Bulk shopping, endless drive-thrus, and red solo cups are all part of the all-American lifestyle. But hey, in other parts of the world, none of those exist. Because a thing that’s totally normal somewhere is, in fact, very abnormal elsewhere. Just like birds flying indoors in New Zealand, or the Australian love for one of the world’s most controversial delicacies known as Vegemite.

So, when one Reddit user posted the question “What was your biggest culture shock?” on r/AskReddit, it seriously resonated with people who flooded the thread with 3499 comments. We picked the most interesting examples of the cultural cold showers that will surely make us think twice about the things we take for granted.

And after you’re done reading this one, be sure to check out our previous post on rumors-turned-facts that non-Americans didn’t believe actually existed in the US.

#1

Moving back to the USA I had reverse culture shock. How large our portions are, how fat we are, how high our standard of living is with such an incredibly low quality of life, the massive income inequality, the amount of homeless, the magnitude of our selfishness, how little we discuss art and science, and how we discuss things in a very competitive way so that there needs to be a winner or a loser in every discussion instead of finding common ground.

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MikeyG
Community Member
2 months ago

Every time I see 'culture shock' or anything similar as a topic on this site it really makes me feel sorry for Americans when I see the posts. It really makes me wonder why the USA is the most patriotic nation on earth. You guys seem to get such a bad deal compared to the rest of the world.

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#2

Biggest-Culture-Shock I moved from Europe to USA. How Americans idolize their politicians. These are public servants, YOU PAY THEM! your taxes pay them, THEY WORK FOR YOU!

zlta , History in HD Report

Hans
Community Member
2 months ago

The paradox is that they are idolized, that people decide on one person, that billions are spent in rallies, yet the trust in the state is extremely low. Where that leads becomes apparent in this pandemic situation.

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#3

I'm American and I had never left the country. When I traveled to Japan, I was seeing kids so often travel by themselves and leave their bags in places like at seats when they went to go order food, etc., without a worry of anyone stealing it. It was very surprising but also gave me a sense of safety I have never felt in the US.

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Marky Mark
Community Member
2 months ago

Clearly everybody has a handgun in Japan and that is why they feel so safe (yes - this is a sarcastic comment)

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Bored Panda reached out to Reddit user u/yehboyjj, whose response to “What was your biggest culture shock?” amassed 2.8k points and turned to be the top answer. The Dutch guy told us that the biggest culture shock for him after arriving to Canada was how huge everything was.

“In Canada, everything is bigger. The roads, the cars, the houses, the cities, malls, and the travel distances.” Back in the Netherlands, driving from the eastern to the western end of the country takes about two to three hours. Meanwhile, in Canada, the smallest distances take ages to get to. “What seemed like an infinitely small distance on the map took two and a half hours to drive,” u/yehboyjj said.

The redditor also said he initially was super surprised with the distribution of people around the city. “It seemed like the crowding that goes on in Dutch cities only exists in downtown Toronto.” Another culture shock for u/yehboyjj was how Canadians love spending more time together compared with families back in the Netherlands. “Plus sports is a huge deal for them.” u/yehboyjj added.

u/yehboyjj concluded that two weeks of vacation weren’t enough to get adapted to the Canadian lifestyle and he guessed it would take much longer to get fully used to their people.

#4

American here and I lived in the Netherlands for a bit. The first time I went to the doctor and he had actually read my entire chart beforehand.
Oh, and then the total for my visit was a few euro. That was a pretty big shock too.

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David K
Community Member
2 months ago

American health insurance system is so bad. No surprise you were shocked.

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#5

When a large Maori man asked to touch noses with me in greeting. The dude looked pissed until I manned up and was the first to touch noses. Then he had one of the best smiles I've ever seen on a mountain of a man. It lit up the entire cultural center.

0_1_0_2 Report

Lauren Caswell
Community Member
2 months ago

A hongi. Common greeting amongst maori people and other new Zealanders too. I'm glad you accepted it and reciprocated the hongi:)

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#6

Had a business trip to rural Alabama as a fresh college grad. I’m Canadian and had never left Canada at that point.

The blatant, overt racism I found there was absolutely shocking. This was like 20 years ago, no idea if things have changed since... I remember thinking that if I wasn’t white I would be in legit danger most of the time I was there. We took our client out to dinner and he asked the host to make sure we weren’t gonna be served by a black person, like it was a casual request no different from asking to sit by a window.

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El Dee
Community Member
2 months ago

Wow! I'm just beginning to understand how deep the hate runs in the US..

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The term “culture shock" refers to the impact of moving from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar one, and is a common experience among exchange students, expats, and travelers.

Sometimes it comes with separation anxiety when parting with your country and the surroundings you know so very well creates a sense of loss. Many people who start living abroad experience heightened feelings of nostalgia and longing, similar to that when you break up with a loved one.

Many things can stir up culture shock, from food, dress, and weather to language, behavior, and cultural values. If you’re tired and under stress, even little differences can become truly nerve-wracking. But these inconveniences should not be confused with culture shock, which usually takes time to develop.

#7

The sheer amount of nonchalant waste that Americans do took me off guard. They just... leave the faucet running or throw away food if it doesn't look perfect.

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giovanna
Community Member
2 months ago

With this regard: I was shocked, having made friends with an American group of people here in Italy, by the nonchalance with which they used plastic cups and plates.

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#8

Coming from Europe, the public transportation in USA is absolutely rubbish.

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axle f
Community Member
2 months ago

Coming from Michigan, USA....i think you're on to something...

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#9

Holidaying in Tokyo and watching 5 year old kids walk themselves home from school and catching public transport...all by themselves.

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WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
2 months ago

In the US someone would have called the police and the parents would be charged with child neglect. CPS would be quick to take the children away from their parents.

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There are four main stages of culture shock that are known as honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance. The honeymoon refers to an initial reaction which can be overwhelmingly positive. The journey may feel like the best decision of your life, but it usually doesn’t last long.

The second stage is frustration, which comes from not understanding the culture you've put yourself in. This is when homesickness and longing for home emerge, and sometimes these feelings can cause great anxiety, depression, and mood swings. So they should be taken seriously.

#10

When I was 20 I moved to Newcastle, Australia to study (Spoiler alert I didn't study. At all). But before I went there I was told that in Australia they spoke English (Spoiler alert they didn't. At all). Every single word is abbreviated, everything is different, everything has its own vernacular. Example:

Me, "Hey Shane, I'm going to McDonald's, you want me to get you a breakfast burrito?"

Shane, "Oi Maccas Fair Dinkum mate! Had to ruck up early for the physio and me ute was out of petrol so stopped at the servo and asked the Sheila if they had brekky but noooouaahho just lollies so ive been getting aggro"

Me:...

Dude, none of the sounds that just fell out of your head were words. Do you want a breakfast burrito or not?

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Foxxy (The Original)
Community Member
2 months ago (edited)

Makes perfect sense to me lol. Translation: hey friend, want to go to McDonalds. Had to grab my s**t early to see the physiotherapist and my utility vehicle was out of petrol so stopped at the service station (petrol station) or gas station etc. And asked the lady if they had any breakfast, but noooo just lollies aka candy or sweets. So I’ve been getting angry.

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#11

That nudity was such a big issue in the US coming from Europe. I undressed to get into my swim trunks, all a matter of a few seconds, in the changing room and everyone looked at me like I had just murdered a kitten.

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giovanna
Community Member
2 months ago

Reverse: in public swimming pools in Iceland it is COMPULSORY to shower naked (in the changing room, but in open showers) before getting in the pool. It is very rational if you think about hygiene. I had no prob doing so, but I'm sure I would have been looked as if I had murdered a kitten if I hadn't.

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#12

Biggest-Culture-Shock Barefoot people EVERYWHERE in New Zealand. In Starbucks, in the mall, on public transit, walking down the street. No shoes, no socks, no [damns] to give.

skyfelldown , eitan bar Report

Toujin C'Thlu
Community Member
2 months ago

Sounds like my dream country. I hate wearing shoes

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The third stage is known as adjustment, and it’s a gradual step towards getting finally used to your new surroundings. This is when you start getting more comfortable with your new culture and everything feels a tiny bit easier.

The acceptance stage is the last one, but it takes months, and sometimes years, to come to. After initial cultural challenges, you get some peace of mind and can truly enjoy your new life abroad.

#13

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.

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Tatjana Peskir
Community Member
2 months ago

I am from south Europe, was once on a youth organisation trip to Norway. I was in a car and already knew some of the people from their visits to our country, but I didn’t know the driver. So I asked him about 10 questions and he was more and more panicked , after one of them he looked at one of his friends in panic, and everyone in the car except for me burst out in laughter. They explained to him my culture and to me that this level of interest was basically ‘tomorrow I will ask you to marry me’ level in Norway :-))).

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#14

I lived in Tokyo my whole life before this. First day going to college in the States, I went to the gas station to buy something. I had a lot of $100 bills with me because I didn't have a card yet. The cashier literally told me, 'You shouldn't carry that many bills around. If I saw you with that on the street, I would rob you.' I was like, 'OK, thanks for letting me know?' This was six years ago. In Japan, people normally carry/use cash for a lot of things.

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BoredPanda is awesome
Community Member
2 months ago

wow, good thing he knew beforehand

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#15

I'm a black South African, in my culture a woman doesn't leave the house for about a month after she has a baby. This is to avoid things like infections, bad spirits and so forth for both mother and baby. Also for the first month she doesn't do housework and must focus on the baby so usually family members come to live with them to help out. I was shocked when my English friend's aunt was cleaning the house and going out to shop for groceries a week after she had the baby and she took the baby with her. Not to mention she allowed a stranger to touch the baby which is a big no no in my culture.

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Wendillon
Community Member
2 months ago

White South African here, my mother took my brother out shopping with her the day after she got home from the hospital (he was about 3 days old)....OP's way sounds better.

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#16

In California, we have squirrels everywhere. Running around, climbing trees, getting run over.

We went to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon, where literal IGUANAS serve the same role. I've always been into reptiles and that was really cool.

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Romenriel
Community Member
2 months ago

Something similar can happen even in one country. In my hometown, there are pigeons in public spaces. In town where my uni is, just 200 km away, crows and rooks everywhere and no pigeons to be seen. That low key blew my mind. (But not gonna lie, iguanas sound even cooler :D).

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#17

At 21 I encountered people who took the bible as a history book. Including the creation in six days.

Blew my mind.

I was raised a catholic and we always were told that the bible contained moral stories, passed over through time.

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Romenriel
Community Member
2 months ago

Similar experience here. I am protestant, but from Europe (not that there are no fundamentalists in here, but they are not very common.) I would also wish that more people realized that not all Christians are like these stereotypical american churches. They aren't even a majority if you take Christians from all over the world into account!

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#18

I’ve been to Iran twice and they have this very elaborate and convoluted culture of hospitality. They say in Iran hospitality is an extreme sport.

So when you’re at someone’s house, you have to eat whatever they give you, and they will not stop offering, so you will be force fed until you’re sick. I found the only way to avoid this is to hold a full plate of food and pretend to be eating it.

If you compliment them on something, like a pretty painting on the wall, they will take the thing off the wall and give it to you to take home. Now this is where it gets convoluted, because they don’t really want you to take it. Yet if you refuse they will still act insulted. It’s all part of the show.

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Otto Mõmmiste
Community Member
2 months ago

"Your house is very pretty!"

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#19

Recently moved to the US (9 months ago), and I am still not used to everyone asking me how I am doing. I am from Norway, and if the cashier asked how you are, you'd get embarrassed and wouldn't know how to answer.

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Hanneke Legerstee
Community Member
2 months ago

Even weirder, they're not actually asking, it's just a greeting, after 12 years in the UK I still have to hold back on answering the question. No one really cares how you're doing!

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#20

India, when visiting a family on a business trip the head of the household interrogated me at length on why my parents hadn’t found a mate for my then-28-year-old self.

I’m gay. It was very awkward.

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BoredPanda is awesome
Community Member
2 months ago

oh, must be really awkward

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#21

Biggest-Culture-Shock What is with American toilet stalls having the doors end like two feet away from the ground? Every time I took a [crap] I was half expecting to see someone poke their head under because of how much space there is

trainer-yellow , travel.stackexchange.com Report

Ilana Sebastian
Community Member
2 months ago

And what about the gaps running alongside the doors? You can wave to people passing by whilst doing your business. Weird!

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#22

Biggest-Culture-Shock Dutch here. When we went to Canada, everything was HUGE. Big cars on big roads, big streets and restaurants and malls. I remember 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.

yehboyjj , Tim Gouw Report

Hans
Community Member
2 months ago

Well, I also remember driving through the center of the US and reading signs like "No service next 160 miles". In Europe, you would find that sign if there was no petrol station for 50 km...

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#23

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

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axle f
Community Member
2 months ago

that's....absolutely understandable. my ex was navy...we did four and a half years in Bermuda, as they were shutting the naval facilities there down. it was only four years...but man. coming back... i didn't feel much american at all anymore then, either. and there seems to be a thirty year hangover effect...

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#24

Turkish person who lived in Germany for 5 years. Germany gives immense importance to order and being precise. If you follow the rules, you'll live in harmony. When I came back to Turkey, that wasn't the case. Everything was chaotic and you needed luck and acquaintices to survive.

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Natalie Bohrteller
Community Member
2 months ago

If only Deutsche Bahn was precise....

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#25

Biggest-Culture-Shock The only thing that really shocked me in France was how casually people talked about taboo subjects. I mostly had a huge culture shock when I came back from France. Caused me to be pretty depressed for a year.

Macbee1046 , x1klima Report

Haunting Spirit
Community Member
2 months ago

It's because America is making taboos out of everything. In Europe we are more relaxed about most subjects.

Damon Gates
Community Member
2 months ago

I think it was Marlene Dietrich who said, "In America, sex is an obsession. In the rest of the world, sex is a fact."

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Marc
Community Member
2 months ago

In my personal experience, Americans have a fear of nudity and sexuality. You can only say that so radically. The subject is completely tabooed. But in return, these Americans often have no problem with violence and weapons in all their forms. It is already suspicious that what is closer to the human being, sexuality and also nudity, is so tabooed and violence is celebrated. In Europe this is fundamentally different. I don't want to say that violence, for example in films, hasn't been accepted for a long time, but here nobody gets a gasp when there is naked skin to be seen or someone talks about sex.

kjorn
Community Member
2 months ago

religions makes them fear about nudity and sexuality.

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Sasha Kuleshov
Community Member
2 months ago

What's taboo in America anyway? Free healthcare? Unions? Reproductive rights? Racism? Affordable housing? Human Rights? Immigrants studying in public or private schools? Rich people paying taxes? Investing in infrastructure? Michigan's tap water? School shootings? Child marriage still being legal? Women issues in general?

K
Community Member
1 month ago

It varies by location. Born and raised in Utah, dating someone who is not also a Mormon is a huge taboo and amounts to social suicide. I learned later in life that it's to keep the religion growing ("multiply and replenish the earth!") as the church gets 10% of everyone's income which they call "tithing." You meet with your bishop every year to report in, and if don't pay full tithing, you are shamed. But the biggest taboo is sex. Even for my daughter in 2011, education in schools consist of separating the boys and girls into classrooms at age 11 for "Maturation Class." Summary: breasts are for nursing babies, and erections send sperm to fertilize eggs. The "how" is either omitted or summarized as "something that married couples do." You are to "save yourself for marriage" and discussions don't go beyond that. As a married adult, I was told that sex is only for procreating. People here have 4-5 (or 12) kids, and any sex position beside missionary is a sin. Oral sex? *gasp*

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giovanna
Community Member
2 months ago

Well but what is "taboo" is culture related. I would be really curious to know which topics they were referring to

Full of Giggles
Community Member
2 months ago

The taboo wasn't a shock for me. The number of men urinating publicly in Paris was a shock. And then there was the drunk guy who chased two police officers around the Metro platform with his rather large penis after the officers told him to stop urinating in a corner.

Jon S.
Community Member
2 months ago

To quote one Frenchman I know, "here it is more polite to ask someone their penis size than their salary"

s. vitkovitsky
Community Member
2 months ago

Neither is polite, and traditional stereotypes would suggest the French aren't #1 in politeness anyway!

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Patti Vance
Community Member
2 months ago

maybe i need to move there because while i don't automatically spill super private things to strangers i also believe that no one needs to have secrets, either. why? because having them only makes you not only paranoid that someone will find out something about you but it also makes you vulnerable. my mom both appreciated this quality as well as loathing it when i was growing up. as she put it, when she asked me a question she wasn't always sure she wanted to hear the answer.

Exquisite Spam
Community Member
2 months ago

Bear in mind that America was founded by a bunch of prudes who found the English too risqué.

s. vitkovitsky
Community Member
2 months ago

It was founded by people who didn't have religious freedom in Britain. But yes, theirown religion was repressive in its own way.

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BoredPanda is awesome
Community Member
2 months ago

wow

Yehudit Hannah Cohn
Community Member
1 month ago

If they talked about them casually, then the subjects weren't taboo . . . there. What you mean is that French people talked easily about subjects that _Americans_ find taboo. There is a very big difference, and the original wording highlights one of the reasons that the rest of the world has trouble with Americans.

Franc Esca
Community Member
1 month ago

What taboo subject? Sex? Because sex isn't taboo

My O My
Community Member
1 month ago

And here I am reading "tattoo subjects"

Jean-paul B.M.
Community Member
2 months ago

humans rights which are the base of the French constitution are simple, nothing is forbidden since it doesn't overcome onto another's liberty

bern Habubbi
Community Member
2 months ago

Been to France loads, used to go at least once a year as a kid. Love the place but sweet jesus Paris is one of the worst cities I have ever been too. Unbelievably rude, pissing everywhere, s**t all over the place, it was horrific, never get why people want to go there when the rest of the country is like 10x better

TheDuchessofSpiders
Community Member
2 months ago

Lol the person didn't even say they were american... People here are obsessed with the U.S for some reason.

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Ben Smith
Community Member
2 months ago

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“Pretty depressed” lmao

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#26

I went to south Korea for a year when I was in the U.S. Army, and they refused to let us tip after a meal at any restaurant.

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Nandi La Sophia
Community Member
2 months ago

That's because it's considered extremely insulting- it's like offering someone a condescending handout when they are already being paid for their work. Someone saying "You are adequate but I feel pity for you, have five thousand won. It just doesn't translate.

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#27

Biggest-Culture-Shock Not mine but in college I had a roommate from Australia who was studying abroad in America. We went out to dinner one night and I got mozzarella sticks. He could not believe we just deep fried cheese and then ate it

Sarnick18 , Kim Report

Lauren Caswell
Community Member
2 months ago

I thought mozzarella sticks were like a cheesy breadstick! It's just straight up fried cheese?! Mind you I can't talk, here in nz we have deep fried Moro bars (like a denser mars bar), and deep fried ice cream! I had the former once: never again it was just too much fat and sugar I felt so crook

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#28

That Americans don’t have electric kettles. Or that I need to say electric kettle because if I didn’t people would say they have stovetop kettles.

In the Commonwealth countries a kettle is just a standard item for the house. I don’t drink coffee or tea and still own a kettle. You can get that for like $10 and they’ll still be decent.

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Wendillon
Community Member
2 months ago

I though the stovetop kettle thing was just a movie gimmick for the longest time...didn't think people actually still used them

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#29

I'm Canadian, and I was 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.

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Flisey
Community Member
2 months ago

We get the odd sparrow in our supermarkets as well

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#30

Biggest-Culture-Shock I know it sounds ridiculous, but my biggest culture shock is 'hugs and kisses.' I grew up in a family that doesn't show love through such means.

Ok_Worldliness1818 , Barney Moss Report

Lauren Caswell
Community Member
2 months ago

My sister and I grew up with one super huggy parent and one who found that more difficult. Funnily enough I've turned out to be a hugger, and my sister not so much! I know both parents love me, they just have different ways of showing it

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