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    "I'd Never Even Seen That Before": Americans Are Sharing Big And Small Moments Of Culture Shock Abroad

    "It was honestly a surreal experience."

    Traveling is all about new experiences. But sometimes those experiences feel so unexpected, you can't help but feel a bit of culture shock. So redditor u/Spilakkk asked, "What is the thing that surprised you the most when you traveled to a country you had never been to before?" Here's some of what people said.

    1. "When I was in Montreal, I stayed near a small park, and there was a piano right in the middle of it — just sitting there for anyone to play. My companion and I agreed that the instrument wouldn't last five minutes back home in Baltimore. I was quite impressed by Canadians and their apparent lack of criminality."

    A piano in a park

    2. "When I was in Sweden, I was surprised by how patient most people were. No one honked while stuck in traffic, and when people wait in line, they give one another plenty of space, never breathing down your neck. My country only learned that behavior due to COVID!"

    Pedestrians walking on a quaint street

    3. "When I ordered french fries in Germany, the waiter drowned them in mayonnaise ⁠— not ketchup ⁠— before handing them to me. It changed my world."

    French fries covered in mayonnaise

    4. "The culture around food in France was very different from what I'm used to. Whenever I would visit family in France, I had to remind myself that dining is an unhurried affair. You'll rarely sit down, have a quick meal, and continue on with your day. Food is meant to be enjoyed, so the French take their time. A lot of local businesses even close around midday to accommodate these leisurely lunches."

    People sitting outdoors at a French bistro

    5. "I was blown away by how quiet Japan was. No one talks on public transportation, and there's barely any noise in the streets. There are no horns honking or loud music coming from cars or stores. I learned that being polite and considerate is just a big part of Japanese culture. Case in point: Silent mode on Japanese cellphones is called 'manner mode.'"

    A clean street in Tokyo with lots of neon lights and signs

    6. "For me, it was my first breath off the plane in Mumbai, India. It felt like the heaviest breath I've ever taken. The air was humid, hot, and dense. Before this, I'd never really been conscious of my breathing, and it took me a while to get used to it."

    A very busy street in Mumbai

    7. "I was visiting China, and I was shocked that everyone smokes indoors. Plus, it felt like a LOT of young people were smoking cigarettes. We went to a club and everyone was lighting up inside, which made it very unpleasant as a nonsmoker. Smoking indoors has been illegal where I live for a long time."

    A hand holding a lit cigarette

    8. "Seeing beer as a combo meal option at McDonald’s in Spain."

    A McDonald's beer in a plastic cup

    9. "I ran into a person in Canada (it was totally my fault), and he said sorry first. This made me realize that 'Are you fucking blind?!' is not the only response in this situation."

    A quaint city street in Canada

    10. "When I was in Copenhagen, I tried to get food at 9:30 p.m., but literally no place within walking distance of our hotel was open. It was strange because I'm so used to having access to food around the clock."

    A quiet city street with a bike

    11. "A small but mighty thing for me: London theaters sell ice cream during intermission. You won't find that at Broadway performances."

    A cup of ice cream

    12. "I moved from the US to Mexico, and my first true moment of culture shock occurred when I was in the city of Durango. I was traveling with someone for a few days, and she decided to buy a midnight snack of tamales straight out of the trunk of a stranger's car. I’ve now been in Mexico long enough to think this behavior is very reasonable."

    A Mexican tamale ready to eat

    13. "I went on a cruise with my extended family, and we stopped in Port Vila, Vanuatu. I accompanied my sister to a large supermarket because she needed to buy feminine pads, but no matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find them. It wasn’t until later that we realized these just aren't available for women in Vanuatu."

    A woman in a pharmacy aisle

    14. "In Japan, I noticed that people carry their garbage home with them. I was shocked to discover that there are almost no garbage cans outside in public areas. And the streets are SO clean regardless. At first it was really inconvenient, but eventually I got used to it."

    A clean city street in Tokyo

    15. "I never realized how many freebies we get in the US until I visited Europe. Free refills, as much ketchup as you want in fast-food places, free toilets, etc. In Europe, you have to pay for everything."

    A hamburger with a bite taken out of it and fries with ketchup

    16. "In Europe, I was taken aback by the sense of history and time that is everywhere. There are buildings that are hundreds and even thousands of years old, and roads that have been walked on for so many generations."

    Old cobblestone street in Rome with the Pantheon in the center

    17. "I visited Albania and was surprised to discover there wasn't a single chain store or restaurant. It was a strange experience to be in a large city and be completely unable to find a McDonald's, Subway, KFC, or Starbucks."

    A Starbucks Coffee store

    18. "I was traveling in Tokyo, and I was amazed to watch 5-year-olds walk themselves home from school or catch public transportation...all by themselves."

    A huge crowd of people wearing suits

    19. "I moved to Italy when I was 10, and my mom would give me money to buy candy. The candy I chose had a not-so-insignificant amount of alcohol in it — which didn't stop anyone from selling it to a 10-year-old child."

    A huge display of chocolates at a candy store

    20. "In Spain, I saw my first beer-vending machines. It was just sitting there unsupervised for my 14-year-old self to spend my change on."

    Someone holding a bottle of beer

    21. "I lived in South Korea for about three years, and at first I was amazed how long one could leave a phone, wallet, keys, or any valuables on an unattended table in a crowded bar and it wouldn't be stolen. In the US, you bet your bottom it would get snatched as soon as you looked away."

    Electronics at a café

    22. "When I visited Cairo, I couldn't figure out how the hell to cross the street with six lanes of traffic that didn't seem to follow any road rules. Thankfully, a nice man took pity on me and just stuck his arm out and started walking across all six lanes. The cars stopped, no one honked, and I scurried after him with my suitcase. This experience still blows my mind."

    A busy street in downtown Cairo

    23. "I was blown away by how unbelievably clean Singapore was. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I swear I did not see a single speck of dust at their airport. Even the public toilets were squeaky clean. Every day I went out to explore the city by foot, and I would return to the hotel without any dirt on my shoes."

    Singapore skyline of business district and Marina Bay

    24. "In Prague, I was shocked to discover that when you take out a camera to take a photo in the street, it's like a force field. People are so polite and gracious, they automatically move aside to get out of the way. I'd never seen that before."

    Aerial view of old town square in Prague

    25. "In Amsterdam, I was cursed out by an elderly lady because I was riding my bike too slowly. I'm a young, in-shape man who regularly goes to the gym. But apparently my normal biking pace is annoyingly slow for even the older riders in Amsterdam."

    The handlebars of bikes by a canal

    26. "Ordering food from a vending machine at a restaurant in Japan was a totally strange experience, though not in a bad way. You order noodles from a machine, then you sit at a booth with a curtain, and someone delivers your food when it's ready and closes the blinds. It was surreal."

    A ramen vending machine in Japan

    27. "One of the best unexpected perks I experienced in South Korea is that movie theaters sell beer. I barely drink alcohol, but a few sips of cold beer during a movie is a really nice luxury...something I wish existed back home."

    The back of two movie theater seats

    28. "When I was in Germany, I bought a beer in a convenience store, and the cashier offered to open it for me so I could enjoy it on my walk. Mind. Blown."

    A person drinking a beer outdoors

    29. "How easy it is to travel between two countries by car in Europe. If it weren't for the 'Welcome to Portugal' signs, I honestly wouldn't have even known we crossed the border and left Spain."

    Driver's view on busy highway with cars and trucks

    30. "The fast food in Japan was wild to me. When I ordered food from any type of chain that also exists in the US, like McDonald's or Burger King, my food looked exactly the way it was pictured on the menu. If you order a Big Mac in the US, it looks nothing like the photo or in the commercials. It's as if somebody back there in the Japanese McDonald's was artistically and perfectly assembling that burger."

    A Japanese McDonald's menu

    31. "How late people actually eat dinner in Barcelona was a surprise for me. I'd heard about it, but seeing families out for a stroll and kids playing in the city squares at 10 p.m. felt odd to me."

    A plaza with tables at night

    32. "The lack of cash transactions in China. Almost every store and vendor — including places like tiny street food markets and produce stalls — use mobile payments instead of cash. You quite literally never had to take out money from an ATM."

    A vegetable stand at a market in China

    What is something you've experienced or witnessed abroad that made you feel very far from home? Tell us in the comments below!

    Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.