If you’ve traveled outside your home country, then there’s a chance you’ve been surprised by a different custom or left somewhere feeling a little sheepish for not knowing better. If you’ve traveled far outside your comfort zone or even had the chance to live in another culture, well…you might have a story like one of these 10 people.
But don’t worry. They all lived to tell the tale.
1. What stranger danger?
“So I’m norwegian, but I went to New Zealand for a year. The culture shock for me was how open kiwis talk, and how there’s no such thing as stranger danger. And as a typical norwegian introvert, it took a while to get used to. I’d meet a stranger and they’d be breaking the touching barrier right away and start talking about their cousin’s rash and all their weekend plans. Even bigger shock returning to silent Norway.”
2. High expectations
“My parents were the typical asian kind, hard to please and difficult to impress. When I graduated class valedictorian for 6th grade, my mother complained that i did not recieve any other award like best in science or best in math…
When I fell down the ranks of top students (i was still in the top 10 though). My father told me that the reason he stopped attending school events was because he was ashamed of me.
When my elder sister got pregnant a couple of months before graduating med school, my mom stopped talking to her for a month. They lived across the hall from each other.
Unforgiving of failures… that was the kind of parents that we had.
When my girlfriend took her licensure exam for accountancy for the first time, she failed the test. I was with her when she told her parents about it.
To this day i still remember the shock I felt for what transpired that day.
We were seated in her dorm me beside my girlfriend and opposite us were her parents. She was finding it difficult to confess and when the words “i failed” finally came out the first thing her father said were “that’s ok”. Then my girlfriend started crying and her parents consoled her they were hugging and giving her words of encouragement, assuring her everything will be allright and that the thing to do is to move forward and try again. I just sat there watching them and feeling envious, thinking this is what parents should be doing for their children.
It came as a total shock to me this level openess and understanding.This kind of parent-child relationship was alien to me. I promised myself that if i were to become a father I would be like her parents.
I dont hate my parents though, they werent bad people, they just had ridiculously high expectations of their kids. My siblings and I had a happy childhood for the most part. Sometimes we would sit and talk about how crazy our parents are and laugh a lot :)”
3. Cover up!
“I was born in Hawaii and lived on the Big Island until I was six. Little me was used to wearing flip flops (or no shoes) and light weight dresses, swim suits and shorts and a tee-shirt everywhere. It was too hot for anything else, or it would just get dirty.
Cut to my family moving to Ontario, Canada about 3 hours North of Toronto. My dad was working in the vacation business so we moved to an actual ski resort for the first few months. My sister and I were enrolled in Catholic school and suddenly I had to wear clothes. But not just clothes: stockings, jumpers, shirts with too many buttons and shoes that had to shine. Coats, hats, gloves, different shoes to wear outside. Six year old me could not comprehend any of this. We even had to change for gym and then change back.
My mom helped me put my stockings on in the mornings, but after gym I would have to put them on by myself. One day my teacher called my mom to come get me because I decided to start some sort of anti-clothing revolution and was jumping around the changing room in my underwear with my stockings on my head.
TLDR; moved from the Big Island of Hawaii to Canada at 6 and suddenly had to wear a lot of complicated clothing.”
“Recently moved to the US (9 months ago), and I am still not used to everyone asking me how I am doing. I am from Norway, and if the cashier ask how you are, you get embarrassed and don’t know how to answer.”
5. Bottom’s up
“Drinking alcohol during lunch in the UK.”
6. On Latin time
“Me, arrives in Buenos Aires to meet a friend of a friend. He says come over for dinner, then we will go to a party, then a club.
Invites me to dinner, so I show up at 7pm. Four hours later, dinner is served and more people come over. 1am, we go to a party. 3am the club.”
7. Don’t offend grandma
“Marrying into my wife’s Mexican-American/Native American family.
I come from a small white family, my wife’s family is huge. At our wedding I had 15 people attend, which was nearly my entire family, she had 200 people attend, which is only a small fraction of her family (those that didn’t get invited were quite grumpy about not getting invited).
When I first met her extended family I was overwhelmed, there was like 50-60 people at her grandma’s house on Christmas. Some of her uncles didn’t like how quiet I was being and started telling my wife (girlfriend at the time) how she needed to be careful of the quiet ones, and several of them took me aside to threaten me.
Then of course I made a major faux pas, I refused food from her grandma, I’ve since learned that it would have been better to just slap her in the face. It took me 10 years to undo that damage. I didn’t win over her last Uncle until I got absolutely tanked at his daughters wedding reception, at which point he decided I wasn’t just a stuffy white guy.
Once my wife coached me on her culture I was able to fit in better, asking for food, allowing the women to serve me & clean up after me, taking plates home when I leave, being more outgoing, etc.
Now grandma calls me Mijo and introduces me to everyone as her grandson, which earns her a lot of confused looks. Since her grandma has accepted me everyone else has too and according to my in-laws I’m Mexican now.
All in all would do again, but it would have been nice to know that what’s rude on the white side of my family is endearing on my Mexican side and vice versa.”
8. Look both ways
“Trying to cross the street in Hanoi, Vietnam. You can spot somebody who just got in a mile away because the look of apprehension and confusion on their face as they try to figure out how to do it.
There are very few crosswalks with ‘walk’ signs. In most places you look for a gap in the traffic and go. In Bangkok you just make sure the flow of traffic would have time to stop before they hit you and you just go and maintain a constant pace.
In Hanoi (especially near the French quarter) you just slowly walk into traffic. There are no gaps. You can sort of put your hand out to let people know you’re going, but you just kind of maintain a slow, inching, walking pace and traffic will part around you. Scary AF the first time.”
9. Say cheese
“Probably when I was in China and people would either come up to me and ask to take a picture of me, or just straight up starting taking pictures of me right infront of me.
I’m 6’2 and a woman and they thought I must be a model, or a freak. I mean people think it’s odd where I live but they don’t come up to me and go “you’re tall! Picture?”
One guy stopped taking pictures of animals in the zoo to take pictures of me.
I must be on so many Chinese people’s social media and family photos. People would come up with their kids and think it was great.”
10. No helicopter parents allowed
“Holidaying in Tokyo and watching 5 year old kids walk themselves home from school and catching public transport…all by themselves.”