People From Around The World Share The Biggest Culture Shock Experience They Have Ever Had

People From Around The World Share The Biggest Culture Shock Experience They Have Ever Had

It's only natural to feel awkward in someone else's country. Tribal rituals, super-sized fast food and hygiene habits are just a few examples of things that take some getting used to. Of course, those bizarre new experiences (maybe not eating haggis, but the rest of it) are some of the best parts about worldwide travel.

What might hit you much harder is experiencing culture shock, looking down and noticing you haven't left your own country. These "fish out of water" reactions might pop up a state away or right in your neighbor's backyard. If you've ever thought, "Is it just me, or...?" on native soil, take comfort. These worst-ever culture clashes on native soil will make you glad your experience wasn't even more odd.


45. The One Place In America They Never Say 'Pardon My French'

Went to deep southern Louisiana once. Stopped at a gas station. An old lady was yelling at her French. They weren't from France, they were Cajun. I ended up marrying a Cajun gal. She has relatives that cannot speak English.


44. A Family At Very Low Risk For Ulcers

Once my wife's family got comfortable enough to really be themselves around me. I was raised Irish Catholic and my family NEVER acknowledged their problems or addressed grievances between each other. They just had another drink and held a grudge for decades (not an exaggeration).

My wife's family is very Italian and would scream at each other for 5 minutes and then just resume their lives as nothing had happened. I was afraid to speak for a little while.



43. Eventually, Though, It Will Be Your Turn To Treat The Whole Town

Moving from NJ to PA. Our town had a "community day". The wife and I went by and asked how much everything was. When they told us "free" (not including local artists selling their stuff, or the hot dog vendor), I didn't understand. I replied something like "yeah, free, I get it, but how much?"

The concept of a town providing something for its residents without charging them was completely foreign to me.


42. Crossing The Street

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.

jezael-melgoza-565856-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash


41. Golly, That Could Put Your Knickers In A Twist

I moved from Utah to a non-Mormon state when I was twelve (I'm not Mormon)

I was shocked hearing kids my age swearing. Even saying something like 'oh my god' was just mind-blowing to me


40. Parenting Styles

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 receive 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 was "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 alright 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 openness 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 don't hate my parents though, they weren't 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 :)

neonbrand-426918-unsplash-1-1-300x187.jpgPhoto by Ana Francisconi on Unsplash

39. If You're Yelling At Our House It's Probably On Fire

Went on vacation with the family of a friend of mine. On the surface, both our families are upper middle class and white. However, the difference between Eastern European Jews from New York and Episcopalian WASPs from Canada... I spent the entire weekend hiding from them yelling at each other for no reason. I was raised where you don't raise your voice unless something is very, very wrong. This was not the case for them.


38. In A Fog In London

At 18 I moved from suburbia in the North of England to the center of London for University.

I was used to a lot of greenery, fresh air, friendly neighbors and safety. I was met with towering concrete and grey and not a breath of fresh air. Everyone was incredibly rude and constantly in a rush. And it was no longer safe to walk around on my own anymore without getting constantly harassed. The underground smelt like sweat and dust.

I used to take a bus to Sainsbury from outside my accommodation. Every single person on the bus was foreign and didn't - or wouldn't- speak English. They would all stare at me like I didn't belong. One of the men on the bus tried to follow me home.

I have never felt so alienated and lonely in a city so very full of people. It was like I was in another country.


37. The Deer Probably Had the Same Reaction

I used to live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I spent some time in the city and was very aware of drive-by shootings.

In 2001, I was living in a rural community in West Michigan and was visiting a neighbor. Before I even identified the sound I was lying on the living room floor with my infant daughter tucked safely under me.

No one bothered to mention that the local gun club was 1/4 of a mile away and it was opening of deer day!


36. Imagine If You'd Also Stopped At A Southern Diner, Sweetie

The first time I did a road trip outside of New England, my boyfriend and I were going through a toll plaza somewhere on the way to Georgia. The toll collector greeted us and said thanks have a good day.

Being from the Boston area, this really blew my mind.
Worst culture shock ever!



35. In Some Regions, It's Easy To Be Mistaken For Your Child's Sister

I had the reverse culture shock: Moved from Austin TX to San Francisco at age 27 with my husband and our 2-year-old son. In TX, I had several friends my age with kids and we would meet up every week to hang out and get our kids together. In SF, it seemed like no one my age had kids. (Here, people have kids when they're mid-late 30s - I'm a good 10 years younger than most of my son's friends' parents.)

Several of my college friends are here in the SF Bay, but none are married and they definitely don't have children. I'd get together with them and we'd chat while my kid played, so, fortunately, I had some social interaction, but I definitely missed feeling like I belonged rather than feeling like an anomaly. Now, my kid is older and I don't care as much, but when he was little, it was so lonely!


34. Wait, Wasn't Betsy Ross From Pennsylvania?

I’ve rarely seen the PA state flag outside of like, school or government buildings here - meanwhile, the Colorado state flag seems to be EVERYWHERE out there. The Denver airport was flooded with flag merch. PA needs a cooler flag.


33. Too Bad Studying 'Modern Teen Talk' Doesn't Count Towards The Foreign Language Requirement

I went from conservative charter school to public high school. It was insane how different it was. People dressed more revealing Guys all sagged their pants. Teachers and students cussed. People were open about sex. It was very different.


32. That's Mad Weird, Mrs. Cleaver, I Mean 'June'

Indian-American here, the whole calling parents by their first names and drinking milk with any meal but breakfast is dumbfounding. I've seen it at my white friends' houses, it's mad weird the first few times.


31. Sometimes You're Most Thankful That Guests Don't Have To Clean Their Plates

At my Cuban boyfriend's house for Thanksgiving, they wanted me to eat the chicken heart. Nope. Couldn't do it. Not a fan of eating organs other than skin.


30. Move Further South And They'll Start Saying 'Howdy'

I moved from southern NY to PA. Just the concept of people saying hi to me on the street was mind-blowing. One day, 3 strangers said hello to me! They weren’t asking for directions or money or anything! They were just being nice people!



29. There May Be Free Lunch But There Is No Free Parking

On the flip side, I moved from the Midwest to the PNW. The fact that people paid for parking was blasphemous at first. Also, the amount of homeless people was a pretty big shock too.


28. Where Funeral Homes Have Caterers On Speed Dial

Funerals/wakes. I come from New England and recently moved to the Midwest. I've never heard of bringing food to a wake or funeral. It's just something we've never done. Apparently, the custom here is to bring food to the funeral home for the family because during the viewing (I've only ever known it to be a wake) the family is at the funeral home for 8 hours or so. Back home, the wake is only a couple of hours and then we usually go out to eat or back home where people will drop food off.


27. It's Not Very Convenient To Buy Beer In Toronto

Living in Newfoundland, I can go to just about any convenience store and pick up a case of beer, but when I went to Toronto, I went to about 3 or 4 different convenience stores before being told that I needed to go to "The Beer Store" to purchase beer

I passed "The Beer Store" a couple of times while walking around and assumed it was a store to buy supplies for making your own beer (we have a few of those stores in my city)


26. No Sunday Funday Until Afternoon In NYC

I grew up, and still live, in Louisiana. Grocery stores and gas stations have full liquor sections. Daiquiri shops have drive-thrus. And that styrofoam cup with the plastic lid and the straw sticking through it is only an open container if you take the paper off the straw.

My wife and I were on a vacation and decided to have brunch one Sunday at a very nice restaurant in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. In Louisiana, mimosas, milk punches or Bloody Marys are de reigeur at brunch, no matter what time brunch kicks off. Otherwise, it's just a sad, sort of late, breakfast.

So, our reservations were for 11:45. We show up and get seated. We order mimosas. The waiter tells us he can't serve them to us until noon because it was Sunday. This was Brooklyn. Part of New York City. A world class city. The unofficial cultural and financial capital of the United States And I couldn't get an orange juice and champagne until noon?

I was devastated.


25. When The Wedding Planner Brings A Stopwatch

I come from the Latin side. Parties are laid back, you just drink, have tacos, and dance. I went to upper-class white weddings and was uncomfortable: everything is so organized, people sit at reserved tables, the bride’s speech is from 7:15pm to 7:35pm, etc. I was used to just the mass of people and the food being ready for a certain time. Then everything else is still planned but doesn’t seem as strict. Like, “yeah, after about it looks like most people are done eating, we’ll start dancing"


24. Maybe It Would Have Been Less Of A Surprise If He'd Studied Latin

Right after I got married, one of my uncles died. He'd wanted a full Latin funeral mass in the biggest church in the county. My husband had never been to a Catholic church. This church had a larger than life realistically painted gruesome bloody crucifix statue hanging over the altar, and life size saint statues, stations of the cross, huge banks of prayer candles, etc... Catholic imagery at it's most vivid and powerful.

He's uncomfortable just being there, and then the huge wooden doors open, and the priests proceed up the aisle chanting Dies Irae and swinging incense censers. OMG, the look on my husband's face was priceless! He told me afterward that he almost bolted out to the car. lol



23. I'll Take The Tacos

Sorta a weird one for me lol. I'm white, grew up in a typical mostly-white suburban community. But I've spent my past 8 years living in NYC and, more recently, Los Angeles.

I live in a middle-class neighborhood in LA. I'm the only white guy in my group of friends. Parties are always tacos & Modelo, which I love. I've gone to friend's family parties a few times too, and it's always a pretty laid-back affair.

A few weeks ago my friend took me with him to his childhood friend's grad party in San Diego. It was a bunch of upper-class white people in a nice house by the beach, all dressed up drinking wine. There was food with vegan & gluten-free labels. It was so weird to me seeing the type of culture I grew up with after so long. It made me sorta uncomfortable


22. It's Like Romeo And Juliet Might Break Out Again Any Second

Moved to the NYC area from Arizona a couple years ago when I was 26. It was weird seeing how much people actually care about where your family came from. Like Italian families actually prefer that you are with other Italians in relationships. When I went to my Italian girlfriend's sister's wedding her dad would introduce me to their family members and say "Don't worry, he has a nice Italian last name, Watpuppyoni." I didn't think about it at first but he was afraid they wouldn't like me because I don't look Italian so he made sure they knew I was at least part Italian. Where I'm from no one cared who you were with or where your family originated from generations ago.


21. And After They're Done Insulting You, You All Drink Super Sweet Iced Tea

Michigander transplanted in Appalachian TN. Had to learn that sloth-slow talk does not necessarily mean dumb, and "Bless your heart," when spoken by a woman, often means "well aren't you dumb?."


20. It Takes Two Seconds To Figure Out This Isn't Miami, Ohio (Yes That's A Real Place)

I moved from a small town in Ohio to Miami, FL. I live In Little Havana where the majority of people are Cuban. Signs are in Spanish and most people speak Spanish or are bilingual. The number of fruit trees were unfamiliar to me. Also, the heat and rainy season. Not to mention traffic!!!


19. The Good 'Art Opens Doors' Kind of Culture Shock

I grew up poor to lower middle class. My mom eventually started working for a hospital in charts and she was responsible for the plastic surgeons. One of them real nice guy invited everyone to his yearly Xmas parties, nice thanks for coming gift bags etc. I'd been at his house for something early in that year and he had this new piece of modern art. Concrete tagged, painted shoes, it was like a small section of my reality hanging in this postmodern very nice house. Xmas party that year, I'm wall flowering cause I have like 0 in common with most the folks there he takes me into the kitchen and introduces me to this lady. At first, I kinda thought he was introducing me to the chef cause I like to cook and we had some conversations about BBQ. Turns out she was the artist that made the piece I liked on the wall. Up until that point art to me was stuff far away behind rope walls, and in museums, or things painted up on walls in the dead of night looking out for cops. I knew artists existed obviously but these weren't people you met and talked to and shared hummus with. Or stop by at your Christmas party and give a talk about a their own art.


18. Unusual But Awesome: Daily Group Naps In Northern Argentina

I'm from Argentina. I live in the capital but went to the north to visit my cousin as a kid. I was very used to Mcdonalds, but there was nothing like it up there (they keep it this way so local business can survive). All his friends were amazed I was from the capital and that I knew a bit of English. They asked me to say "Dexter's laboratory" out loud.

Also, everything is closed from 1 pm to 5 pm for siesta la. Everything opens will 10 pm for the same reason.


17. Mary's Not The Only One Taking Lamb Wherever She Goes

I work at a landscaping company/nursery (the nursery is open to the public) that employs a few Muslim guys.

I still don't think having freshly slaughtered lambs chilling in the back of a company truck during work hours is a great idea.


16. Maybe It's Too Cold To Be Polite

Canadians are known to be polite, but after living in Japan for a year, came back and was shocked by how rude everyone was, especially in customer service. One of the first things I did after getting back was buy a coffee, and the cashier mumbled when she spoke to me, didn’t make eye contact, didn’t smile at all. I was shocked and offended but later realized it was because I was just used to the extremely polite service in Japan and dialed down my expectations.


15. It Makes It Harder To Find Trees To Hug, Too

I'm from Maine, and it was a huge shock when I went to the Midwest and there weren't any trees. It's so weird being able to see for miles in any direction or see around corners on roads.


14. Kind Of Like A Steamboat Equivalent That Makes Neighborhood Stops

I stayed with a friend in New Jersey a few years ago and it blew my mind you could just walk down the street and get on a train. I’m from a small town in Mississippi and if you want to go anywhere at all, you drive. No public transport at all, especially not a train station in your neighborhood.


13. It Takes Dedication To See Texas In The Rear View Mirror

realizing after becoming friends with east coasters (US) that you can drive like an hour and be in a completely different state? I'm from Houston, TX. drive ~4 hours to and from Dallas for school. drive ~4 hours to Austin to party and romp around greenbelts. I have a friend from corpus Christi that drive 8 hours to school in Dallas.


12. She Wants You To Have A Way To Get To Work Is All

I’m from Los Angeles and I had to spend a summer working in Dayton, Ohio. I couldn’t believe how friendly people were. It made me super paranoid. A girl at work offered to give me her bike since I didn’t have a car. I told my best friend about it and she said: “...what do you think she wants?”

It took a few weeks for me to realize that everyone was just nice.


11. An Oregon Hipster Version Of The Emperor's New Clothes

In Oregon, there are basically two areas, Portland metro which is saturated with transplants and hipsters

And there is the rest of Oregon. Rural, conservative and full of nature

I grew up in rural Oregon. When I moved to Portland for school, it was a bit of a culture shock. "You own a truck and don't use it for work? What? What's the point? You own a 4x4 and have never driven it off road? The heck?

You're wearing a cowboy hat and jeans but are driving a Subaru Impreza..."


10. Endless Options

I live in Japan but when I go back to the US I’m completely shocked about how many choices there are for the smallest things, especially food. What kind of bread do you want for your sandwich? What kind of dressing do you want? What kind of meat do you want? What kind of cheese? Toppings? What vegetables? How do you want the bread cut? Toasted? How about sides?

neonbrand-394688-unsplash-300x155.jpgPhoto by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

9. Northern Accent

Heck, I had culture shock in my own county. I live in WV along the border with Ohio and the northern end of our county has bridges that connect us to Ohio whereas the southern end is more isolated. Fresh out of college, my first teaching job was as a long term substitute at a small high school in the southern end of the county. On the first day students said stuff like "You have a weird accent. Are you British or something? Where are you from?" .... Me: "Umm. About an hour north of here."

neonbrand-426918-unsplash-1-300x187.jpgPhoto by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

8. Why My Wife Doesn't Take Her Reading Glasses To Shop

I married up. My wives family is wealthy.

They think nothing of flying the entire family of fifteen people to a week in Hawaii. And paying for everything.

It's interesting with her behavior - she's worked on it but she used to just go to the store and buy stuff without looking at the prices. She said she always was like that and her family growing up as well. That is what struck me. Not Hawaii.


7. Changed Perspective

When I was a kid one of my mother's friends was a woman from a very tough background who had left her husband because he used to hit her and her children. She had three kids and was living in a two-bedroom council flat in a tough part of Glasgow. My mum met her because they were both doing part-time university degrees as mature students. She was studying to get a teaching qualification.

I became friends with one of this woman's kids when I was about 6 or 7. I'd go over to his house for the night sometimes and we'd generally wander around the local neighbourhood just doing what kids do. He always carried a rucksack and was always on the lookout for empty glass soda/alcohol bottles. If he saw one, he'd grab it and stick it in the rucksack. After a while I started bringing a rucksack along when I visited so we could double up on glass-bottle-carrying-capacity.

The reason he did this was that, in Glasgow back then, a sort of proto-recycling scheme meant that every one of those bottles was redeemable for 5p at any shop that sold them. They'd collect them, give out 5p per bottle, send them off to be recycled, and be reimbursed for their time by the local government.

We'd collect a bunch of these then, when we went back to the flat in the afternoon, my friend would proudly hand over a few quid in coins to his mother. He used to do this constantly and it meant - this being the 1980s - a decent little earner to help pay for a bit of the household expenses and so on.

I came from a family with a detached house in the suburbs that had two cars, two parents, two nice holidays a year, and no real worries when it came to money. Not rich, just lucky to be standard middle class. Meanwhile, this woman was raising 3 children by herself while studying to become a teacher, in a tiny little damp flat in a bad part of town. She never asked her son to do what he did, he just took it upon himself aged 7 or whatever to go out and do it. It took me a while to understand what was happening but, once I did, I can honestly say it was one of the defining events of my life.

randy-rooibaatjie-644354-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash

6. This Would Have Been Much Less Weird If They Were Eating Lucky Charms For Dinner

As an Asian American, I remember feeling like I was in a different country the first time I had dinner over at my white friend's house. First, his parents asked me to call them by their first names (which is unheard of in a Korean household), second they all ordered in pizza (my family NEVER ordered food from a restaurant -- we only ate out on very special occasions), and third, they all drank milk with their meal. What in the world? The first two I get, but seriously, drinking milk with dinner was super weird to me. The only time I ever had milk was with my cereal.


5. Lunch Time

I am Thai, my colleagues are from Argentina and Spain. I eat lunch at 12:30 pm and they are shocked. And the fact that for them lunch is at 4 pm is too crazy for me.

dan-gold-105699-unsplash-300x225.jpgPhoto by Dan Gold on Unsplash

4. Traffic

Moved to Australia from the Philippines... Driving normally between 60-80 kph is just impossible to achieve in Manila. Traffic management has been superb (Melbourne) as compared to Manila so I just laugh inside my head when people here complain about being stuck behind the right light for like two minutes or something.

antonio-dicaterina-738197-unsplash-300x225.jpgPhoto by Antonio DiCaterina on Unsplash

3. Open Space

I was born and raised in Peru but left for the U.S. in my early twenties. Despite things being far from rosy at the beginning, I was mostly pleasantly shocked: Drivers would stop for me if I was coming close to a street corner, kids 18 years old were getting their own places with a friend or girlfriend, weed smoking was so common place, I could make in an hour of fast food work what I would in a day back at the ol' birthplace. People were generally nice and polite, and they smile more often to strangers. Also, 2 two-inch bulletproof glass at the counter at a KFC in Pennsylvania and they gave you your food via a revolving tray window.

Moved down to Florida and oh man, all that open space and beautiful houses. Everyone has a car, my family could never afford one growing up so I didn't even know how to drive. Supermarkets were fancy and no one asks you to show your receipt when you are leaving, just in case you are stealing something. Got a job a golf resort, busser at a nice brunch place. So. Much. Food. My typical breakfast was two pieces of bread with margarine spread and instant coffee, scrambled eggs were like for Sundays. These rich people are having Mimosas and Eggs Benedict? Pancakes the size of dinner plates? WITH chocolate chips? Is this Narnia?

Bathrooms in fancy hotels. I would often start redesigning the place in my mind to turn it into my room.

Back at the beginning I was jut fascinated with Walmart. EVERYTHING in the known universe is available, and often stuff and brands I considered rather in the luxury category would be cheaper than they were in Lima.

After twelve years I was recently forced to move back to Peru. I am convinced drivers are actually trying to kill me, everything is fenced and I can't get a job that would cover my room's rent plus food and transportation. No one cleans after their dogs, that one really bugs me. The biggest shock of all is how much of an alien I feel like, even worse than when I first moved to the U.S. Sure makes me appreciate my time there a lot more.

benjamin-shanks-703069-unsplash-200x300.jpgPhoto by Benjamin Shanks on Unsplash

2. No Strangers

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.

helena-lopes-633154-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

1. Winter

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.

daniel-bowman-10215-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Daniel Bowman on Unsplash