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?

#1

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Tamra Stiffler
Community Member
11 months ago

Ahh someday I'll get to visit Ireland, I hope.

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#2

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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!

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Margaret Weaver
Community Member
11 months ago

I feel this to my BONES. All the world is screaming when I go out of the house. Quebec sounds marvelous. Maybe a quiet Vancouver suburb otherwise. Close enough to humans to have fiber internet, but off in a quiet corner close to nature. The cottage from Twilight for example.

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#3

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Slune
Community Member
11 months ago

Yeah, same experience. Streets of Tokyo are so clean, I could wear my long, baggy linen pants for 4 days in a row! The seam was scruffy but not dirty-dirty. I'm still impressed:)))

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#4

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Don't Look
Community Member
11 months ago

Saw something like this in Cambodia.

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#5

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Kat
Community Member
11 months ago

And now I want to go there... Sounds amazing.

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#6

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Random Person
Community Member
11 months ago

Sorry for your loss

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#7

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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!!

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Kona Pake
Community Member
11 months ago

Try going to Bangkok where are you can get a tiny bowl of wonton min in a back alley in Chinatown for under a dollar.

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#8

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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t c w
Community Member
1 month ago

I live in the Mid Atlantic US and rarely see billboards in scenic rural areas.

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#9

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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

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Niall Mac Iomera
Community Member
11 months ago

I live in western Australia. We drove for 16 hours and only went about halfway up the state.

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#10

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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?

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RandomBeing
Community Member
11 months ago

Trying that on my family would be a death wish

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#11

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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

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Margaret Weaver
Community Member
11 months ago

I could imagine it would feel bothersome and intrusive to have personal decisionmaking constantly overwritten by well meaning busyboddies.

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#12

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Tan
Community Member
11 months ago

That will happen in cities too but less often

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#13

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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James Watt
Community Member
11 months ago

A British person this makes me feel nauseous

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#14

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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

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Ivy la Sangrienta
Community Member
11 months ago

Probably made from actual chocolate instead of powder.

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#15

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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

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Jennifer Briscese
Community Member
11 months ago

I lived in Europe and not one server thought tipping was rude.

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#16

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Kat
Community Member
11 months ago

I have been to Malta 2 times now. Second time we stayed for a month. The fireworks are amazing, true. Malta is a weird place, it's noisy, quite expensive, food quality in shops is poor, better and cheaper to eat out etc. And when you leave, you already miss back there.

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#17

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community Had a fry up in America. There was sugar in the sausages!

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Tami
Community Member
11 months ago

Or worse, high-fructose corn syrup. It's a crime, but apparently that's what many people like, sweetness in everything.

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#18

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Pille P
Community Member
11 months ago

I remember coming back from India the first time, it was on a Sunday morning during Easter in Germany. It was as if the whole town was asleep and me and the taxi driver were the only people in the world. Total silence, barely any people on the streets.

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#19

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community I was really surprised at all the trash/litter along the rural coastal highways of Peru.

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Slune
Community Member
11 months ago

It's sometimes unbelievable that people don't take care about it. It's overwhelming!!

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#20

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Eunice Probert
Community Member
11 months ago

My daughter drinks green tea without milk. It is not a universal thing in the UK to want milk in everything.

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#21

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community In Tokyo, I saw a Christmas tree decorated with crucifixes.

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Grant Barke
Community Member
11 months ago

That's a long wait for the resurrection in April.

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#22

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Eb
Community Member
11 months ago

But very polite.if you're outside big cities.

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#23

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community Visiting Aruba for the summer. Found out they keep their milk outside of refrigerators. Which is strange for my family and myself.

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Fat Harry
Community Member
1 month ago

It's probably UHT milk. Plenty of countries drink more UHT thank fresh milk.

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#24

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Donkey boi
Community Member
11 months ago

When my wife and I arrived in Costa Rica and got to our Hotel to check-in, the guy behind the counter said (after finding out we live near London) said, 'You will snore heavily tonight!... But tomorrow, you will snore not once!'. He was right, my wife didn't snore past the first night!

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#25

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.

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Jonathan
Community Member
11 months ago

You must have had an extremely sheltered life to think racism was a thing of the past.

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#26

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Jessica Bertram
Community Member
11 months ago

Xunantunich? or Caracol?

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#27

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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)

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Marnie
Community Member
11 months ago

We all prefer it here, too. We've always hated the gaps!

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#28

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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RandomBeing
Community Member
11 months ago

Japan is just hilarious with Christmas.

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#29

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Leo Domitrix
Community Member
1 month ago

Who in the US is hugging so much? Outside family, no way! ...???

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#30

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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James Game
Community Member
11 months ago

In the UK scorching hot water has been common since outbreaks of Legionnaires disease in the mid 1980's, the water is kept that hot to kill bacteria

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#31

"Not Sure If It Was A Joke, A Statement, Or What": 40 Biggest Cultural Shocks, As Shared By The Fashion Life Community 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.

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Ozacoter
Community Member
11 months ago

I wish that this would be normal in europe in decent hotels. Sometimes I just need a place where to rest or take a nap.

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#32

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.

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2x4b523p
Community Member
11 months ago

I have never seen such a dirty city as Lima. Did not notice too much trash compared to other big cities, but the grime and dust everywhere due to lack of rain. Inches of dust, grime and goop on everything, esp. around the main highway. Never realized how much good the rain does and I now appreciate we get so much of it in UK.

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#33

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.

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Eglė Bukauskaitė
Community Member
5 months ago

My similar experience to Sicily. Paid roads, flowers arte trimmed, a painting of the view almost anywhere on the road. Yet it's a dumpster, literally.

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#34

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.

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OhBlahDi OhBlahDa
Community Member
11 months ago

First time I visited Soweto as well I was astonished to learn that it's a whole city on its own. The media depicts it as a homogenous slum, but no, it has very affluent suburbs as well as less well off areas.

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#35

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

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Viviane
Community Member
11 months ago

I saw free-roaming chickens in a town in Ecuador. They looked a lot like their ancestors, the junglefowl. I had chicken there once and the taste was amazingly good, much better than what I'd get in Canada.

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#36

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.

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Ivy la Sangrienta
Community Member
11 months ago

The pubs in the UK have always served food, even when smoking was permitted.

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#37

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.

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Whawhawhatsis
Community Member
11 months ago

My parents lived in South India (Madurai in Tamil Nadu State) for five years in the 1950s, and in those days there was almost no refrigeration, so they became vegetarians by choice so they wouldn't get poisoned by bad meat!

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#38

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

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irish eyes
Community Member
11 months ago

Where are u from to find this strange??

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#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

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Community Member
11 months ago

Every bin. Apologiesv

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#40

Visiting Rome, Italy and discovering that you can actually get a pizza with Nutella (chocolate spread).

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Diolla
Community Member
1 month ago

Will never understand what's this obsession with Nutella. In Amsterdam nowadays there are dozens of Nutella shops, all catering to tourists. To us locals it's just something you put on bread and mostly for kids. It's sooo unhealthy!

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