People Share Which Things Surprised Them Most About Visiting A Country For The First Time

People Share Which Things Surprised Them Most About Visiting A Country For The First Time
Eva Darron/Unsplash

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."

- Jinjonator91

"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."

- kryZme

"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."

- jwatch04

"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!"

- Nylnin


"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."

- Nylnin

​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..."

- titoxtian

"Does the pedestrian respond with 'HEY I'M WALKING HERE'?"

- Who_cares2905

"To which you hear a response of 'go suck a d*ck.'"

"True story and I completely agree, NY is as expected."

- neitdeRuyter

"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."

- smallfried

"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."

- hamlet9000

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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."

- itamarc137

"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."

- MrAvidReader

"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."

- thimo50

"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..."

- sexyshingle

Heated sidewalks in Finland

"Heated sidewalks in Finland! Absolutely life savers for me who had no idea how to walk on ice."

- momochicken55

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."

- ihatepickingnames37

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."

- odinelo

"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."

- Samthefreerunner

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."

- axnu

"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."

- shazam7373

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."

- Greggy30

"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."

- ZooneyLooney

The smells.

"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."

- New_Nefariousness420

"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!'"

- a_slinky

"Yeah bro just come to the UK, the sweet smell of rain and cigarettes!"

- Mr_Peter_Kingham

Maybe we can learn a thing or two from these cultural differences, and celebrate how diverse our world truly is.

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