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View Full Version : Culture shock and big differences in societal norms


Prowler
01-21-2017, 06:26 PM
You know, when you visit a foreign country or meet someone from another country or even from another region from your country and you find something odd about their local traditions or food?

I've been to several European countries but culture shock was never very big in any of them from what I recall. However, the only time I left Europe, I went to Tunisia... and boy it looked like a different planet. And supposedly Tunisia back then was one of the most open Middle Eastern Muslim countries to the West. Well it looked nothing like Europe and there was even a bit of tension between the locals and tourists. Women were not found in cafés, men liked to spend a lot of time outside, and ofc the clothing they wore was different than the clothes people in Europe generally use.

There's also certain parts in Lisbon and other European capital cities that look more like India, China or Africa. Being the only or one of the few white people riding a subway train in a European country is odd. And if there's another white person... it's generally a foreign tourist or a Ukrainian immigrant.

Anyway, culture is culture. But as far as society goes and such, apparent small differences can actually affect your daily life a lot more, imo. To me, supermarkets being closed on weekends in countries like Belgium and Holland is pretty odd and impractical to me. Jesus imagine not being able to buy groceries at your local supermarket on a weekend. Plus there's also countries where you can only buy certain booze at liquor stores whilst here in Portugal you can buy ALL sorts of booze at your local supermarket.

What about you? Tell me your stories!

Candy Kappa
01-21-2017, 06:41 PM
Living in UK was a interesting experience. In Norway we're very short on words in conversations, we don't use honorifics and very few politeness phrases like "yes, please" and such. So it was very different when going to the store and be super polite to a complete stranger beyond "thanks". But, I was luckily prepared for that.

And it was different to see wine in a regular store, since in Norway we have Wine Monopolies and beer in regular grocery stores can not be over 4,7% alcohol, and stores can't be open on Sundays unless they are 100m˛ or under in sales area.

Prowler
01-21-2017, 06:47 PM
Living in UK was a interesting experience. In Norway we're very short on words in conversations, we don't use honorifics and very few politeness phrases like "yes, please" and such. So it was very different when going to the store and be super polite to a complete stranger beyond "thanks". But, I was luckily prepared for that.

And it was different to see wine in a regular store, since in Norway we have Wine Monopolies and beer in regular grocery stores can not be over 4,7% alcohol, and stores can't be open on Sundays unless they are 100m˛ or under in sales area.
In Portuguese we also use "please" and "thank you" a lot. Not to mention we tend to kiss doctors and engineer's arses, calling them by their titles often even in less formal situations. it's ridiculous. Someone with a bachelors in marketing here will get called "doctor" by older people :roll:.

IndigoErth
01-21-2017, 08:19 PM
I don't have any foreign travel stories, so mostly it's just mild regional differences around here. The farthest I've been from home (and most different) was a trip to the Midwest when I was 16 to attend my 104-year-old step-great grandmother's funeral. The town was quite small and the area quite rural otherwise. It is rather odd to visit a couple of their shops and these people are looking at you knowing that you're strangers from out of town. Or more so... already knowing we're there for the funeral. I'm so used to living where most people are strangers and that's the norm.

Heck, even their cicadas sound 'weird' out there. People must tune them out so they aren't driven nuts by it. lol


Not being able to buy groceries on the weekend would suck. Esp if your work and other obligations just didn't allow you time to do it during the week. That would be hard. :ohwell:

When I was a kid most everything was closed here on Sundays, but that isn't true anymore. At most, things just open a little later and close a little earlier on Sundays; my store is 11am - 6pm on Sundays, vs 10am to 9pm all other days.

Liquor stores (and I think bars) were the last hold out and were still closed on Sundays for a long time, but that isn't true anymore. Some states here can sell certain alcohols, like beer, in the grocery stores, but you can't get any of it in mine. Only liquor stores can sell it. Alcoholics used to be out of luck on Sundays. lol


I think scrapple is the only truly regional food we have here. A loaf-shaped sausage type thing from the Pennsylvania Dutch, but widely available and liked in neighboring states as well. Personally I've never eaten much of it, mostly just nibbling at the crispy edges, as the thought that it's made with pork "scraps," including organs such as heart and liver, was never appealing.

Prowler
01-21-2017, 08:22 PM
I don't have any foreign travel stories, so mostly it's just mild regional differences around here. The farthest I've been from home was a trip to the Midwest when I was 16 to attend my 104-year-old step-great grandmother's funeral. The town was quite small and the area quite rural otherwise. It is rather odd to visit a couple of their shops and these people are looking at you knowing that you're strangers from out of town. Or more so... already knowing we're there for the funeral. I'm so used to living where most people are strangers and that's the norm.


Not being able to buy groceries on the weekend would suck. Esp if your work and other obligations just didn't allow you time to do it during the week. That would be hard. :ohwell:

When I was a kid most everything was closed here on Sundays, but that isn't true anymore. At most, things just open a little later and close a little earlier on Sundays; my store is 11am - 6pm on Sundays, vs 10am to 9pm all other days.

Liquor stores (and I think bars) were the last hold out and were still closed on Sundays for a long time, but that isn't true anymore. Some states here can sell certain alcohols, like beer, in the grocery stores, but you can't get any of it any in mine. Only liquor stores can sell it. Alcoholics used to be out of luck on Sundays. lol


I think scrapple is the only truly regional food we have here. A loaf-shaped sausage type thing from the Pennsylvania Dutch, but widely available and liked in neighboring states as well. Personally I've never eaten much of it, mostly just nibbling at the crispy edges, as the thought that it's made with pork "scraps," including organs such as heart and liver, was never appealing.
there was a supermarket chain that used to be closed on Sundays and holidays here but it's been open on those days for years now, except Christmas ofc)

However fruit stores and street clothing stores and such still close on Sundays and holidays. But you can just go to a mall on a Sunday if you want to buy new clothes. As for fruit... well supermarket fruit usually isn't that good.

Lots of restaurants here are closed on Mondays.

FredWolfLeonardo
01-21-2017, 09:20 PM
I grew up in a third world country (Pakistan to be exact) before migrating with my family to a first world country and while there wasn't a huge culture shock due to the exposure of western culture through tv and internet there, the difference in culture and society was still pretty big.

For e.g.
Religion plays a much bigger role in life in Pakistan as opposed to the secularized west. There is no seperation of church and state as religion is not seen as a private belief which has no role in politics, but as the most important thing for society.

Traditional gender roles are much more prevelant, with many women living as housewives.

Overall less materialistic society which puts more emphasis on the spiritual, although materialism has sharply risen there from both within and foreign influences.

Sharper divide between the rich and the poor. It is not uncommon for the rich to own acres of land and magnificent palaces while the poorest own next to nothing

Family units are an important part of life and individualism is not seen upon favourably

Marriage between men and women is the only legally recognised form of relationship and adultery is punishable.

Alcohol and pork/bacon/ham is banned on the basis of its prohibition of the countrys state religion, although many of the rich use the black market to obtain hefty amounts of liquor.

In terms of food, you can more or less expect the type of food you would have in Indian restaraunts. It is pretty high in calories and Pakistanis eat significantly larger meals but oddly enough, the obesity rate isn't anywhere as high as countries like the U.S. However, obesity is rising there as fast food restaraunts and a sedentary lifestyle have become popular.

Prowler
01-22-2017, 09:54 AM
Pretty interesting observations FredWolfLeonardo :)

Jephael
01-22-2017, 05:16 PM
Just being in another state on the other side of the US can be crazy. I remember staying with friends in California and we went to the super market where I found out they don't use plastic bags.

ProactiveMan
01-23-2017, 08:09 AM
I've been to Malaysia a couple of times, but I can't really remember it vividly enough to recall anything interesting about cultural differences. It's an interesting place, having a large Chinese and Indian population, as well as the ethnic Malays of course.

The best, interesting cultural difference I can come up with is something I noticed on my recent visits to the UK. You can drink alcohol on the trains there it seems. I saw people commuting home from London, swigging cider and other beverages with some regularity.

That would never fly in Australia - people would go mental -they'd be brawling in the aisles and pissing on the seats. But people in the UK seem to be able to behave themselves and even keep the trains relatively tidy.

plastroncafe
01-23-2017, 08:42 AM
There are some great Regional differences in the US with regards to personal space, eye-contact, and how one addresses as strangers if one addresses of strangers.

Prowler
01-23-2017, 09:34 AM
I've been to Malaysia a couple of times, but I can't really remember it vividly enough to recall anything interesting about cultural differences. It's an interesting place, having a large Chinese and Indian population, as well as the ethnic Malays of course.

The best, interesting cultural difference I can come up with is something I noticed on my recent visits to the UK. You can drink alcohol on the trains there it seems. I saw people commuting home from London, swigging cider and other beverages with some regularity.

That would never fly in Australia - people would go mental -they'd be brawling in the aisles and pissing on the seats. But people in the UK seem to be able to behave themselves and even keep the trains relatively tidy.
Here you can drink on the streets. Many bars here are just small places where people buy their beer and then drink outside with their group. In some countries you get fined if you're caught drinking on the street.

There are some great Regional differences in the US with regards to personal space, eye-contact, and how one addresses as strangers if one addresses of strangers.
Is is true it's common in many places there for strangers to smile at each other or is that a myth?

plastroncafe
01-23-2017, 10:20 AM
Couldn't say, depends where you are and the context you're in.

Prowler
01-23-2017, 11:41 AM
Couldn't say, depends where you are and the context you're in.
It seems many people from the Americas find Europeans in general to be more reserved and less talkative when it comes to strangers and that people tend to "look depressed". Then again, anyone seems quiet and unhappy compared to your average Brazilian. They must be high all the time. How else could someone be so happy in this s*it world?

I heard that in Slavic countries store clerks and waiters don't even smile at customers. Although, to be fair, a smile by someone like that is usually not os genuine and just a way for you to drop more money there.

Lisardo
01-26-2017, 04:14 PM
Just being in another state on the other side of the US can be crazy. I remember staying with friends in California and we went to the super market where I found out they don't use plastic bags.

The bag ban thing extends up here in Seattle too. Kind of annoying but whatever.

Prowler
01-29-2017, 08:16 AM
OK, I know I mentioned I didn't feel any big cultural shock or societal shock in other European countries, but that's because, in comparison to Tunisia, the differences between European countries are much smaller. Still, there's some differences. Per example, in Scandinavian countries, the way people talk, their gestures and the way they deal with each other at stores and restaurants, how should I say this, is quite different from the way people from Portugal, France, Italy or Spain are. Just like their eating times being earlier and their fashion sense being more humble and casual and not minding driving less aesthetically appealing cars. They seem to have less of a thing for ostentation.