Traveling is one of the best ways to broaden your horizons and expand your views of the world. Unfortunately, at least in the United States, not many people travel very far beyond their borders. Barely 30% of the population has a passport, and that is only due to new rules following 9/11 that require people to carry proof of citizenship between Canada and the United States. In fact, nearly 50% of international travel from the US consists of trips to Canada.
In comparison, nearly 75% of British people have passports. Of course, there are good reasons for these discrepancies. The United States is significantly bigger and farther from other countries. Americans are also generally more fearful than their European counterparts, at least in terms of visiting other countries. They speak fewer languages, know fewer people who have traveled, and typically overestimate how expensive it would be. Furthermore, foreign countries typically only make it into the American news cycle when something bad happens. This contributes to a strong sense of insularity and lack of awareness regarding the outside world.
For these reasons and more, we are dedicating this list to our American friends. These are 25 huge culture shocks that people experience when traveling!
Featured Image: wikipedia
In most non-English speaking cultures, linguistic respect is a part of daily life. In almost every single other language, there are 2 forms of addressing people – formally and informally.
Anyone who has traveled will tell you that every country has a different sense of humor. And it’s true. What one group of people find funny can be very un-funny to others.
This is a big thing in some places. In others (the Germanic world), it’s not. You just say what you need to say and move on.
In much of Asia, Africa, and some parts of Europe (Rome), nobody actually follows traffic rules.
Sometimes (like in Japan), you shouldn’t do it. It can come across as condescending.
If you’re coming from the west, this will hit you most places that you go. You’ll have a mansion with guards right next to a few shanties on a hillside.
In Bulgaria, nodding up and down means no. Left and right means yes.
In Sweden, for example, they will eat their hamburgers with a fork and knife.
This can get awkward no matter where you are, especially when you don’t know how many times to kiss (it can change considerably).
In places like Japan, this can be overwhelming. Convenience stores will sometimes just have a box where you drop your money on the way out.
In some places, like China, this is normal. Even for getting into elevators.
Thinking about international travel despite the culture shock? You might want to check out this list on 25 Quickest Ways To Get In Trouble (Or Offend People) While Travelling
This varies drastically between countries. If you’re from South America, you can fully expect the Swedish to keep backing away as you keep moving closer.
Some places do it, some places don’t. In Germany, you just eat to finish the meal, you can talk later.
Many parts of the world use squat toilets. And no toilet paper. Adapting can be hard.
This is real. In southern Europe, people close their shops and go to sleep between 2 and 4. If you try that in New York, you’ll get fired.
In Europe, get ready to shell out when you want to relieve yourself.
Smiling at strangers
If you’re European, the rest of the world does this. And it will be weird for you.
If you’re coming from a developing nation, places like Canada can be quite a shock. Especially when people just leave doors unlocked.
They do this in India, and it will confuse you to no end when you can’t tell if they mean “yes” or “no”.
In some places this is far more rampant than others. If you’ve never been to America before, it may take a while to fully grasp drive-through pharmacies.
We mentioned smiling at strangers, now this is the inverse. If you ever visit Europe (particularly northern or eastern), prepare to feel like everybody’s face is stuck in a permanent state of apathy.
In much of the world, you just describe where you live.
Note: This can even happen in advanced countries like the UAE
This is a popular greeting in some places, notably the Maori of New Zealand.
Guys holding hands
Even when they’re straight. This is pretty normal in many Arabic countries.
Not jay walking
In some parts of northern Europe, people won’t cross the road even if there’s not a car in sight.