28 People Spilled About Culture Shocks That Made Them Feel Like They Were in a Whole Different World

Traveling to another country isn’t just about taking selfies in front of monuments and other touristy things. It’s not even just about getting used to different weather or hearing people speak a completely different language. Sometimes, things that seem normal for locals are so strange for foreigners, they might even ask themselves if they made it to the right place or if their plane landed on a completely different planet.

Reddit users know this sentiment all too well, and some of them agreed to share their funniest and most shocking experiences while traveling or living abroad. Bright Side browsed through all of these stories to select the best ones for you, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading these as much as we did.

  • Dutch guy here. When we went to Canada for the first time, everything was HUGE. Big cars on big roads, big streets and restaurants, and malls. I remember we were driving for what seemed like hours through suburbs and I just kept thinking, “Surely after the next turn we’ll be out of the city,” but the city just seemed to be endless — kind of scary almost. Also, the distance was huge. In the Netherlands, driving from the eastern to the western end of the country takes 2-3 hours. In Canada, what seemed like an infinitely small distance on the map took 2.5 hours to drive. © yehboyjj / Reddit

  • My dad was a US diplomat so we moved to a new country every 3 years or so. I had never lived in the states (born in Portugal) and 4 countries later, when my dad decided to retire, we moved to the US (Maryland). Being in America was the biggest shock. From the “safeness” I felt, to the way people were. Yellow school busses. Everyone sort of being the same. It was a shock, among many other things. I felt American my whole life living abroad, being associated with the American embassy, hanging out at the marine clubhouses. And when I moved to the US, I did not feel very American at all. © Scrappy_Kitty / Reddit

  • I was a Canadian working in New Zealand. Birds were indoors. This may seem minor but it was so weird to see. When I got off the plane in Auckland, there were birds flying around inside the airport. In Canada, if a bird gets inside, everyone takes notice. Some people even freak out. If it doesn’t fly away on its own, animal control is called. In NZ, nobody really cares about all these little birds zooming around inside the airport. I sat there watching these guys in complete amazement. This was just my first observation. NZ got progressively weirder as time went on. © Ramone2017 / Reddit

  • I spent a month living in Thailand when I was 15. The first hour broke me. The trip there had taken an absurdly long time and long story short, I had been awake for about 38 hours by that point. I did not have an ounce of mental fortitude, which I also did not know I would need. We (a group of us) met up with the families we were staying with, made our introductions, and all that jazz. Nice folks. We decided to go home, take a nap (it was 7 a.m. local time), and meet up for dinner. I say “decided” but that was the plan all along. I got into the car in the backseat — no seatbelts. Okay, cool, that’s different but whatever. We pulled out onto the very busy road, on the left side. A bit of a surprise but hey, that’s neat. The city (Bangkok) was wildly different from any place I had ever been. But that was expected, it’s the other side of the world, right? Nearly there, we stopped at a stop light. There was an elephant standing beside me, 10 feet from my window. That was it. That elephant broke me. It was too much. There were no elephants outside car windows anywhere I had been before. I closed my eyes and curled up into a ball until we arrived. Lovely country. Wonderful people. © trabbaro / Reddit

  • Went to the United States for college, in Indiana. I lived in Tokyo, Japan my whole life before this. On my first day there, I went to the gas station to buy something. I had a lot of $100 bills with me because I didn’t have a card yet. The cashier literally told me, “You shouldn’t carry that much money around, if I saw you with that on the street, I would rob you.” I was like, “Okay...thanks for letting me know?” This was, like, 6 years ago and in Japan, people would normally carry and use cash for a lot of things back then. I knew and saw people who had $500 (50,000 yen+) in their wallet on a normal given day. It’s getting better now and it’s becoming more cash-less but oh my God, I didn’t think carrying large bills abroad would be that risky. © 305_ps / Reddit

  • I stayed with a family in Argentina for a few months. Dinner is also late, but they had an additional meal called “tea” with sandwiches at about 4 PM. And the food was plentiful and superb. Often, there were 2 main course dishes, like meat and fish. The homemade empanadas were memorably good. © aRoseBy / Reddit

  • I’m just shocked at how late the Spanish eat dinner. Totally respect it, but I was hungry at 6 p.m. and was shocked that no restaurant was open to serve at that time. © Trippinupthestairs / Reddit

  • Not my story, but in college, I had a roommate from Australia who was studying abroad in America. We went out to dinner one night and I got mozzarella sticks. He could not believe we just deep-fry cheese and then eat it. © Sarnick18

  • Americans don’t have electric kettles. Or perhaps I need to say “electric kettle,” because if I didn’t, people would say they have stovetop kettles. In the Commonwealth countries, a kettle is just a standard item for the house. I don’t drink coffee or tea and still own a kettle. You can get one anywhere for around $10 and they’ll still be decent. © Lozzif / Reddit

  • My experiences in Europe have convinced me that Europeans are a different species who just don’t need as much water...like, they’ll drink coffee/tea or anything instead of water. This is especially noticeable in restaurants. I’d never been to a restaurant where they didn’t just “automatically” refill your water. And when I was a server at a US restaurant where that was the expectation, Europeans would occasionally seem affronted that I’d come to refill their glasses. I mean I totally get not wanting to be constantly bothered by servers “checking in,” but what’s the problem with me silently and quickly topping off your water glass? © itsfairadvantage / Reddit

  • I grew up in a Southeast Asian (SEA) country, and when moving to a Western country, I realized a stark difference in parenting and culture, and I realized how it’s more individualistic instead of community-based in the West. For example, Western parents or grandparents normally have to fend for themselves at old age, whereas in my culture, we’re expected to take care of them. I do admire some of the independent values instilled within Westerners. Also, me getting judged in a Western country for still living with my parents in my mid-twenties although upon asking everyone in my hometown, most of my mates still live at home until they get married/study abroad, and still when they return from studying they live with their parents. I think finding the best of both worlds and the middle ground is good. © wantmiracles / Reddit

  • I’m from the Philippines and I lived for at least a year in the US. I was so shocked people in the US would just greet and help strangers out if they needed help. Here in the Philippines, if someone you didn’t know greeted you and talked to you out of nowhere, we’d be weirded out. Also, the usage of a fork when eating a meal, especially with rice. Why are you guys just using a fork when you could use both a spoon and a fork? Don’t even get me started on public transport. It’s so... organized? I’m still amazed at how the buses work in the States and their organized schedules. © andieee919 / Reddit

  • I’m American and had never left the country, let alone California before I traveled to Japan. I was seeing kids so often travel by themselves, and leaving their bags places like at seats when went to go order food without worrying about anyone stealing it. It was very surprising but also gave me a sense of safety I have never felt in the US. And there are no free refills. ☹️ © littlebosleeps / Reddit

  • I was an exchange student in the US a few years ago and my biggest culture shock was cars. Cars are absolutely everywhere and literally, everyone has one — also how normal it was for people to get into car wrecks. © BlueishBook / Reddit

  • I’m South African, Xhosa to be specific. In my culture, a woman doesn’t leave the house for about a month after she has a baby. This is to avoid things like infections, bad spirits, and so forth for both mother and baby. Also, for the first month, she doesn’t do housework and must focus on the baby, so usually, family members come to live with them to help out. I was shocked when my English friend’s aunt was cleaning the house and going out to shop for groceries a week after she had the baby and she took the baby with her. Not to mention she allowed a stranger to touch the baby, which is a big no-no in my culture. Strangers are only allowed to see the baby after 3 months © lola_92 / Reddit

  • In China (I think broadly in Asia as well), people regularly drink hot water with meals and not cold water. There are also all kinds of superstitions about cold water being bad for your health in any number of ways. My guess is this probably originated out of needing to know your water was boiled to kill bacteria, but it persists even though filters exist. I HATE hot water. I find it totally does not quench thirst. I had to put conscious effort into trying to adjust to drinking hot water. I thought I’d succeeded, then I went home and had ice water and was like, “Nope!” © secret_saucerer / Reddit

  • It was a reverse shock for me cause it’s almost the same in Russia, though we do prefer other hot drinks over water. But no matter who says what now, I just can’t drink ice water, I will be sick the minute after. I’m just 100% sure. I’ve painfully adjusted to drinking room temperature water in Europe, but if it has ice in it, I prefer to just not drink anything. © _Decoy_Snail_ / Reddit
  • Walking into a Tesco grocery store in the UK and seeing they have an entire aisle dedicated to baked beans. ONLY baked beans. In cans. Not a section of the canned goods aisle. AN ENTIRE AISLE. © lady_f**ping_ / Reddit
  • Not a shock but more a surprise, that people in Tokyo don’t lock their bike, and if they do, it’s with really flimsy locks. After I saw the first bike without a lock, I was feeling bad for the owner because his bike would most likely be stolen. But after I saw that every bike was like that, it was clear. © srirachaninja / Reddit
  • Going to a beach/park/whatever public space in Germany and leaving my things unattended for a while. I asked for the people that were nearby to check them while I went for a swim and the people were like: Why would I have to watch them? Are they going to explode or something? In my country, you have a constant feeling of anxiety and insecurity because they can rob you at any time, anywhere. © saturn_sylph / Reddit

  • It sounds so trivial, but when I (I’m from Canada) went to Costa Rica and the cars had the right away, not the pedestrians. I instinctively walked across streets at what I felt were appropriate times and it almost led to be me being hit several times! I think of it any time a car here at home doesn’t yield to a pedestrian. © McLulu157 / Reddit

  • I’m Australian. While in Japan, I was stunned to learn they have little to no vandalism. They believe it brings shame to your entire family, so they don’t do it. Simple as that. Definitely something our Western cultures should take into account. © l***-enthusiast / Reddit

  • When I was little, we lived in Texas and then my family moved to Wisconsin around my early teens. It was crazy how much less formal teachers were with students. Where I lived in TX, you NEVER called a teacher by their name, casually. It was sir or ma’am, and then once you were familiar or had permission, it was Mr. or Mrs. It would have been incredibly rude for a child under 18 to call a teacher or other adult by their name. One of my brothers actually got detention after we had moved to WI because his teacher thought he was mocking her by only calling her ma’am and not by her name. It was straightened out, he ended up not being in trouble, but we still laugh about it over a decade later. © LiswanS / Reddit

Have you ever traveled to other countries or lived abroad for a while? If so, tell us about the biggest culture shocks you experienced.

Preview photo credit helenmaryskata / Reddit
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