The world is full of so many different cultures, ideas, and laws. Traveling to a new country that you've never been to can be quite a culture shock.
For those of us who haven't traveled overseas, it's interesting to know what might be shocking to us that is incredibly normal in another country. For those of us who have, this Redditor wanted to know what was surprising the first time you visited a country.
Redditor Spilakkk asked:
"What is the thing that surprised you the most when you traveled to a country you had never been to before?"
Some of these are quite surprising, and might bring a sense of longing to when it is safe for world travel once again.
Have a drink for the road!
"Probably in Germany when I bought a beer in a convenience store and they offered to open it for me so I could enjoy it on my walk."
"Haha, the good old German 'Wegbier,' that's how we call it. It just means having a [beer] for the walk from A to B."
"When I went to Berlin this threw me off. My tattoo artist took me across the street and bought me a beer and then we walked around. It was such a neat experience. My fiancé was busy in a meeting that day so the following day I said hey look what we can do. And I bought us two beers and then I said now we can go walk around. She was so skeptical at first but then we walked around Berlin, drinking beer and taking in the sights. It was such a neat experience."
"Honestly coming from Denmark I thought obviously having alcohol in public was allowed everywhere! Then I went to New York, wanted a bottle of wine for a nice dinner. Had to go to a special store, show ID (wtf, haven't done that since I was 15), and they wrapped it in the most shameful paper bag I've ever seen."
"It's honestly so funny to me that Americans talk about the right to own guns but they can't chill at a park with a beer. Overall great trip though, people are so nice!"
"Just remembered, on that same trip when my boyfriend and I crossed over from Canada into the US at 4am we had to get out and get a visa, no problem we filled out the forms then came time for paying. It was like $14 for both of us, I instinctively pull out my card and the guy asked us if we were French."
"I responded we were Danish and asked why, to which he replied 'Well, French guys also let their girlfriends pay,' while staring down my boyfriend. I just looked straight at him and said 'Where we're from we believe in equality,' and he looked so flustered while his coworker was laughing his *ss off behind him."
New York is exactly what we expect it to be, surprisingly enough.
"New York is exactly as advertised... everything i see on tv shows and movies are exactly the same..."
"I've been to a lot of places but New York is the only one that is exactly my expectation..."
"Does the pedestrian respond with 'HEY I'M WALKING HERE'?"
"To which you hear a response of 'go suck a d*ck.'"
"True story and I completely agree, NY is as expected."
"I loved the fact that people do indeed curse loudly and friendly at each other."
"Someone crosses the road and isn't paying attention and someone else will stick their head out the window and shouts some colorful anatomy question regarding their head."
"The sheer amount of garbage on the streets in Manhattan was the really big surprise for me. No alleys, no dumpsters, and giant buildings, so they just put out huge piles of garbage on the sidewalks."
"Every other first world city I've ever been in, a good rain will wash the city clean and leave, at least for a little while, a fresh smell in the air. Not New York. In New York, a rainy day just washes garbage everywhere."
Best Excuses For Late Assignments That Were Actually True | George Takei’s Oh MyyyTeachers have heard every excuse in the book from students who were trying to pull a fast one. We all know the classics: 'dog ate my homework,' 'my car burst...
People in Prague are polite.
"In Prague, when you open a camera in the street, it's like a force field! People automatically moves aside to not stand in the way."
"I learnt this in Prague in 2008 and made it a habit. It's very polite and people look at me graciously when I do it everywhere."
"Czechs are very polite, actually, in our own way. We scowl around, look like we are miserable all the time and will probably sigh loudly when another tourist asks where the castle is even though you can literally see it right there."
"But then, a mother with a stroller? Someone will help carry it up the stairs. People stand to the side of the escalators so people who have to hurry can run past. People stand to the side of the doors on any public transport so people can get off first, then they get on. Czechs are experts at CPR, statistically, Czechs give more CPR than any western country and we are damn good at it."
"There is a lot of stuff we are great at. Its not just beer."
Apparently there's scammers too.
"The strangest thing for me in Prague was how almost every money exchange store was trying to scam people by using horrible exchange rates. [I don't know] how these stores are still open."
"I'm pretty paranoid and have studied how scammers operate in every country and the one place where I traveled where I got scammed (but them I realized it and demanded my correct amount of money - while they pretended it was a mistake) was in Prague..."
Heated sidewalks in Finland
"Heated sidewalks in Finland! Absolutely life savers for me who had no idea how to walk on ice."
Standing for the royal anthem.
"In Thailand we were watching a movie and they played the [royal] anthem and everyone stood up for their king."
But that is changing.
"I'm in Thailand at the moment. There have been huge protests and speaking out against the monarchy for the past year or so (which is dangerous as it's illegal, with severe penalties). I went to watch a film a few weeks ago and only around half the people in the cinema stood up during the showing of the king's video before the movie (it's not actually the national anthem, just some rousing nationalist song with clips of him in ceremonial dress)."
"This may not sound like a big deal, but it was absolutely unthinkable, even 2 years ago, for half the people to show such disrespect and to remain seated during that part."
"Living in Thailand for 13 years, I can tell you the people loved their old king (King Rama 9) that sadly passed away. He was the most beloved person in the country. He had so many projects and undergoing's that helped the quality of life for so many people in Thailand. He was very connected to his country and people. I know for a fact everybody would pause and stand if his anthem was played anywhere out of voluntary action. I've never seen such respect for a king."
"On the other hand, his son, who is now the king of Thailand (King Rama 10) is much disliked compared to the other king due to his lifestyle and carelessness for the country. That's why they're protesting the monarchy. They know King Rama 9 won't be topped by any successors so might as well end it. I say good for them, they shouldn't be bowing to someone that doesn't care much for them."
Work really does end at 5:00 in Italy.
"A few years ago we went to Italy and I made my wife go on a side trip to Herculaneum and Pompeii for a couple days. In Herculaneum we were wandering around in town when 5:00 PM rolled around, and within 15 minutes the streets were filled with people, not hurrying past one another, but just standing around talking, having an ice cream, drinking a beer or whatever."
"Ashgabat Turkmenistan - everything about it. The entire city (every building) is white marble. It lights up at night like a sterile Las Vegas however, there is no advertising except for billboards of the dictator holding onto puppies by the neck to show everyone how nice he is. He has pretty much positioned himself as a religious prophet. The airport is shaped like a massive white marble eagle. It used to be a red building but soon after it was built they tore it down and built a white marble one to match the current décor."
"Also there is no white marble in Turkmenistan so it has to be imported from Italy. They were the largest importer of white marble in the world and drove the price up so high it cost them ridiculous amounts of money to build the buildings. Strange strange place."
One Reddit user created a list of a few of the interesting rules created by this dictator. We chose some of the most outlandish.
"Turkmenistan's post-Soviet history can be explained, in part, by their crazy dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov. Some of his decrees include:"
- "banning the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005 as well as sound recordings at 'musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkmen television channels, at all cultural events organized by the state... in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organised by the public,' citing a negative effect on the development of musical arts incurred by the use of recorded music."
- "ordering that a 'palace of ice', or indoor ice skating rink, be built near the capital, so that those living in the desert country could learn to skate. The rink was built in 2008."
- "outlawing opera, ballet and circus performances in 2001 for being 'decidedly unturkmen-like'."
- "discouraging the use of gold teeth in Turkmenistan after he suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out."
Prolonged eye contact.
"The amount of eye contact and observation. When I went to Morocco, in the evening the streets would be packed full of families sitting and talking. These people would watch each other, in fact even the way I'm describing it with 'watch' shows how unwelcome and uncomfortable it would be in England. People would also make eye contact and keep it frequently on the street, just with ease. It felt so strange for me at first."
"Yes!!! Oh my God I'm from Morocco and this has always been one of my main complaints about this place, and I never understood why it didn't bother other people so much!!"
"It would definitely be considered creepy in other countries but here, people see no issue in staring at you and what you're doing anywhere, anytime."
"It's one of the main reasons I hate going out."
"The smells of a different country. I'm from Australia and travelled to Malaysia a few years back. The city, the jungle, everything smelt different to any place in Australia."
"I still distinctly remember the smell of Turkey, Egypt, Switzerland, Spain, so many countries we visited traveling Europe and I remember coming home to Sydney and being like 'ahh so this is what home smells like!'"
"Yeah bro just come to the UK, the sweet smell of rain and cigarettes!"
Maybe we can learn a thing or two from these cultural differences, and celebrate how diverse our world truly is.
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A recent forum on Reddit demonstrated that "shocking" is in the eye of the beholder.
Particularly, the thread asked users to focus on the rituals and practices practiced in cultures all around the world. Redditors came to enlighten others with some far-out practices--usually involving pain inflicted on the vulnerable--that many cultures still deem ethical and significant.
Of course, priorities and ethics change with time and geography, so plenty of horrified commentary made its way into those explanations.
desi_londoner asked, "Which human culture or practice has shocked you the most?"
Many Redditors chose to focus on the plight of women and girls.
All too often, it seems, the female body is the expendable battleground on which religious ritual, male ecstasy, and societal greed rests.
A Well-Known Issue
"In high school I did a project on Somalia and read about the process of female circumcision (aka genital mutilation) and how when it was time to consummate the marriage sometimes they'd need to carve it open with a knife so the man could fit."
"Makes me feel uneasy just thinking about it."
How Is This Happening So Much?
"Child brides.wtf." -- Ultraviolethead
"Literally makes me sob every time I read stories about them. Being forced into a marriage before you can even really think for yourself. :( -- Dolphinkush
"Beauty Pageants for Kids. Seems so creepy" -- Naweezy
"Idk how they're legal?? They seem quite manipulated by their parents at such a young age it's honestly sad..." -- thevibesaretrash
"In the same vein."
"This weird fixation on "barely legal" or just really young girls as some 'pinnacle of beauty' "
"As a dude in his mid twenties, the idea of dating an 18 year old, sort of grosses me out to be honest. I don't understand how there's a bunch of 50 year old men, drooling over 18 year olds. They're basically children." -- anooblol
Rites of passage are also a commons site of shocking physical abuse.
Often imposed on young boys as they enter puberty, these rituals are still a heavy blow dealt to a largely powerless, vulnerable person.
Bullets For Manhood
"I always thought insemination rituals were bizarre af."
"Took a cultural anthropology course in college that briefly touched of different insemination rituals—usually semen is rubbed on skin or ingested by coming-of-age boys as a ritual to become men."
"Some cultures have other bizarre rites of passage—one comes to mind, in the Amazon there's a group that engages in pain rituals with bullet ants."
And I Just Wanted to Get On the Right Bus
"Spartans sending small boys out to hunt, kill and terrorize slaves. The most skilled boys from military training (which began at age 7) went out into the wilderness armed with a knife as low as age 12"
"they were expected to sleep during the day and hunt and murder slaves on their farms at night"
Lastly, there were rituals that actually involved the killing of another human being.
However the culture in question justify the act, Redditors can't believe it happens.
"Severed From Live Victims"
"Muti murders or medicine murders. In several African countries, people believe that medicine made from human body parts is especially effective. From The New York Times:"
"Muti murders, especially of children, remain disturbingly common; South Africa's police investigate an average of about one a month [...]"
"The killings follow a pattern. A client approaches a healer, who orders a third person to collect body parts. A hand in a shop's doorway supposedly attracts customers; genitals allegedly enhance virility or fertility; fat from a stomach is prescribed to ensure a good harvest."
"Lore says parts severed from live victims are most potent because their screams awaken supernatural powers. Parts from children are considered especially strong."
Difficult to Wrap One's Head Around
"I've watched a fair amount of documentaries about honour killings and it disgusts me that people could value their perceived 'reputation' more than their own blood relatives."
"The fact that they can kill (and usually in very brutal fashion) their own daughters/nieces/sisters/cousins in order to protect their fragile ego and supposed 'honour' is just sickening to me."
"What makes it even worse is that they are supposedly trying to preserve their honour by committing one of the most dishonourable acts one can commit. Anyone who partakes in such a heinous practice is worse than scum and deserves the harshest possible punishment."
"The Leopardmen of Guyana select a victim and then kill them by stuffing various herbs deep into every one of their orifices. After the family buries the person, the Leopardmen come and dig up the corpse and rebury it in a place convenient for them."
"They leave it to rot a while and then come back with long reeds that the poke into the ground and into the corpse to drink the juice produced by the rotting body. They believe this gives them special powers, like shapeshifting."
"They usually eventually get really sick and die young. The populace have carved special wood clubs with spikes to kill Leopardmen with."
Of course, it is very important to avoid superimposing our own system of ethics and cultural priorities onto another culture, especially societies so much older than ours.
And yet, it's clearly difficult for people to hold back their shocked impressions.
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We have been socialized to be a certain way without thinking about the reasons behind them.
But when you really think about the logic behind certain behaviors or protocols, they don't seem to make much sense.
For instance, some people believe that a morning person is somehow more morally superior – yet there is no evidence to suggest that is true. It's just a longheld assumption that needs to go by way of the Dodo.
Curious to hear about people's opinions, Redditor stocdave asked:
There are some cultural norms at the office that employees can stand to get rid of.
"At least in the US, not talking about how much you make. Your bosses can't fire you for it but everyone thinks they can."
We Are Gathered Here Today For Nothing In Particular
"Meetings that clearly could have been an email."
"I've had meeting invites where the description of what the meeting was about was enough to not need to have the meeting. Like wtf did you not read what you typed?"
"It usually winds up being a way to blindside people with something."
"Having to explain why you're taking a day off. Never made sense to me."
"Whenever I told my scheduler I needed a day off, they always asked me 'why' and I always answered 'it doesn't matter why, I'm using my time off for this.'"
"When I became the scheduler, I always stopped people when they started going into detail why they need their time off. I don't care if you're gonna go sit on the couch for a day or steal the Declaration of Independence, if you ask for time off, I'm gonna try to make it happen."
Meeting A Quota
"The 40 hour work week."
"Even worse when you feel like 10 hours of those 40 are just pure waste, the meeting about the meeting."
World Of Retail
Consumers and store employees alike have their share of frustrations.
Short Life Expectancy
"Big ticket items like cars and appliances arent expected to last longer than 3-7 years."
"For appliances I've learned just buy the bare bones ones without lots of fancy stuff. They tend to last way longer and are usually cheaper."
Unpopular Store Policy
"That the customer is always right."
"As somebody who does customer service for a very large Bank I 100% agree with this statement. The level of entitlement and the victimhood mentality is absolutely astonishing."
"The idea in service jobs that you have to stand and look busy your entire shift because sitting down makes you look lazy."
Making A Point
"Going to work when you're sick to 'prove you're a hard worker'. All you've proven is that you don't care about your coworkers."
"No One Told Me!"
"Bank customer service is especially vile. Like for the people who work. 'No one told me!' Is so f'king common when you tell them they're negative by dreads of dollars because they kept swiping their card even though they had only $100 at the start of their weekend."
"The other day I had to tell a customer that because he had signed up for debit card advance and kept swiping his card he went waaaay into the negative. 'But they didn't tell me I had that!' Really? Because there's paperwork with your damn signature on it saying you wanted DCA."
Keeping Up With Appearances
These Redditors are beside themselves about certain things regarding one's aesthetics.
"Chicks not having pockets. I'm over here right now with a full water bottle, a phone, a map, earbuds, and a swiss army knife, and every woman that I meet has barely enough room to put their hands in their pockets. They are missing out big time."
A Certain Sacrifice
"Long hair is unprofessional, specifically on men. As a dude in my twenties about to enter the workforce, I hate the idea that I will definitely have to cut my luxurious locks because apparently I can't both have long hair AND be competent at my job."
Some Clothing Is Optional
"That a man can go walking around without a shirt on regardless of the size of his breasts meanwhile women cannot in a lot of places. Not that I want to, but damn it I want the opportunity if I feel like it."
"The idea that autism eather means that you are a dumbass or the smartest person alive. At school nobody I've told about it has reasonable expectations. Always eather babying me when I do bad on a test or thinking I'm the next fucking Steven hawlking when I get a ten."
It Ain't Always Nasty
"Being weirded out by sex/thinking it's taboo. Or thinking everything with the human body is sexual. I think if we were honest about sex, there'd be less teenage pregnancy going on."
"There'd still be some, but I imagine there'd be less."
Growing up as an Asian American, I always found it to be demoralizing to bow to anyone. Yet I couldn't escape it for fear of being judged by my own community if I didn't bow out of respect.
As my rebellious phase dissipated as I grew older, I believe bowing is not a social norm that bothers me as much as it used to. It's a cultural gesture I find to be humbling and refined.
Not to mention – in the age of the pandemic – I much prefer slightly lowering my head to rubbing elbows on the street in lieu of shaking hands.
But that's just me.