10 Real Examples Of Culture Shock That Will Amaze You; Dog Poop, Boobs And Beyond

culture shock dog poop france

PICTURE THIS?

It’s a beautiful day in the small town where we live in the south of France.

My husband Blake and I are walking hand in hand to the outdoor market to buy some fresh produce. Out of the blue, Blake tugs lightly on my hand and quietly say’s

“Watch out for the dog poop”. ( Les Crottes)

I look down and gingerly step to the side to avoid the SOFT GOOEY GOODNESS some dog left behind.

No BIG DEAL!
After more than a year here…
It’s just another day in the South of France.
La di da da da  Tra la la la…..

That’s Just The Way It Is!

Don’t let our casual demeanor fool you, I hate poop. Especially poop on city sidewalks.

The dog poop problem is recognized by almost everyone in France but the general attitude is….

“BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO?”

So the solution primarily falls on the governments shoulders which is trying to do what they can by posting signs and fining people who don’t pick up after their dog.

THE DOG POO PROBLEM PERSISTS.

Culture shock: signage in Hyeres France stating that you will be fined if you do not pick up your dog poop

Despite signs like this, I have yet to actually see anyone pick up their damn dog poop.

This is France, for the sake of adapting, we have adopted the French attitude which is to tolerate it, scratch our heads and wonder  “what can I do about it?”

Welcome to your new country.

People react and do things differently here. The differences between your culture and the new culture can be very exciting AT FIRST.

Just like my dog poop experience, these differences can also make it very difficult to adjust to your new surroundings and leave you feeling

  • Confused
  • Disoriented
  • Sad
  • Nervous
  • Frustrated
  • Overwhelmed
  • You may even feel homesick and want to go home.

The sad truth is that most people underestimate the power of culture shock and / or don’t even realize they are experiencing culture shock which can turn any trip into a nightmare.

Culture Shock Happens To Everyone

The good news is, culture shock is absolutely normal.

As an avid traveller and someone who has lived in many places around the world, I am not ashamed to say that I still get culture shock but I always figure out a way to overcome and adapt.

10 Real Examples Of Culture Shock

To prove that culture shock is normal, I have put together 10 additional examples of culture shock that I and a few other travellers I know have experienced.

Read through them and try to imagine how you you might react or feel in these situations. 

WARNING! Some may SHOCK YOU! You have been warned!

1 – FOOD:

chicken feet culture shock

I’ll have some roasted rat and chicken feet please!

Did you know you can eat rat on a stick in some countries like Thailand and Africa? Not dirty city rats but wild field rats on a stick!  MMMMM.

In China and in many Chinese restaurants around the world, chicken feet is served regularly. I used to eat it with my mum in San Francisco on Sundays when we went to eat dim sum. Yummy Yummy!

Cow brains, horse meat and blood sausage are common fare in France and in some parts of Quebec too. I remember my French Canadian aunt cooking up scrambled brains for me.Those were happy days.

TIP: Expect food to be different. What you think is gross may be considered a delicacy in other countries. 

2 – LANGUAGE:

culture shock language

What do you do if you want to go site seeing?

Pretend you are in another country like Japan where the language and the alphabet are completely different. You have no car so you head to the subway station or bus stop like your travel book says to do.

Suddenly you realize you are not sure if you are going in the right direction.

You can’t read the signs and no one speaks English and you have no idea what to do.

This is what happened to me my first 3 months in Japan. I remember feeling helpless and frustrated at my inability to understand things. Everything took extra time to figure out.

Rather than curl up and cower home, I decided to learn Japanese, make some friends and immerse myself in their culture. Doing so helped me really enjoy my stay in Japan because it gave me the confidence to go see and do as much as I could despite my inability to completely communicate fluently.

TIP: Don’t expect people to speak your language. Expect simple things to be more difficult like riding the subway, asking for directions and ordering food. Try to learn a few key words and phrases before you go.

3 – NUDITY IN PUBLIC

nudity-culture-shock It is not uncommon in France to see topless women at the beach.

I’m pretty opened minded when it comes to these things but it still does kind of shock me especially when I am with my husband and teenage boys who are trying their best not to stare.

Boys will be boys.At least my husband seems to have adjusted; no big deal. (see him sleeping in the photo above next to some topless women?)

4 – MODESTY

clothing culture shock

Photo via National Geographies

Do you dress modestly enough?

At the other end of the spectrum are women who must cover most of their body; including their arms, legs, ankles, neck and even their face like the Bedouin Woman (pictured above) and women from Muslim countries who’s custom is to dress this way mainly to enforce female modesty. I have to admitt that this form of culture shock shocked me the most. Not to sound crass or rude, but I found myself starring in disbelief  Once I understood the reasons behind their attire, it did not shock me as much.

culture-shock-hajib

I met the woman above in Marseille. 

HIJAB

In Marseille, where we lived in 2011, there was a very large Muslim population. Most of the women dressed like the woman above.

These women also had to cover their body but they did not wear a veil to cover their face.

Instead they wore what can best be described as a scarf over their head which is called a HIJAB.

TIP: Do some research about proper attire before you go. You may discover certain things are inappropriate and avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself. 

5 – BOOGERS AND SNOTS

culture-shock-pick-nose

Is it polite to pick a winner?

Most of us are taught from an early age that it’s just not polite to pick a winner. One must use a tissue or handkerchief and blow our nose into it, then put the tissue in your pocket until you can dispose of it later.

****Please don’t be offended by what I wrote below or send me hate mail saying you are Asian and don’t do this. I am half Asian myself and have lived in Asia for almost a decade of my life. I’m merely saying that some people in some Asian countries do this. End of disclaimer.

Theodora, a single mom who is travelling the world with her son  said that in some parts of Asia, the thought of blowing your nose into a tissue and saving it for later is disgusting.

You’re probably wondering, well how do they blow their nose right?

I don’t have a picture so let me describe how to properly blow your nose in parts of Asia. 

Tutorial: How To Blow Your Nose In Parts Of Asia.

Cover one nostril and blow out the other so whatever is up there will get blown out like a projectile and hopefully land on the ground.  That’s it.

This may sound gross to you but blowing your nose in a handkerchief is way more gross to them.

TIP: Don’t judge. People see certain things and situations differently. 

6- STRANGE CELEBRATIONS & CUSTOMS:

Culture shock: phuket vegetarian festival

When is it ok to cut and hurt yourself?

There are customs and rituals around the world that would make many of us scratch our heads and maybe even recoil in disgust. This feeling is yet another example of culture shock.

For example, I cannot watch a Spanish Bullfight. 

My friends Jennifer and Tony Miller, who are travelling the world with their 4 kids, recently saw a festival in Thailand called the Phuket vegetarian festival. People participating in this festival were causing all kinds of bodily harm to themselves.

  • One man was slicing his tongue with a knife.
  • Another man was jabbing his cheeks with sharp objects.

Let us just say that there was a lot of blood.

Most travellers and tourists would probably be quite horrified to watch this festival and wonder “WHY?”.

TIP: Every culture has their own customs and rituals. To the rest of the world they may seem strange and bizarre but to them it has special meaning. Learn about their customs to get a better understanding.

If you are interested in seeing Jennifer’s photo essay about this festival, you should go and read about it on her blog here Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Just remember, that you may not like what you see. 

7- FEELING HOMESICK:

culture-shock-you will miss things from home like big cups of coffee

Can you live without your morning coffee or tea ritual?

Missing the comforts of home and feeling homesick is another effect caused by culture shock.

My husband Blake misses those big to-go coffee cups you get at most of the coffee shop in the US and Canada. Here in France, coffee is not served to go. You must buy it and sit down and the cup sizes are served in espresso cups. Not Large or extra large cups.

I miss Cheddar cheese  and spicy chilis and spicy food. All are hard to find in France.

Tracie Burns of http://www.ourtravellifestyle.com/ Said her daughter missed custard back in Australia.

My boys miss good Mexican food. (California where we lived had some awesome authentic Mexican restaurants).

TIP: When travelling expect NOT to find all the comforts foods of home.  Even when you do find them, they taste different; usually adjusted to the local taste. i.e. spicy food is not really spicy in France.

8- toilet paper: Essential or not?

culture-shock-wipe-butt-without toilet paper

Brace yourself for more culture shock: You probably think toilet paper is necessary.

Ha, you are wrong, You don’t need toilet paper!

Brace yourself, in some cultures like India they use their hands to wipe themselves after using the toilet.I know what you are thinking.

WHAT! They use their hands to wipe their bum?

Yes It’s true. Using toilet paper to wipe your bum bum is considered inappropriate and dirty because it smears it around down there.  Indian people consider it much cleaner to use your hand and water.

In case you are interested in ever going to India or anywhere else where toilet paper is not readily available, I thought I would give you an education on bathroom Etiquette.

Tutorial: How to use the toilet without toilet paper in India! 

Usually there is a bucket filled with water and a smaller container in the bucket called a dipper to scoop out some water.

After you do your business, you scoop water out with the dipper and pour it on your rear while cleaning yourself with your left hand. After it is all said and done, you wash your hands with soap.

This method is considered much cleaner than using toilet paper in India.

Important: You must wipe ONLY with your left hand because you use your right hand to shake hands and to eat.

Watch this video to learn in more detail. It’s very fascinating. I guarantee you will be flabbergasted. 

9-Don’t Flush The Toilet Paper Please!

culture shock throw paper in rubbish bin

Nancy Vogel of Family On Bikes said in many countries, especially in Central and South America, one should not throw used toilet paper in the toilet.

You must throw it in the rubbish bin.

When I heard this, I immediately thought wouldn’t it start to smell up the bathroom?

It turns out, toilet paper is thrown in the rubbish bins because the septic system cannot handle anything other than human waste; not even toilet  paper.

Some hotels even have signs asking guests to throw their used toilet paper in the waste bin and NOT the toilet.

TIP: Once you understand the reasons, you begin to see necessity may be part of the reason why cultural differences exist. 

10-Toilets:

squat toilet vs western sit down toilette

Not all toilets are created equal.

Some toilets have lids, some have a lever you push, some you pull. In other words not all toilets look like American toilets.

In FRANCE: it is not uncommon to find toilets with no seat covers or lids.

When I lived in Japan, I was surprised to learn that many of the bathrooms were actually squatting toilets.  If you are really lucky, there was a pole to hang on to so you didn’t lose your balance.

I admit, at first these differences in the toilet do seem a bit strange but after a while you get used to it.

culture-shock-squat-toilett in Japan and Asia

Photo via Kata Canadian

TIP: Learn about the toilet customs before you go. You might thank yourself later. 

 

To Sit or Not To Sit?

Speaking of squat toilets.

Did you know that it is actually much better for your system and body to use a squat toilet?

I won’t go into detail but if you are interested in turning your western toilet into a squat toilet instantly than check out the Squatty Potty.

It might solve all your……….. ummm problems if you know what I mean.

What Can You Do About Culture Shock?

Some people find it impossible to adapt to other cultures while others adapt more easily.

Your best chance at overcoming culture shock is to adapt to your new culture and try to understand the history and reasons why the cultural differences exist.

Look at it as a learning experience to gain a new perspective and develop a better understanding for that other culture.

You just might see things in a whole new way and find it easier to adjust and deal with the differences.

It’s these differences that make travel so interesting. If you want everything to be the same, you can always just stay home

What Do You Think?

Have you ever experienced culture shock?  If so share them with me by leaving your comments below. Do you think understanding the differences will help you deal with culture shock even eating rat on a stick?

p.s.

My friend Sylviane Nuccio who is French has an interesting article about the culture shock she felt when she moved to the USA.

Harleena Singh

Wow! I AM shocked Annie!

Even though I’ve not yet traveled out of my country but there is cultural changes even from one city to another we visit – isn’t it?

Yikes! Just seeing those roasted rat and chicken feet gave me creeps, but yes people eat it. Some even have snakes and lizards, and loads of more animals. I guess for poor vegetarians like us, it’s horrifying. :)

Languages and nudity are issues but I guess one learns to adjust with these as well as the modesty part of it. Yes, even Muslims at our end are always fully covered, which makes me think too as to how they manage to see things!

Ah…loved the video about the Indian toilet as I’ve seen it before too. To a certain extent the squatting system turns out better for our health, though nowadays most people have shifted to the Western standard toilets, which have the normal ways to wash. However, I didn’t know nor have I ever heard of throwing the toilet paper in the trash can. I thought it could be flushed.

Overall, I think that yes, we do land ourselves for a shock when we shift place. But if you make up your mind and adjust yourself – any place is paradise. :)
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    Annie Andre

    Harleena,

    You are so right. You don’t even have to leave your own country to experience culture shock. You can move from one city to another or even go to a different neighborhood.

    But as you said, we make up our mind and adjust I’t crucial otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Sylviane Nuccio

Hi Annie,

Very, very fully descriptive post you have here about some of the culture shocks you can run into.

Thanks for the mention of my post on the subject as well.

Ah those darn dog poops. French people are just TERRIBLE about this, and as a French person, yes, I wish that French folks would just pick up their dog’s crap already. Some things will never change. I used to have to avoid dog poops on some very busy Paris’s street when I lived there.

If you go to an Asian super market, here in the US, in the meat department you will find the most disgusting things you’d ever dreaded of eating, such as bull’s penis for example. Yuck!!! But for them it’s normal :)

Your post was so much deeper than mine, by the way ;)Great job!
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    Annie Andre

    Sylviane,
    You gave me the idea for culture shock so thank you. It’s one of those gray areas that many people don’t consider when they travel or go to a new place.

    I laughed when you wrote about the bulls penis. That is so funny. It’s all a matter of perspective. I love Boudin as you know is Blood sausage but my husband thinks it’s disgusting. Oh well, what can you do except laugh.
    ps
    thanks for the compliment and the conversation you bring.
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Tim Bonner

Hi Annie

I loved the post. Dog poop’s a problem in the UK in places too, although less so these days… Nice!

I’ve not travelled extensively, although I did travel to the Baltic states in the early 1990s just after they became independent from Russia. A group of four of us went on a month’s backpacking expedition there.

For me that was quite a big culture shock and an adventure; the squat toilets, the different foods, the language barrier, very little to buy in shops, the communist era architecture.

I remember we travelled to a beautiful beach on the Kuršių nerija in Lithuania. We were walking along the beach and all of a sudden we noticed a couple of elderly ladies getting completely undressed and going for a swim in the sea. Not something I’d experienced before!

I’m so glad we travelled there when we did though as I’m sure by now they have become much more westernised and I wouldn’t recognise them now if I went back again.

Very interesting video on how to use the toilet!
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    Annie Andre

    wow Tim,
    Your trip sounds amazing. I’m sure that a lot has changed since then and they haev adopted many western ways by now.

    I think that is what makes travelling so tantalizing, it’s the differences in culture but sometimes it can be too much for some.
    I’m sure you can hold your own though.
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Adrienne

Boy do we ever have the dog poop issue here in the states too Annie. It’s a $500 fine if you’re caught not picking it up and I pick Kayla’s up every time she goes. Yep, I’m a law abiding citizen. I just wish everyone else was as well.

My main fear I think is going to another country and not understanding the language. Not being able to ask for help because I’m a slow learner. I’ve been places before when the menu at a restaurant was in another language so I just looked at the different food people were eating and pointed to what I wanted.

Some of what you shared here you’re right, girl it’s just gross. Another culture or not, no way in hell… You definitely gave me a mini-education but continue to entertain me at the same time.

Thanks Annie for totally grossing me out this Monday afternoon. Oh yeah, glad I have awhile until dinner. I lost my appetite quick!

Enjoy your week.

~Adrienne
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    Annie Andre

    Adrienne,
    The fine and the signage doesn’t really stop anyone from leaving their dog poo behind. I saw at least 14 mounds of crap today alone. And we live in a nice little town. It’s worse in other areas. Every year thousands of people slip on the poop and go to the hospital in France.
    oh and i’m so glad i could gross you out. I’m going to take a video of me sucking on some chicken feet. JUST FOR YOU:)
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alyson

LOVE this post! I enjoy the different in each country I visit, I think I actively seek out the differentest things I can, the weirder the better. I’m past culture shock, mostly, but do you know what I notice when I travel? People smoking near me. I’m not used to it, there is hardly anywhere you CAN smoke in Australia (home for now) if I visit another country and have someone puffing away in an enclosed restaurant, I don’t like it one bit. Haven’t times changed! I used to smoke and thought it was my right to do it just about anywhere I liked.
Dog poop on the beach and in the children’s playgrounds is shocking here too, some pick up, many don’t.
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    Annie Andre

    Alyson,
    I’m with you. I actually seek out the differences. I’ll try almost anything too except bugs. I will not eat bugs. Never have been able to.
    And smoking, well, i can’t stand it anymore either as an ex smoker but it’s everywhwere in France. What can i do besides snear at someone blowing their smoke in my general direction.
    Thanks for stopping by.
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Sarah

Lol, this had me in stitches as I have definitely been a bit shocked at so many of these customs. And even if not totally shocked, sometimes it’s a struggle to adapt and hang with it. Like if you’re used to throwing your TP in the toilet, you just do it without thinking – and don’t finally get it until you’ve had to ask the manager of your guest house to help you clear the clogged toilet for , like the 5th time! LOL.

And I actually know back-to-the-land country dweller types here in the U.S. who favor that nose blowing technique. I’ve had a hard time mastering it myself though – at least correctly if you know what I mean.

Your point is so true though. If you truly crave the experience of traveling and living abroad it’s so important to open your mind and leave your judgement at home. Everyone has different customs. Part of the fun of traveling is learning about them – even if they ARE a little gross sometimes…
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    Annie Andre

    Sarah, I think i might accidentally throw the paper in the toilet and forget. Luckily we don’t have to worry about that here.

    I am amazed at the general attitude of some people who travel and are very judgemental of other peoples customs. I saw an american family at a french market once who were saying out loud how disgusting it was to see the chicken heads still attached to the bodies and saying it rather loudly. I was so embarrassed for them.
    Oh well, to each his own right?

Janet

yup no TP in the toilets in Philippines either. and I already knew that about India too, even before I went there. my native filipino boyfriend said he ate field rats too. i find that disgusting!! he’s also eaten other foods i would consider strange, but can’t think off the top of my head.
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    Annie Andre

    Janet,
    NO TP IN THE PHILLIPINES? I’ve only been once and it was for business. I was staying in a western hotel so i had no idea.

    I read about your BF and all that he had to do to survive living and I am so truly amazed. I am amazed at how many people are unaware that what we consider disgusting or weird is actually normal or wonderful to other cultures.
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Jenny

Hi Annie,
Yes I am 100% with your husband. When I lived in Nimes, France for school, I so missed the tall latte and what not. I long for a tall cup of latte!

I do recall the poop. It’s funny because the poop is such a pain as I felt I had to be on the lookout at all times….it is not something I look back 15 yrs later and think about the poop. I most often forget about the poop when I think of France. I hope that is a good sign.

The first time I visited Vietnam with my mom. Our family was having a big celebration for a death anniversary. Family from all distance came to celebrate and to meet me, the American. I turned my nose up to the “field rats”. I was in disguist and in shock. I later learned…wow I was that ugly American. They were so offended and felt I turned my nose up to a delicacy. Wel live and learn!

The biggest culture shock was visiting Melakka, Malaysia. The writing, the muslim attire, etc. just very foreign to me.

I love travelling! I am very humble for all the places I have been. It’s a growing evolving experience.

I had a good ewhhh chuckle reading your article. Thank you!
~Jenny xoxo

    Annie Andre

    Ha Ha Jenny,
    I can relate to the field rats experience and laughed at your “UGLY AMERICAN” comment. It’s like inviting someone to your home to eat an elaborate meal and they are disgusted by everything you served and refuse to eat anything choosing to go hungry rather than touch one bit of your food.

    On the travelling bit. I want to visit other places with the kids to show them other places now that they’ve mastered the French language. I have no idea where though..
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Alan

Hey Annie,

I loved this post. Having been to France a lot and worked in India a lot, I can completely relate to both examples as well as some like examples I’ve seen in Thailand and Japan too.

The Indian toilet training video is just awesome. Nice touch adding it to the post, I think I want to watch more of that guys videos now.

a bientôt,
Alan
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    Annie Andre

    Oh Alan, I need visuals lots of visuals. The guy in the Indian video is apparently some kind of comedian too? or that’s how he comes off.

    The restrooms in different countries have always blown me away. They always look so different. I’m not sure why this effects me so but i figured if it effets me this way it might effect others too and they MUST BE WARNED!!.
    ps
    had no idea you spend time in India.. Awesome. It’s on my list.
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Steve

Oh I love these. Your point about throwing away toilet paper in Central American countries was something I had to learn the hard way. While staying in Costa Rica, I stayed at a hostel and clogged up the toilet with toilet paper. The owner had to remind me that they don’t do that there. There’s a bin to throw it all away.

As far as weird food goes, I saw crickets and beetles being sold as snacks in parts of Thailand. I gave it some careful consideration and said no to it. Looking back, I wish I had tried it. It’s part of the local experience.

Oh I have to say one thing about being homesick. I’ve had it before, but now I don’t get it much. I don’t know if I’ve done so much traveling before that it doesn’t affect me anymore or what. Right now, in Morocco, I miss my wife. So I guess you can call me wifesick.
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Allie

Annie,

You know what the beauty of living in any metro area in California is? I already get exposed to much of these cultures. Not saying I still would be fine visiting and not being uncomfortable for a while while I adjust. But the shock factor is gone.

I think I have heard many different languages.

My dad is Mexican, he eats brain, tongue and eye balls, no biggy.

I have seen young Asian women spit huge flem balls in the streets of SF.

In San Diego, I have seen many public restrooms with trash cans for toilet paper.

I was a little shocked about the Indian ways to use the restroom. Makes me rethink eating at the local Indian restaurant. LOL.

And I do watch too much Discovery channel to know what other cultures eat that we may find repulsive, like dog and cat.

It takes a lot to shock me BUT I still have yet to visit other countries and be surrounded by a different culture.

My biggest issue would be wanted, no, needing my spicy foods. I would try to order them and have them delivered so I can make Chile Verde or Spicy Ribs. I may have trouble getting the meat.

I think it would be hilarious seeing my 14yo son visit a topless beach. He would be so uncomfortable. It was bad enough taking him to Venice Beach, the smell of pot is, well, smelly. He kept saying “it smells here.”

And I know I would get homesick fast. I am a creature of habit and I need certain things to keep me happy. I guess I would adjust.

As I was reading I was wondering about women’s menses. Yes, guys, I said it! Our period. Have you noticed if the ways they take care of that time of the month is different?

~Allie
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