20 People Online Are Unveiling Their Most Powerful Culture Shock Experiences

Published 10 months ago

Culture shock can be a transformative and eye-opening experience. Today, we’ll delve into the personal stories of some individuals who have faced astonishing culture shocks. These encounters have challenged their perspectives, expanded their horizons, and left a lasting impact on their lives.

From navigating communication barriers to adapting to new social norms, their journeys of cultural immersion serve as a reminder of the beauty and diversity found across the globe. Scroll below to read some stories about culture shocks.

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Image source: Zephabee, Anna Tarazevich

In Chinese tradition, it is rude to slurp your soup
In Japanese tradition, it is polite to slurp your soup
Im Chinese that came across Japanese friend slurping soup, soo things got pretty strange until I asked him about it and he explained


Image source: KnownSoldier04, Denise Mattox

When I went to Germany it was weird that girls were like getting away from me when we greeted. In Latin America, you greet girls with a kiss on the cheek. It’s weird, cause I never really considered it a cultural thing until one told me. Before that I started to think, “Jesus, am I THIS ugly over here??”


Image source: Ahlvin, Shawn Huang

As a Swede, people here are in general pretty good at not interacting with strangers, looking out for themselves etc.

I was in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami, and in the aftermath, holy f**k — so many Thai people were always helping me and my family, making sure we were well fed, had dry and not too dirty clothes to wear, helped us locate each other as we had gotten separated.

I will NEVER forget how amazed I was. It was neither my first nor my last trip there, but the fact that they were so kind and thoughtful and selfless even during a time of crisis, it showed the world to me and it has given me a permanent faith in humanity.


Image source: TheNaud, U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

When a large Maori man asked to touch noses with me in greeting. The dude looked pissed until I manned up and was the first to touch noses. Then he had one of the best smiles I’ve ever seen on a mountain of a man. It lit up the entire cultural center.


Image source: anon, Ketut Subiyanto

My father and I went to japan on a business trip, and we went to some fancy restaurant. Our waiter was extremely polite and very attentive so my dad left a generous tip for him. After the waiter saw the tip he threw a fit, and I mean he really did he started screaming randomly at what appeared to be the manager, and other workers. Apparently he took it as a sign of disrespect because he thinks we thought he was extremely poor, and left him the tip to help him out with his “troubles” needless to say never tipped in Japan again.


Image source: TheScamr, ELEVATE

Went on vacation to an East Africa with my wife, who is East African. I was out an about in town and dudes were glaring pretty bad at us. It was usually me, my wife, and her female cousin in the car.

When we went to the market guys were yelling into the car rude stuff and my cousin actually looked shocked and sad “It was **untranslatable!.** My wife basically told me that the people thought I was on a sex vacation.

We also went to drop off some beans and rice to their grandmother and when it came time I lifted the 50 kilo bag (about 110 pounds) and through it on my shoulder everyone burst out laughing because Mzungo (white men) don’t work around those parts and because, given the stature of the people (most of the men are like 5’6 and I am 6’1) it was quite the act of strength.

And there was the one time a poor drunk woman kneeled before me babeling and grabbed my hand and rubbed in against her face. When I asked what is going on my wife said she may have never seen a white person (we were well away from tourist locations) in person and was trying to touch my white skin.


Image source: thehonestone, Andrea Piacquadio

in america, strangers smile at you when you make eye contact. back in my country, you’d get beaten up.


Image source: zombieattackfox, Maurício Mascaro

While in New Delhi, my boyfriend (Finnish) and I (American) were invited to a New Year’s Eve party at a hotel, by the manager of the hotel. It was great – a dozen people, drinks, music, fun. After midnight, people start dancing. A young man comes over and asks my boyfriend to dance. He laughs and declines, saying that he’s sure I’d love to dance. So I get up and go to the dance floor with him, and proceed to dance about 2 feet away from him. Not touching, just dancing in front of him pretty much. Everything seems fine.

But it’s not. For the rest of the night, people are apologizing to my boyfriend for how he’s been insulted. It’s so horrific that his woman was treated like that-claimed like meat. People mostly avoided me for the rest of the evening, with the exception of the hotel manager who apologized profusely and actually gave me a Rajasthani puppet that he’d used in a performance earlier in the night – as a token of how sorry he was about my humiliation. We left quickly after that.

The next day, the owner of the hotel sees us on the street. He comes up to us and tells us he heard about the way we were insulted and disrespected at his hotel and how unacceptable it is. We try to explain that it was my fault for not understanding what the dancing meant, but he cut us off. He wanted us to know he’d FIRED the manager for allowing that to happen. We tried to get him to listen to our side but he was having none of it.

TL,DR: I got a man fired and ruined his life because I danced at a party.


Image source: gasplikeaperson, THIS IS ZUN

In University, in London, I went to the communal kitchen in just a pair of shorts. When I entered a female Muslim floor-mate started screaming like crazy and ran out. I felt awful.

Until she came back a minute later with her headscarf and started *profusely* apologizing for not wearing it in the first place. I’m standing there mostly naked as she apologized for being rude for thinking she could just hop across the hall and make some food in a few minutes without her headscarf on, and how she should have known better.

Once, she let me in her room, just the two of us, though the door stayed open. We talked about our culture and the differences (we’d bonded a bit over the headscarf thing). That was super, super racy for her and I appreciated what it meant for her (very friendly, very open, very progressive).


Image source: Destructopuppy, John Brooks

Moving to Bulgaria from England. In Bulgaria shaking your head means “yes” and nodding means “no”. You don’t even realise how hard it is to reverse a lifelong habit until you try, it’s really disconcerting. (Also, if you screw up you look crazy, imagine asking someone if they want a bag for that and having them nod at you while saying “no”.)

Edit: I hate repeating words.


Image source: eternityinspace, bethom33

In Japan, the level of trust is incredible.

I went to a convenience store with no staff. You simply pick your items, drop your cash into a box, and get your change. There is an open box of money in the middle of the store.


Image source: JillLars, Nicole Michalou

I was teaching a class in South Carolina (I live in Minnesota) and sat down to eat lunch with all the guys I was teaching. Took a bite of my sandwich and noticed no one else was eating yet. I paused for a minute and one of them piped in that they were ready to say grace. I had never experienced group prayer before lunch, especially in the workplace. Definitely a shock for me.


Image source: SFSylvester, TUBARONES PHOTOGRAPHY

I’m Black British, but I never felt my race mattered until I went to America.


Image source: CitizenTed, Chris Gladis

Mine was also in Japan.

I was walking down a main street in Kyoto on a sunny summer day. Up ahead I see a police car and a policeman and a long folding table on the sidewalk. As I approached, I saw the policeman was flagging down certain drivers with his gloved hand. The drivers pulled over, quietly got out of their cars and calmly took a folding chair at the table.

The police officer produced paper work for the drivers to sign. They each read the paper and signed it and bowed respectfully to the cop. Then they got in their cars and drove away. I watched for a while longer and realized these drivers were being pulled over for traffic infractions. There were cops blocks ahead checking speed, then radioing the cop at the table with descriptions and instructions.

I could not belive it. I kept think about how this might work in America. Every single driver would be screaming in protest. “This is b******t! I wasn’t speeding! I’m not gonna sign this! This is B******T!” Blah blah blah.

But the Japanese? They knew they screwed up and meekly and respectfully took their punishment (a small fine). That, my friends, was culture shock. It was even weirder than all the weirdness I saw in Tokyo. And there was a lot of weirdness in Tokyo.


Image source: Dicktremain, StrawberryPopcan

When I first moved to Ohio, I was in a convenience store buying a drink and I asked to buy some stamps.

The lady behind the counter said “Please.”

I responded, “… may I buy some stamps, please?”

She looked really confused and sold me the stamps. Apparently in this town when someone does not hear you they say “please” and you are suppose to repeat yourself. I thought you just had to be super nice to people at all times.

Edit: Because people are asking, this is in Cincinnati. I hear it all the time.

Edit 2: Because people are asking, the reason she was confused is because the first time I mumbled, “Can I have some stamps” and the second time I mumbled “Can I have some stamps, **please**” with a massive emphasis on the please. She was confused at why I was being so forcefully nice all of a sudden.


When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents worked hard to give me the best life they could.

I remember one weekend, when I was about 7, my dad had gotten an odd job to help this guy with some landscaping and to clear out some old furniture. My mom was working and we couldn’t find anyone to watch me, so he brought me along, because the guy had a two kids I could play with.

When we got there I couldn’t believe how big the house and property were. We had recently moved out of a basement apartment and into a house, which I thought was huge, but their house was at least twice the size and they had a giant lawn, a swimming pool, and a tennis court.

I had never seen anything like it, aside from TV shows and movies, so it felt a bit surreal. The family was really nice though and I had fun playing with his kids. I remember as I was leaving he gave me a baseball, which I still have to this day.

Image source: -eDgAR-


Moving from war-torn Chechnya to Brooklyn, NY.

I never really understood that life was more than death, that it actually had a purpose.

I never understood that people live their whole entire lives in relative peace and prosperity, simply going to their day jobs all day and partying and drinking all night, without a care in the world.

I lived in Grozny as it burned to the ground in the 1990s, my mother was killed and my sister was horrifically injured, and I spent my time as a homeless 10 year old attempting to survive and somehow get food.

Image source: willmaster123


Originally from India, went to Finland on student exchange. First night there, I’m at a party and everyone is going to a sauna. I’m prepared with my bathing suit and all, and then bam – find myself in a mixed gendered sauna, with all the people I’ve been hanging out with all evening, butt naked.

Then after 30 minutes of sweating, they all went rolling naked in the snow. Took me a while to deal with it, and finally get my swimsuit off.

Image source: Winebooks


Image source: ThisCityWantsMeDead, Andres Ayrton

I am from south-central Texas. Until I was 24, I had never left the state.

Anyway, I get to Las Vegas (of all places) and *Oh my f*****g god, my entire family is disgustingly obese. We should be embarrassed.* Seriously, I am not sure if some sort of convention was going on, but holy cow, everyone was *tiny* compared to us.

Anyway, I got home, felt like s**t and lost 40-ish pounds.

**EDIT:** Whoa. My highest rated comment ever and it’s, of all things, about how I used to be a whale.


American university campus culture.

Compared to Canada, people are simply WAY more excited about absolutely every little minute aspect of their school – especially sports teams, fraternities and sororities. Back home, people simply did not give a s**t about any of those to nearly the same degree – you go to class, hang out with friends, maybe catch a game if you’re bored and there’s nothing better to do, but it’s really not a big deal. Being a varsity athlete in the USA made you like a god, being a varsity athlete in Canada makes you annoying if you bring it up too often in conversation.

It was like hanging around some church that you’re not a member of. Everyone would dress the same, do the same things, chant things and get extremely worked up about stuff that means absolutely nothing to you. Also, the classes were way easier, which I suppose gives a lot more free time for those other activities. I can’t even count the amount of times I spent exchanging awkward glances with the other international students expressing feelings of “are these people serious?”.

Edit: Also, Legacy admissions are a thing in the states. Seriously, what in the name of f**k? How can anyone justify putting up with that b******t going on in schools?

Image source: fencerman

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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culture shock, culture shocks, different cultures, surprising culture shocks, traveling to different countries
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