer. Found out they keep their milk outside of refrigerators. Which is strange for my family and myself.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
England, 20 years ago, in a hostel: two faucets, one with scorching hot water, other with really cold. Bed with sort of sewn up sheet instead of a single cover with a really scratchy and heavy blanket on top. Bread for breakfast so SOFT it had to be toasted to be able to smear butter on it. Saying "hello" instead of "good morning" in a shop. Tube being so unbelievably small inside. It was a time when most information about the country were given by my teachers, internet was not that common. So yes, I was shocked in many ways.
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.
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.
Greece. Amazingly beautiful country with astonishing nature and historical sites but trash everywhere. Around roads, in the forests, seashore, even near archelogical monuments there was a trash dump. Like seriously, Greece, whats the matter? No recycling, everything goes to the same dumpster.
Also you have to throw toilet paper into the the trash can and not to the toilet.
And the traffic... abyssmal.
Otherwise really nice place with friendly and warm people, and the sea is surprisingly clean taken how much trash is everywhere else.
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 villas in Soweto smack bang next to a shack. I loved it there though, the people are fantastic.
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
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.
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.
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
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