Close this search box.

Those Culture Shock Experiences From Our Travels And Living

Many people love the idea of traveling. But, do you have any awkward moments during your trips? Do you ever understand and accept the local culture of a place where you travel? We always live and react in the way that we are familiar with. However, during our travels and change of lives, we have to admit the culture shock is much more than we can expect!

those culture shock experiences from our travels and living

I feel so amazed that a few like-minded travel bloggers join my idea to share their unique personal stories of the Culture Shock experiences! Reading their stories open my mind so much. Some of their stories perfectly echoed my feeling deeply (You know I’m a Chinese in Italy). Others gave me such a precious chance to know a new culture before even visiting the place by myself!

So, here you are.

Community Kindness in Brazil

– Culture Shock story by Travelling Tam

the girl of travellingtam had an unexpected helicopter ride by their hoster's great hospitality in Brazil for free
Travelling Tam on an unexpected helicopter ride in Brazil

Culture shocks can come in all shapes and sizes. But I didn’t expect the one I had when I went to Brazil for the first time.

I was in Rio with a male friend I had met in Malaysia and we met a man in his mid-forties who was there to run a marathon. He was great fun and we grew very close to him. He invited us to stay with his family in Brasilia. So, a week later we decided to take up his offer. He had organized a busy itinerary for us, sightseeing, parties and family events over multiple days. The kindness he showed us was incredible. But none more so than when we met his family for the first time.

One afternoon we were invited to a gathering and were welcomed like long lost relatives. The women fussed and pandered over us and were shocked that neither of us was married – let alone to each other. The most touching thing was that they were so worried about us being alone from our family, especially our mothers, just like we were their own children.

The highlight of our trip was probably the most unexpected. Our host was a helicopter engineer with the military police. So later during our stay, he surprised us with the most memorable experience ever – a ride in a helicopter over the capital, Brasilia. We flew over the city by night shining the spotlight into the largest stadium in the world and watching police arrest people for car theft front above. It was so surreal! People would have paid hundreds for something like that and our host did it because he wanted to give us the most memorable experience of our lives.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been in Europe and been snubbed for asking directions or have been looked at suspiciously just making conversation. It was a shock to meet such a tight-knit, totally family orientated community who did everything for us and expected absolutely nothing in exchange.

It took some adjusting to stop feeling bad for everything they did at first, but it made me realize what a beautiful thing family and community can be and how we need more of that kind of attitude back home in the UK.

Free and Not Free? Between the US and Europe

– Culture Shock stories by Appetite For Adventure
culture shock story by appetite for adventure about no free water in restaurants in europe
The unexpected non-free water issues during Appetite For Adventure's Europe trips

Everyone talks about the culture shock you experience during travel, and I was very curious to find and assess the differences as an American traveling through Europe.

One of the biggest surprises to me was certain things that are typically free in America were not always free in Europe. 

In places such as metro stations and other public areas in Austria, you are required to pay a small fee to use the restroom.  I embarrassingly did not have any Euros on me when I first came to this realization and had to hold it for a bit.  Apparently, this fee typically goes toward maintenance for the facility. 

Many Americans are agitated by this custom. I personally wasn’t, because the reasoning behind it makes sense.  However, I do wish I would have known prior to attempting to use one without having any cash handy.

Another thing as an American I never expected to pay for was water. 

In Barcelona, it was extremely rare to even find a place that would give me a glass of ice water.  In most places, bottled water was the only option.

I was so shocked by the looks I would get when asking for tap water— you would’ve thought I had two heads and was placing my order in Morse code.  It was even more surprising when places understood what I was asking, but refused and said the only option was bottled. 

I learned quickly to carry a bottle around and refill it when I could.  I initially drank a lot less water than I usually do but was doing a heck of a lot more walking.  I just didn’t want to have to buy three bottles of water every time I had a meal. I think that a lot of people sometimes choose water because it’s free, but in Barcelona, beer was often the same price or cheaper than water, so you almost may as well go for the beer.

Also, for those curious, I did research and the water in the area was safe to drink, so that was not the reasoning behind them not giving it.

For more on what shocked her during her month long Europe adventures check out her post here!

Lifestyle between Italy and India

– Culture Shock experience by Merryls Travel and Tricks
those culture shock experiences by Merryls travels and tricks about her misunderstanding of the italian tradition value
Close-knit families, traditional beliefs and not really modernized in Italy (Rome)

Almost three years ago I moved to the eternal city. Little did I know then, that I was in for such a culture shock. Having grown up in India, I believed Italy would be so different and modern in terms of culture and family values. Especially, the capital city like Rome. I imagined things to be modern and westernized like in any big city.

But when I got there, I realized that the society there was equally family-oriented like in India. Close-knit families, traditional beliefs and not really modernized. In fact, things like banking, online transactions, and government processes were more developed in India. Mainly owing to the sagging economy and the people’s attitude towards work.  

Over the years though, I’ve learned to love and appreciate everything in the city even though the slow pace of life really does get on my nerves sometimes. But still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Tea or Coffee? Between China and Italy

– Culture Shock experiences by Me
talking about the culture shock of drinking tea in china and in italy
Culture shock of different tea-drinking habits in China and Italy

Have you noticed that I’m actually a big Food & Drink enthusiast? Living in Italy with a Chinese background, I’ve noticed a big difference between drinking tea and coffee. In fact, everyone here is not an Italian could probably claim their culture shock when drinking their first Italian espresso. You know what I mean! Or, if you don’t, read this.

In China, my parents at home, my teachers in schools, the taxi and the bus drivers I’ve seen randomly – everyone drink tea in a way, that I’ve never seen here in Italy. Let me specify to you.

  • Chinese drink tea from dry tea leaves from the tin, not from a teabag. Actually tea bag is considered as low quality, especially by the above 40-year-old generations.
  • Once the tea is made with boiled water, it can stay for the whole day, as an extreme example. I’ve seen many people drink from their 500ml water bottle for the whole day. It has a composition of 1/3 tea leaves and 2/3 hot-to-warm water. When they finish the water till 1/3, new hot water will be refilled from the office, home kitchen, free hot water stand, etc.
  • Tea-drinking can happen anytime. Basically it is just a substitute for water. So, the Chinese drink tea in the morning, during meals, for the afternoon break, and before their sleep.

You might argue that I’m talking about the tea-drinking habit of the older Chinese generation. Partially correct! Young general, however, especially the young female generation, changes their tea-drinking culture from traditional Chinese tea leaves to healthy tea recipes inspired by traditional Chinese medicine.

How do Italians tea? Hum… I think it’s widely influenced by the English tea-drinking culture.

  • Drink from teabags (more common)
  • Normally the peak time of drinking a cup of tea is the afternoon break
  • Tea drinking normally means one cup of tea, which is infused with one teabag for around 2-3 minutes (straightly following the instructions on the back of the teabag package)

Talk about coffee, Chinese adopt the coffee cultures from the US, European and Australia. Black coffee, latte, flat white, cappuccino (Frappuccino) are all popular ones, but Italian’s espresso. It could be even a nightmare to ask a Chinese to drink Italian espresso. Want to know how it is like to drink coffee in Italy? Read my another cultural discussion about How To Drink Coffee Like An Italian.

Pin It To Read Later
a view from the window of a aircraft presents the meaning of discovering the culture shocks in our life travels
a traveller walking through as the best image to represent we walk through our lives to understand the culture shock we've encountered

Share with friends

12 Responses

  1. I love to travel the world and discover new cultures! It is crazy how people’s minds and habits change in every continent and country. Your article is very interesting, I will definitely keep reading it 🙂

    1. Hi Virginia, thanks a lot for your warm messages!!! I always doubt how many people would be interested to read non-direct-travel content, but yea, I’m glad that you show up with cheering words!

  2. I’ve never traveled outside the country but where I live there are so many different cultures. Every city is different with different cultures, so every time I go out of the city I’m a little culture-shocked lol Love discovering new things and new people though. Great post!

    1. Hi Erika, thanks. I think the culture shock, or let’s say culture difference is everywhere! like you said, it’s inside a country or between countries, I think sometimes, we find it between people just living in two different neighborhoods! But yeah, as long as we are having a curious mind to know others’, it can become such an interesting personal experience!

  3. Very interesting. I had culture shock in Japan when I first went at 19. And it was shock. I felt sick, scared and tired. Luckily it was only for a day and now I love japan.

    1. wow, that sounds a non-decent memory! Where have you been to in Japan? Which city? And why it made you sick, scared and tired? I’m very curious!!!!

  4. LOL! I drink more coffee than tea these days but its always black coffee or tea without milk or sugar. I used to drink tea all day and refill the cup a few times before throwing out the tea bag… hehe the cups of tea get a bit weaker but its ok because its like flavored water! Swedish fika with black coffee is usually how I do the ritual of a coffee break but of course that morning cup of coffee is more out of necessity to survive and get through the day.

    1. Hi Alaine, it sounds like we have a similar tea-drinking culture. Good to know that! Actually, in China, I don’t remember we’ve got afternoon tea break habbit, while only in southern area, they’ve got the Yim Cha hobbit, which is every Sunday morning, the whole family goes for the typical restaurants to gather and to eat small dishes (Dim Sum) with pots of hot tea. That can run for a whole day…. (before dinner of course). While in Italy, we’ve got a similar break in the afternoon like your Swedish fika, called Merenda. But I don’t think Italians see it important, as they’ve got longgggg lunch before and the aperitivo after. 😀

  5. I love reading about different cultures and the difference between countries. I’ve been to plenty of places that charges for tap water and don’t think it’s right. I’m more than happy to pay for bottled water, but tap water? No, I think that should be free when you order food. In Sweden, most of the places I’ve been to, doesn’t charge for tap water which is great.

    1. haha, well, I am from China, lived in HK for long years, and then now in Italy. Tap water, as from western culture, first, I don’t recommend asking for it in China, as it’s not drinkable…HK is fine, but still, the quality of water is so and so. In Italy, it depends. For example, Rome is around mountains (means fresh spring water) and sea with good flow, so the tap water or the water from the fountain in the streets (not from those tourism fountains) is absolutely great! But, the Italian culture…just no one asks for tap water. But I do think in Rome, with many tourists, the restaurant would be used to this request, and it’s no problem if you ask.

  6. Wow! This is an amazing read! So interesting and yet so educating. I loved reading it and finding out so many things about different cultures. You articulate your experience so magically and it doesn’t get boring!

    Love it! ♥

    1. Actually, it is a guest blog post, which I shared my experience of Italy/China, and I have a few amazing bloggers sharing theirs! That’s why you see such a variety in this post, and yes, they’re all true personal experience, very authentic sharing from a personal angle. That’s why I love it too. If you are interested, you can explore more those guest bloggers’ stories by the links in this post 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

you might like

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.