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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month ago

"Your house is very pretty!"

Emilingo (strawberry seeds)
Community Member
1 month ago

‘I like your car!’

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Soph the Loaf
Community Member
1 month ago

It's similar in China and other Asian countries. If you're offered a snack or whatever, you must first refuse to look polite. The giver will keep insisting, and you have to keep refusing a certain number of times just to look polite. It's like a hospitality battle.

Stannous Flouride
Community Member
1 month ago

Iraq has the same customs. Years ago I suggested that instead of invading we just send in a few thousand tourists with instructions to say, "Wow, that's a really nice SCUD." or "Gee, those WMDs are so cool. I wish I had some like them." But none of my letters to Dubya were taken seriously.

Aamna Shah
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Oh this happens in my country as well but then we're neighbors. The only difference is we don't offer everything the guest likes although we do give gifts if you visit. We love to feed people and everywhere you go, from shops to homes, you'll be offered tea.

aestheticaly_angelic
Community Member
1 month ago

that diamond ring and your PC set are v cool.

s. vitkovitsky
Community Member
1 month ago

"I love what you've done with your bank account!"

El muerto
Community Member
1 month ago

in many countries, the cue for "thanks I'm full", is leaving food in your plate. as oppose to being rude to leave food in your plate in other countries.

Jon S.
Community Member
1 month ago

In Iran, if you leave one thing on your plate, they offer you something else instead

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Perfumista Perfumista
Community Member
1 month ago

The force-feeding reminds me of a few days in someone's house in Israel. They were trying to be hospitable, but I was nauseous after lunch and dinner and could not wait to leave.

Mimi777
Community Member
1 month ago

Pretty similar in Eastern Europe but since I grew up in the US my parents still offer people food and drink but if they say they’re not thirsty or hungry we leave it alone. But they are still very generous people and do everything to make someone feel at home when they visit us.

shyanna banana
Community Member
1 month ago

"what a lovely husband/wife you have"

Krishnakumar KR
Community Member
1 month ago

Your daughters are very pretty and your wife

Jon S.
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Same. Oh my, the part where they give you the thing you admire was just overwhelming! I didn't know how far to push the refusals, they were so insistent, so I often left people's houses feeling like I'd just robbed them. Now you say I was supposed to keep refusing it, makes me feel even worse! And I ate so many sweets and fruit I developed my first cavity, because they just kept loading them onto my plate.

El Dee
Community Member
1 month ago

I've met a few Iranians who had come to my country - this is no exaggeration!!

Lula Gage
Community Member
1 month ago

That's called taarof, right?

Sally Cooke
Community Member
1 month ago

How do you get round that if it happens?

Marlowe Fitzpatrik
Community Member
1 month ago

Hold a plate with food and keep your mouth shut, I imagine... 😁

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Charley
Community Member
1 month ago

They do that n Thailand too.

Lynn Morello
Community Member
1 month ago

Oh boy Oh boy Oh Boy..... Don't say a word.

Kim
Community Member
1 month ago

I like you car..

Ania Barrett
Community Member
1 month ago

I love Iran. I have travelled around the world and there are many countries where you meet hospitable and welcoming people, but I have never seen this level of hospitality anywhere else. It's also one of the safest countries I have been to. I never felt intimidated. even when arriving in a new city late at night and not knowing where to go, the first person you meet would offer to either drive you somewhere, invite you to their house for the night or offer you their phone so you could call someone. Truly incredible people!

ratinora
Community Member
1 month ago

Same thing in my country, Nepal. If you are a guest at someone's house, you have to literally block your plate to stop them from putting more food on your plate. If you don’t finish your food, it’s considered rude. If you finish, they put more. It goes on until you finish three full plates, then they let you rest. XD Similarly, if you compliment someone with their art/crafts, food etc they will insist you take it home as gifts. I came back to the UK with many jars of honey harvested by my relatives themselves and little handmade plastic butterflies. ; )

B-b-bird
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

oh yeah... seen people taking off tshirts right from their back, watches, and even expensive shoes right in the middle of restaurant, just because someone complemented them. This generosity act runs a lot in Arab culture. Made compliment once on cute decorative cushions in friends house... almost got them packed for me to take home when i was leaving, no joke :D

DetongLhamo
Community Member
1 month ago

I’m vegetarian (45/53 years) and I know there are countries that I can’t visit because of the dietary clash of cultures. I don’t particularly like what they eat and I don’t want to offend them.

Deborah Brown
Community Member
1 month ago

And don't forget "taroof" if that's how it's spelled. You're a guest n someone's house and they offer you something, you have to refuse until the third time they ask. So if you have a Persian in the house and you offer them something and they refuse, make sure to keep offering,

Marnie
Community Member
1 month ago

It would be horrible to be autistic in such countries. The stress of learning all the those social rules and never being able to ignore how stupid and ridiculous those rules are would just be awful.

DogMatic
Community Member
1 month ago

True, they seem particularly complex. All countries have different social rules & cues though, so for autistic people, wherever you are, there is pressure to learn/remember/follow those rules in order to present yourself in a neurotypical manner.

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Queen fhk
Community Member
1 month ago

They are actually being nice to you

Anna Kożdoń
Community Member
1 month ago

It's taroof!

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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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month ago

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

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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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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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