Travelers Share the Smallest Differences that Caused Massive Culture Shock

We travel to experience different cultures and expect certain things to differ. But we often forget to think about the minor differences. 

Small Things That Cause Culture Shock

Happy female tourist with a hat and camera on an orange backgrund.
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Some things that seem second nature to us are drastically different in other parts of the world. Users of the popular r/travel subreddit share the smallest details that actually cause massive culture shock. 


Woman shopping at a pharmacy.
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In most parts of the world, pharmacies are drug stores where you buy medicine to help you feel better. Travelers to the US are shocked to find they can purchase unhealthy products containing alcohol and tobacco at our pharmacies. 

Toilet Paper

man holding 7 roll of toilet paper in his arms
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Travelers from Western nations are spoiled with fantastic plumbing and are shocked to find that some societies use trash cans to collect soiled toilet paper. Flushing the paper would damage the pipes. 

British Understatement

man looks kind of serious but he's mostly expressionless.
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British folks constantly play down negative feelings, even when they’re in physical pain. One user said that when a British person says someone “feels out of sorts,” they could be suffering anything from a minor cold to a coma. 

Late Dinners

group of happy people at a restaurant
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People in Mediterranean countries keep late hours. They regularly eat dinner after 9 PM, leaving tourists from northern regions starving while waiting for the restaurants to open. 

It works well for night owls, though. 


a five dollar bill, some singles, and some change on a plate representing a tip at a restaurant.
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Many countries require all companies to pay employees a living wage; thus, no one relies on tips to make a living. When travelers from those countries come to a country like America, they’re shocked at how much they should give in tips. 

Two Taps

Sink with two stainless steel taps.
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Some countries have lingering infrastructure from before we mastered modern plumbing. Many sinks in England feature two taps, one for hot water and another for cold. You can’t have warm water. 

Infrastructure Differences

Picture of a smiling woman leaning slighlty out of the window from the driver's seat of a pick up truck.
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America was built for cars. It’s apparent in every aspect of our infrastructure but comes as a shock to foreign tourists who are used to walkable cities. 

Hang Drying

Colorful shirts hanging out to dry on a clothes line.
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Clothes dryers seem to be an American thing. American tourists are shocked at how often they see clothes outside drying on a line, even in wealthy areas. 

Kid Friendly

Someone filming a young child with their phone.
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An American mom was shocked at how people from other countries treated her children versus Americans. She said when she traveled abroad, people were friendly to her kids. They acknowledged their existence and interacted with them. In the States, she gets annoyed glances when she brings her kids anywhere, and people tend to ignore them. 

Vending Machines

Woman putting money into a vending machine in Japan.
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The ever-efficient Japanese created vending machines for nearly anything you could ever want. Hot coffee, soups, and even booze all come from delightful vending machines. 

Public Transportation

A subway train on an elevated track in New York.
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Almost every developed country does public transportation better than the US. Travelers from the US are delighted at how easy it is to navigate foreign cities, then come home in dismay and crawl back into their cars. 

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Source: Reddit