People Describe The Biggest Culture Shock They've Ever Experienced

They say travel changes a person - that a little bit of culture shock is good for perspective.

But let's talk about people who got more than just "a little" culture shock. Let's talk about those moments that kind of short out your brain for a second.


One Reddit user asked.

What was your biggest culture shock?

And yeah ... we can see how elephants in traffic might blow your mind.

Drive Through

America has drive through everything! Drive through coffee, drive through ATM, drive through liquor store!

- ExampleOtherwise

The drive through pharmacy and atm blew my mind

- NirvanaTrippin

Drive thru pharmacy is great. You drive up and there is a speaker and this long pressurized tube with a canister in it. The pharmacist asks what you're there for and then you send your ID and any relevant documentation's through the canister and then they do their thing, send you everything back through the tube and you're on your way.

I just did a COVID test through the drive through - they give you the bag and all relevant test materials, tell you what to do through the speaker and then you deposit the test in a biohazard box. I think it's pretty neat honestly.

- cocoaboots

Birds Indoors

Bird Deal With It GIF by moodmanGiphy

Canadian working in New Zealand.

Birds 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 it's own, animal control is called.

In NZ nobody gave a sh*t 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

The Least American American

My dad was a US diplomat so we moved to a new country every three 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 club houses. And when I moved to the US, I did not feel very American at all

- Scrappy_Kitty

Oh Canada

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're out of the city" but the city just seemed to be endless - kind of scary almost.

Also; distance was huge. In the Netherlands driving from the Eastern to the Western end of the country takes 2-3 hrs. In Canada, what seemed like an infinitely small distance on the map took 2.5 hrs to drive.

- yehboyjj

Contrast And Clash

India was my biggest culture shock. Extreme poverty and extreme riches right next to each other.

- LouiseHam89

It clashes hilariously when the rich try to use their wealthy materialistic possessions on poverty level infrastructure. Your Lamborghini is useless in these pothole filled roads.

- poopellar

Yeah. The way some hotel windows are frosted near the bottom to hide these massive trash dumps with children digging through them or something. It's so sad.

- Layra_GhostQueen

Nigerian Dogs

My cousin visited me from Nigeria and couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that we have entire stores here just for pets and pet products. In Nigeria most of the dogs are allowed to just run wild.

- ShepherdUseful241

My former coworker was also from Nigeria, and she had a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that we allow pets to sleep in our beds with us.

I have no idea what area/city she's from originally within Nigeria and this was also a long time ago, but she said doing so back there would have been considered disgusting and weird. Then she got a roommate who had a dog and fell IN LOVE with it.

Last conversation I remember having with her, she was talking about how she was curled up in bed on a Saturday with all of her dogs.

- sleepytimeghee

"I Would Rob You" 

Went to the states for college at Indiana. I lived in Tokyo, Japan my whole life before this. 1st day, I went to the gas station to buy something. I had a lot of $100 bills with me cause I didn't have a card yet.

The cashier literally told me "You shouldn't carry that much cash 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 6yrs ago and in Japan, people normally carry / use cash for a lot of things back then. I knew and saw people having $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 holy sh*t, didn't think carrying large bills would be that risky lol

- 305_ps

The Elephant In Traffic

things love GIFGiphy

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 (group of us) met up with the families we were staying with, introductions, all that jazz. Nice folks. We decided to go home, get a nap (it was 7am local) 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.

- trabarro

East Coast / West Coast 

I've traveled internationally a lot, but my biggest culture shock was within the US. I'd lived in the Pacific Northwest/Rockies my entire life, and when I decided to move to Philadelphia, everybody was warning me about how rude and snobby everyone would be on the East Coast and how I'd be miserable.

To be honest, the shock to me was how wrong most of those people were.

Like, sure, I've met some people out here who do the stereotypes no favors, but I've overall found folks to be WAY more genuine than people where I'm from. The PNW in particular had this weird, condescending fake-nice feel where I could know someone for MONTHS and still be unsure whether we were actually friends or they secretly hated me. Here, I know within about 0.2 seconds whether someone likes me, and it's so refreshing.

It definitely took some getting used to, but I can't imagine going back now. I also really don't miss people constantly judging me for not being outdoorsy enough. Here, it feels a lot less like there's one "correct" set of hobbies I need to have if I don't want to get sh*t on.

- _MaddAddam

Second-hand Culture Shock

My distant relatives came to Canada and were blown away. We did across country road trip over a week and a half. East coast to west.

They loved it.

But what surprised me, in fact blew me away...the most, was how emotional they got driving through the prairies. They had never seen so much open land and sky. They were crying.

It gave me a new appreciation for beauty of the vastness of the prairies and those "both never ending and yet always vanishing horizons. "-as they put it.

Their culture shock, was culturally shocking for me as well.

- dextermurphy

Dogs Like Squirrels

Dogs roaming around like squirrels.

I lived in Chile for a summer in college and never really got used to the fact that stray dogs are just EVERYWHERE in the streets! And not just like nasty mangy-looking ones, like golden retrievers and poodle mixes and stuff.

My host brother told me that they view pets as totally separate from family members there, so if they get tired of a pet dog they just sort of let it go. Still kind of blows my mind.

- Blaise11

Feeling Insecure

busted GIFGiphy

I live in Israel and there's security check basically everywhere.

You can't just go into a mall, you'll have to go through metal detector and have your bag checked by a security guard. So when traveling to other countries it always blows my mind that you can walk just right in without anyone checking you.

Makes me feel a little unsafe.

- xmishmishx

My Backpack

American living in Japan, my backpack (which I left on the train) full of pretty valuable things and plenty of cash was personally returned to my apartment by a stranger. Come to find out they went over an hour out of their way and would not accept any compensation.

In the US that's gone. Friends living there pretty much all have similar experiences.

- semiprotacoeater

"Woman's Job" 

Just got married to a guy from Connecticut— he does more than half of the chores in the house. It blows my mind.

He voluntarily does the laundry every week. He tells me to relax if I work a long day and he will make dinner.

I'm from the south and never realized how much I internalized the "woman's job" stuff. Omg, I love him so much.

- gettinganewdog

My First Doubts About My Country

When I was 17 my father took us on a month long driving vacation across the country from California.

When we reached the South there were bathrooms that said Colored Only!! I had to be told what that meant, and couldn't believe it!! Gave me my first doubts about my country.

- Valuable_Beginning71

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