Travelers Share Their Most Jolting Culture Shock Moments

One of the best things about traveling abroad is that you get to learn a bit more about other countries and cultures, and sometimes the differences from our normal lives can send us into a state of shock.

Travelers came together to share the moments they experienced their most jarring culture shock.

The Roadrunner Would Love This Many Beep Beeps!

Motorists are pictured in morning rush hour traffic on a congested road in Hanoi
Photo Credit: NHAC NGUYEN / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: NHAC NGUYEN / AFP via Getty Images

“When I went to Vietnam 10 years ago, I thought there must have been a traffic jam on the way out of the airport. Motorbike and car horns kept beeping. Then I realized it was the norm everywhere in Vietnam.”

Snow? Sounds Fake, But Okay

Snow blankets park
Photo Credit: Scott Eisen / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Scott Eisen / Getty Images

“I visited a school in a tiny Thai village. One child asked what the weather was like in my country—I said it was snowing. There was a murmur, then the teacher said, ‘The children would like you to elaborate on this ‘snow.’

They had no concept of ice from the sky!”

Pints > A Glass Of Water

tourist drinks beer at the garden of
Photo Credit: Matej Divizna / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Matej Divizna / Getty Images

“I didn’t realize how much people drink beer in the Czech Republic. You cannot get a nonalcoholic drink cheaper than a beer. I looked it up and lo and behold, the Czechs have the highest beer consumption in the whole world…so I moved there!”

A City That Really Never Sleeps

A general view of Tokyo Tower and the surrounding area
Photo Credit: Adam Pretty / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Adam Pretty / Getty Images

“The first night I landed in Japan and was taking the metro at 1 a.m. The platform was loaded with exhausted people in suits and other formal clothing almost falling asleep on each other’s laps—just an ordinary day for Tokyo locals.”

A Mutual Culture Shock

A backpacker on a street in Bangkok
Photo Credit: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

“When I was in Thailand, a little kid had never seen a white person as pale as I was and he put his little hand on my knee to see if it was real.”

North American 7-Elevens, Take Notes!

7-Eleven in Japan
Photo Credit: Miguel Candela / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Miguel Candela / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

“The sheer awesomeness of Japanese convenience stores! My local 7-Eleven has sticky floors and doubtful looking packaged sandwiches. The 7-Elevens there are clean, well-lit, have a great selection of lunch/dinner prepackaged meals, and also have a special heated unit for hot drinks.”

Honesty Isn’t Always The Best Policy

Jakarta Light Rail Transit (Jakarta LRT) train
Photo Credit: Aditya Irawan / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Aditya Irawan / NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Strangers just sit next to you on the train/bus in Indonesia and ask personal questions immediately. They want to know why you don’t have kids or a husband, and why you’re fat. Then the say that you should get a haircut because your hair is ugly.”

Denmark Is Full Of Straight Hotties

women in fashionable outfits walking on copenhagen sidewalk
Photo Credit: Christian Vierig / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Christian Vierig / Getty Images

“Everyone in Denmark was good looking—they all had good fashion and sense of style. It got to a point where I tried to spot an ‘ugly’/dressed-down person. I couldn’t find anyone while in the heart of downtown Copenhagen.”

How Valuable A Few Hundred Dollars Really Is

woman on small Guatemalan farm feeding chickens
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“In Guatemala, a man was telling me about how, with his $3 a day salary, he saved up and bought a bunch of baby chicks, raised them, kept half the hens, and sold the rest. Used that money to buy more chicks, etc. With his profits, he bought a baby cow. He raised it to adulthood and sold it, using the money to buy two more baby calves.

When one of the cows got sick and died, it set him back years—something worth only a few hundred dollars.”

Guess You Just Shouldn’t Breathe

GettyImages-630282210
Photo Credit: WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

“The air pollution in major Chinese cities is so bad that your eyes water the second you step out of the airport. It’s so bad that I experienced a sort of acclimation sickness within the first couple of weeks.”

Seriously, A Big Mac?

McDonald's Big Mac
Photo Credit: Yu Chun Christopher Wong / S3studio / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Yu Chun Christopher Wong / S3studio / Getty Images

“When I traveled to Taiwan, I was expecting chopsticks to be the norm in restaurants, but I was still floored when I saw a guy eat a Big Mac using chopsticks.”

Talking To Strangers In Public? Ick.

woman walking dogs on the Promenade
Photo Credit: Arthur Elgort / Conde Nast via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Arthur Elgort / Conde Nast via Getty Images

“I had lived in the UK all of my life before moving to Connecticut. The first time I walked my dog in my new neighborhood, a stranger engaged me in full-on conversation. Scary.”

It’s Sad To See, Honestly.

A boy is silhouetted as he asks for alms from commuters
Photo Credit: NOEL CELIS / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: NOEL CELIS / AFP via Getty Images

“When I went to the Philippines, a group of homeless children took control of a bridge and demanded payment for people crossing it on the trip from the airport to the hotel. People actually paid, too.”

Maybe I Should Visit China

A couple poses for a wedding photographer
Photo Credit: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP via Getty Images

“I was shocked by rural people’s fascination with Westerners in China. Within an hour of landing in a small city, I was invited to a random couple’s wedding. They sat my friend and me at a front and center dinner table and gave us a shout out from the DJ.”

I Can’t Believe You Have To Pay To Pee

A public toilet sign
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“On my trip across Europe, I was shocked by how many public washrooms require people to pay in order to use them. The prices can be pretty steep; I had to pay the equivalent of $3 USD to use one.”

Crazy How Safety Rules So Much

seven-year-old girl using a car seat
Photo Credit: Chris Radburn – PA Images / PA Images via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Chris Radburn – PA Images / PA Images via Getty Images

“I visited the US when I was about 10 years old and my brother was 5, it was required by law that children under a certain needed to sit in a child car seat. That wasn’t a thing back at home in Pakistan.”

History Meets Modernity In China

Corner tower of the Forbidden City with surrounding buildings, Beijing
Photo Credit: Liqun Liu / Construction Photography / Avalon / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Liqun Liu / Construction Photography / Avalon / Getty Images

When traveling in China, I was shocked to see that, since it’s such an old country, that ancient temples and monuments, some thousands of years old, were right next to hyper-modern eight-story shopping centers.

Goodbye McDonald’s Ads!

A large Coca-Cola billboard
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images

“I’m from the U.S. and when I went to France and Belgium, I was shocked at the lack of highway advertising. There were no billboards or anything on the side of the road.”

I Mean, People Have Been Stared At For Worse Reasons

View of the Szechenyi Bath
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“When I was in Budapest, I visited a couple of public baths. My boyfriend noticed a lot of people staring at me, and, after a while, I realized I was the only one with tattoos.”

Small Town To Big City Shock Is Real

General view of the Hollywood sign on a hill above Los Angeles, California.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“I live in a small town with less than 800 people in northern Canada, so the first time I went to California was a massive culture shock. Big cities, eight lanes of freeway traffic, skyscrapers, and well…everything.

I think what got to me most was the lack of trees.”

New Zealand Is Home To Hobbits, I Guess

person's bare feet under table
Photo Credit: Pool / Samir Hussein / WireImage
Photo Credit: Pool / Samir Hussein / WireImage

“I was so shocked to see barefoot people everywhere in New Zealand. In Starbucks, in the mall, on public transit, walking down the street—people would choose not to wear shoes and rock their bare feet instead.”

The Bathrooms Will Get You

Festival-goers use neighboring toilet cubicle stalls
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images

“I was shocked by American toilet stalls having the doors end about two feet above the ground? Every time I went to the washroom, I was half-expecting to see someone poke their head under because of how much space there was.”

Really Puts Things Into Perspective

A Cambodian man drives two smiling Western tourists on his a motorbike Tuk Tuk
Photo Credit: Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images

“I was chatting to a tuk-tuk driver in Cambodia. We asked him what he did in your free time, but he didn’t seem to understand the question. We clarified that we wanted to know what he did when he wasn’t driving his tuk-tuk, and he said, “What you mean? I sleep!”

The fact that the concept of any free time at all was so alien to him made me seriously realize how privileged I really am.

Where Do They Charge Them Though?

Honduran woman shows a picture of her son on her mobile phone
Photo Credit: PEDRO PARDO / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: PEDRO PARDO / AFP via Getty Images

When I traveled to Honduras, I met countless locals who didn’t have any running water or electricity available in their homes, but most of them still owned cellphones and laptops.

Who’s Up For A Travel Romance?

two women running on the beach in swim suits
Photo Credit: Dave Hogan / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Dave Hogan / Getty Images

“The women in the Caribbean were much more flirtatious and forward than back home. It made me super nervous. One woman approach me in a Wendy’s of all places and asked if my friend and I would like to join her and some friends at the beach.”

Please Do Not Speak To Me!

People walk along the sidewalk in the rain holding shopping bags
Photo Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

In Norway (where I’m from), social anxiety is integrated into our culture. We don’t talk to strangers unless necessary and people working in stores won’t talk to you unless you ask for it/look lost.

When I came to New York and the people working in stores asked me how I was, I was floored. Not only did they talk to me the second I came in the door, they actually asked me how I felt; I got so freaked out I avoided stores altogether for days.”

Apparently Kids In Other Countries Don’t Do This

kindergarten class at school recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Photo Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

“When I was six-years-old, we moved to America for a year. Every morning at school, we had to do the Pledge of Allegiance, but because I was from Germany, I had no idea what it was—I just acted like I knew what I was doing.”

That Just Sounds So Wrong

Heinz Tomato Ketchup
Photo Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images

“I probably was most shocked when pizza was served with ketchup or other sauces at restaurants in various Eastern European countries. I was not mentally prepared for that at all.”

I Never Thought Someone Would Be Amazed By Ohio

Rustic farm in HUDSON, OHIO, UNITED STATES
Photo Credit: John Greim / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: John Greim / LightRocket via Getty Images

“I went from living in Australia, a very dry country, to Ohio and found that everything is green here. If you need water, you can just dig a hole in the ground.”

Not Like North American Weddings At All

bride and groom in thai wedding
Photo Credit: David Longstreath / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: David Longstreath / LightRocket via Getty Images

“I just went to a Thai wedding. At one point, a very drunk middle-aged woman was thrusting a wooden phallus in my face, while walking the groom down a highway holding an umbrella to keep the sun off of him.”