One of the most important and rewarding parts of international travel is getting to immerse yourself in new cultures. When you spend time with people from other walks of life, you have the chance to learn something completely different and grow as a person. Of course, sometimes, this can lead to major culture shock.
There are a few countries around the world that tend to confuse and confront Westerners with their traditions and customs. While there’s nothing wrong with other ways of life, they do take some getting used to when you’re a foreigner! Find out what 10 countries give westerners a huge culture shock.
10 Insects For Street Food: Thailand
A lot of westerners tend to get a culture shock when they visit Thailand, where a lot of local customs are quite different from what western travelers are used to at home. Discovering Legacies reveals that in Thailand, it’s commonplace to consume insects. They are served in different ways as street food. When you come from a country that is mostly disgusted by insects, this can be hard to overcome!
Something else that foreigners might not be used to in Thailand is that locals are very dedicated to the Royal Family. You definitely don’t want to show any disrespect to the King or any of his relatives!
9 Basic Living Conditions: Malawi
Traveling to many countries throughout Africa can be confronting to Westerners who aren’t used to poorer living conditions. In Malawi, for example, it comes as quite a shock to see locals who have been hit hard by the HIV and Aids pandemic. As One World 365 points out, much of the local population lives in poverty, so seeing their basic living conditions can be confronting.
While you can prepare for this before you go, it’s always still a shock to the system when you see it in person.
8 Impossible Road Traffic: Egypt
Egypt isn’t alone in having insane road traffic, but it is definitely one of the countries where the craziness on the roads stands out. Many western travelers come from countries where it’s customary to cross the road at the lights. In Egypt, however, it doesn’t really work like that. You just have to find a way to cross when you can.
Cars aren’t afraid to speed right past you, so it isn’t the best place to take a risk when crossing the road. It’s confronting to watch people trying to cross, let alone trying it yourself!
7 Endless Staring: Tanzania
Tanzania is another African country where many seasoned travelers have reported experiencing major culture shock. If you travel to more remote areas of the country, you’ll probably find that people stare at you a lot. They won’t be subtle about it, either. Often, they’ll be genuinely shocked to see someone who looks European or American in their home.
Staring can be confronting because it’s considered impolite in many countries around the world. But, when this happens in Tanzania, it’s not meant as a sign of disrespect. Just real curiosity.
6 Mind Your Manners: Japan
Japan is one of the nations that tend to shock western travelers the most. There are lots of customs to get used to that westerners have never heard before, and one of them is the absolute dedication to politeness while out in public.
If you’re going to travel by public transport in Japan, it’s considered bad manners to make any noise. Travel Talk Mag explains that it’s even considered rude to answer your phone on the train. Put all your devices on silent until you’re in private so you don’t disturb other commuters.
5 No Lining Up: India
Some countries are very strict about their policy of lining up for things, but ndia is not one of those countries. Many western travelers will receive a major culture shock on the streets of New Delhi when they see people pushing in front of other people to be served first. This would be unacceptable in some countries but is commonplace in India.
According to Contiki, India is based on a hierarchical culture. This basically means that people are treated based on their status, so those who have a higher status will be served first regardless of how long they’ve been waiting.
4 An Eye-Opening Look At Poverty: Haiti
Traveling to Haiti is an unforgettable experience, but it will also open your eyes up to extreme poverty. Again, you can research the conditions in countries like this to try and prepare yourself, but it’s very hard not to be affected by it when you see it in real life.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, so it will definitely come as a shock to see the way that some people have to live. You might also learn about Voodoo culture, which can be a little provoking to the western traveler.
3 No Flushing Toilet Paper: Mexico
When you’re used to a working toilet, it can unsettle you to your core to have to throw your toilet paper in a trash can rather than flush it down. But in many countries around the world, this is the norm. The plumbing in Mexico isn’t able to handle toilet paper, so, if you try to flush it down the toilet, you’ll end up clogging the whole system.
This is a simple part of life that locals don’t think twice about, but it’s certainly strange when you’re not used to it. You’ll also find that you won’t be able to flush the toilet paper in some European countries where the pipes date back to ancient times.
2 Meat Left Outside: Morocco
In the United States, Britain, and other western countries, locals tend to be used to certain hygienic practices when it comes to food. If you travel to certain countries, you might find that a lot of these standards are challenged.
In Morocco, for example, many travelers report being shocked at the way raw meat is left outside in open-air markets. It’s often covered in flies and is not refrigerated, but doesn’t make locals sick, as their immune systems tend to be used to it. Also, there’s often a high turnover of this meat, so it’s not as bad as it looks!
1 Leave Food On Your Plate: China
The etiquette around dining tends to vary from country to country. Visitors to China can often be left a little bamboozled after being expected to leave food on their plates. If you eat everything on your plate in China, it looks like you’re still hungry, which can be offensive to the host.
There are other elements of Chinese culture that have provoked major culture shock in the past. When traveling to this enormous country for the first time, be prepared to experience huge crowds and a lot more smog than you might be used to.