I traveled quite a bit in my younger days and I think the place that felt the most “different” to me was Russia.
I was there for 10 days in 2003 and it was definitely an eye-opener.
But I know that there are other places on the planet that would really shock me if I went there. I’m guessing China, India, Africa, etc.
Have you ever experienced a big culture shock in another country?
AskReddit users shared their stories.
1. The honor system.
“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.”
2. That’s nice!
I’m from Florida and I can tell you I was pleasantly shocked when I used my turn signal on the highway and people consistently allowed me to merge.”
“Honeymoon in Jamaica.
There were armed soldiers at checkpoints along the highway from the airport to the resorts. Also learned that due to the huge disparity in the value of the Jamaican and American dollar resort hospitality is one of the highest earning job sectors on the island.
A single tip earned by a bartender would often surpass the daily wage of most other residents.
You were shuttled around to different pockets of beautiful beaches and lively entertainers, but if you lift your head up and took in the world around you the occasional time you left the tourist areas there was a stark contrast to how the average Jamaican lived.”
4. Work/life balance.
“In France the restaurants open at noon and close again at 2 until dinner time.
Everyone not a restaurant worker goes home for a 2 hour lunch.
I was a contractor in housing renovations there and in Canada before, where I would go to the Home Depot at noon or midnight because the lines were shorter. And get a mid afternoon snack.
Radical shift in scheduling a life and work combo.”
5. Kinda cool.
“Being in Japan, seeing vending machines everywhere and even ordering food at a vending machine in a noodle restaurant.
Then you go sit at a booth with a curtain in front of you and they pass your food through the curtain and then close the blinds.
Strange but not a bad experience. Just different.”
6. Never too early for a drink.
“I visited Košice in eastern Slovakia. I went for breakfast in the main square and ordered a croissant and cappuccino.
As I’m having my breakfast, two obviously respectable middle aged women are sat on the next table, having the sort of conversation respectable middle aged women have, both drinking pints of lager at 9.30am.”
7. Skin care.
They used umbrellas to protect their skin from the sun for a 20 meter walk across a tarmac to board a plane. The umbrellas were provided by the airline and collected as people boarded the plane.
I was aware that different cultures have different ideas about darker vs more pale skin but I hadn’t witnessed that level of care before.”
8. Wait here…
“I was in Copenhagen and saw strollers outside of cafes.
This seemed normal-it’s Europe, shops are small, strollers are bulky….until I realized THERE WERE BABIES IN THEM.
Apparently, it’s totally normal to just leave your kid outside and trust that nobody is going to abduct them. The idea is the fresh air is good for the immune system.”
9. A nice feeling.
“I’m from India and the traffic rules here are non-existent.
I was in Norway during a student exchange and when crossing the road, cars would stop to let pedestrians cross. I always heard about it and knew that it was common abroad but when it happened to me I felt so respected 😁.
It was only after a month I could let go of the reflex of seeing a car stopping. It was such a nice feeling.”
10. We are polite! Usually…
“According to my relatives who visited:
They found Americans’ polite tolerance for long slow lines and cashiers literally moving at a snail’s pace to be mind-boggling, especially given all the stereotypes of Americans being loud and pushy.”
11. I wouldn’t be into this.
“I entered a restaurant in Beijing in 2007, and the lobby was lined with cages and aquariums, holding various types of animals — ducks, chickens, fish, snakes, and the like.
You pointed to the animal you wanted to eat, then they took it to the kitchen, k**led it and brought it to your table for lunch.”
12. Bottoms up!
“When I spent a year in a small Czech town I was pleasantly surprised by the beer table service.
Instead of having to order another beer each time, you only needed to tell them when you didn’t want another beer.
Otherwise, they’d just keep turning up.”
“How organized, clean, disciplined and polite Japan was, compared to my native Philippines.
Looking at them side by side today, you’d think my country was the one that was hit by two nukes.”
How about you?
What’s the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced?
Talk to us in the comments and let us know!