25 People Narrate Their Most Significant Culture Shock Experiences

Published 2 weeks ago

Traveling to another country often brings new and exciting experiences, but it can also present surprising and sometimes bewildering cultural differences. A recent Reddit thread asked, “What’s the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced when visiting another country?”

The responses provide a fascinating glimpse into the diverse ways people live around the world. Here are some of the most compelling answers.

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#1

Image source: ooo-ooo-oooyea, Mental Health America (MHA)

I spent a long time in Brazil. One thing I picked up is standing close to people and being a little touchy. That people of Ohio did not love it when i came home. Although the kiss greeting caught on.

#2

Image source: Robot0verlord, Towfiqu barbhuiya

People telling me I’m getting fat in China and then being surprised that wasn’t happy to hear it.

#3

Was visiting a resort in Jamaica during college

The bartender kept hitting on us and we were trying to nicely get him to stop. I told him sorry I had a boyfriend

He said where’s your boyfriend?

A girlfriend of mine came up to me at that point and I said jokingly – here he is! While hugging her.

His smile abruptly stopped. He sternly said “we don’t do that here” and stopped serving us.

Totally scary. Coming from Canada, I took for granted that at home this would be fairly normal. I forgot that Jamaica is so anti-gay.

Image source: Fearless-Panda-8268

#4

Image source: PsychologicalWhole86, Wil Stewart

Friend from US visited me in Germany. He was dead confused when we went for a walk in the park and I pulled out two beers. Apparently public drinking like in Germany isn’t allowed in the US.

#5

Image source: ProperlyEmphasized, cottonbro studio

Very trivial, but we sat at a table in England for an hour after finishing our meal, waiting on our bill. The kind server took pity on our poor sweet American asses and told us we needed to ask for the check, since it was rude for the server to assume we were ready to go.

#6

Image source: dwane1972, Liv Cashman

Rural Romania around 2012. Small houses without indoor plumbing or a formal bathroom, with a satellite dish out on the roof. It’s like they skipped some steps on the road to modernity. The food, though, was delicious and the people I met were real sweethearts.

#7

I’ve been all over Europe, South America, parts of Africa and South East Asia, lived in Vietnam for a year and never felt culture shock until one tiny detail of moving to Switzerland.

In the UK, we get into a lift (aka elevator), avoid eye contact, look at the floor or ceiling, and say nothing. In Switzerland they greet each other as they get onto the lift, and then wish each other a good day as they get off. As a Brit I was mortified.

Image source: ElGoorf

#8

Image source: commanderalpaca06, Nina Uhlikova

Terrain changes. i’m from Chicago, Illinois which is pretty much entirely flat so i get excited at even slight elevation changes in nearby states like Wisconsin or Minnesota but i recently went to the Tatra mountain range in Poland and was absolutely blown away.

#9

Image source: Low_Matter3628, kmill8701

People shopping without shoes in New Zealand.
All the bars on windows & razor wire in South Africa. Both incredible countries though!

#10

Image source: chimininy, Nicola Barts

I (american) lived abroad for several years in various areas, predominantly SE Asia region.

Biggest culture shock: one of my first travels, when I was a kid, was to Central Mexico. I remember a public toilet where you had to pay to enter. I was stunned and for the rest of the trip extra paranoid to make sure I always had change while also never had to pee.

Bonus: Americans are so freaking loud! (I say, as an american)

I could be in a super crowded public area and always ALWAYS tell when a pair of Americans was around because they would be the ones talking so loud you could hear them over everyone else like 50 yards/meters away.

#11

Image source: Ali-Sama, Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

How bad the driving is in India. Our bus driver would pass cars by driving on the wrong side in traffic.

#12

Image source: kkc0722, Matteo Angeloni

Evening culture for the whole family. Seeing people with little kids in Italy out having dinner at 9 pm, social events and public spaces coming to life in the Middle East, as a sleepy American who really likes a long coffee and breakfast morning it’s always such a funny culture
shock to look across the square or over to the mall at 9:30 pm in my jammies and see the place lit up with activity.

#13

Image source: buymorebestsellers, Pixabay

Three year olds walking alone to Kindergarten in Switzerland.

#14

Image source: dwane1972, Liv Cashman

Rural Romania around 2012. Small houses without indoor plumbing or a formal bathroom, with a satellite dish out on the roof. It’s like they skipped some steps on the road to modernity. The food, though, was delicious and the people I met were real sweethearts.

#15

I’ve been all over Europe, South America, parts of Africa and South East Asia, lived in Vietnam for a year and never felt culture shock until one tiny detail of moving to Switzerland.

In the UK, we get into a lift (aka elevator), avoid eye contact, look at the floor or ceiling, and say nothing. In Switzerland they greet each other as they get onto the lift, and then wish each other a good day as they get off. As a Brit I was mortified.

Image source: ElGoorf

#16

Image source: commanderalpaca06, Nina Uhlikova

Terrain changes. i’m from Chicago, Illinois which is pretty much entirely flat so i get excited at even slight elevation changes in nearby states like Wisconsin or Minnesota but i recently went to the Tatra mountain range in Poland and was absolutely blown away.

#17

Image source: Low_Matter3628, kmill8701

People shopping without shoes in New Zealand.
All the bars on windows & razor wire in South Africa. Both incredible countries though!

#18

Image source: chimininy, Nicola Barts

I (american) lived abroad for several years in various areas, predominantly SE Asia region.

Biggest culture shock: one of my first travels, when I was a kid, was to Central Mexico. I remember a public toilet where you had to pay to enter. I was stunned and for the rest of the trip extra paranoid to make sure I always had change while also never had to pee.

Bonus: Americans are so freaking loud! (I say, as an american)

I could be in a super crowded public area and always ALWAYS tell when a pair of Americans was around because they would be the ones talking so loud you could hear them over everyone else like 50 yards/meters away.

#19

Image source: Ali-Sama, Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

How bad the driving is in India. Our bus driver would pass cars by driving on the wrong side in traffic.

#20

Image source: kkc0722, Matteo Angeloni

Evening culture for the whole family. Seeing people with little kids in Italy out having dinner at 9 pm, social events and public spaces coming to life in the Middle East, as a sleepy American who really likes a long coffee and breakfast morning it’s always such a funny culture
shock to look across the square or over to the mall at 9:30 pm in my jammies and see the place lit up with activity.

#21

Image source: buymorebestsellers, Pixabay

Three year olds walking alone to Kindergarten in Switzerland.

#22

Image source: Ok_Shame9410, Said

I was in Myeodong, South Korea in the spring and it was raining. The Myeongdong bus stop to the airport has no shelter, it’s just on the side of the road, but when it rains, somebody, I’m guessing the nearby store owners, leave umbrellas for the bus goers to use, which the bus goers use and leave hanging on the railing when they board the bus. There were so many pretty umbrellas hung along the railing and nobody stole them. They were just there for anyone to use and that was a huge shock for me..

#23

Image source: Life_Course_7865, Michael Jerrard

In 2019 i was in Turkey and the way men are staring at girls (me) is frustrating. i don’t want to visit muslim countries anymore sorry.

#24

Georgia (country ). its like visiting grand ma for holidays. everyone wants to feed you by inviting to their table. very very hospitable people. stray dogs clean and all of them have tag on the ear indicating vaccinations.

Image source: pinkyminniemouse

#25

Image source: binarymax, Kelly

India. Bangalore specifically. I couldn’t believe the dichotomy between wealth and poverty. The poverty was the absolute worst I’ve ever seen, and the wealth the most opulent. It really changed me as a person, seeing how an entire people could live in such a horrible hypocrisy.

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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