I just got back from a wonderful trip in Italy and while there I, of course, noticed many cultural differences between there and the US (where I currently live). This made me think about how people who live in other countries must visit the US and realize how different our culture is from theirs.
To explore more of this topic, I gathered some responses from this Reddit thread and from the BuzzFeed Community to hear what people had to say about their experience of noticing cultural differences when traveling. Here is what some people had to say.
1. “Tipping. It’s a confusing norm for many non-Americans. Why am I paying extra for a meal or service other than what it actually costs?”
2. “Hearing people in America refer to main meals as entrees, and to Italian pasta as ‘noodles.’ In Australia, the word noodle is strictly used for Asian dishes.”
3. “Having clothes washing machines in the kitchens. I’ve never seen that before I went to England.”
4. “The amount of water in a toilet in the US. The bowl is almost full! In Australia and Europe, there’s just a little bit at the bottom and the flush comes almost entirely from the cistern (a reservoir water system).”
5. “Having to wait for a restaurant to open up at 10 p.m. in Madrid to get dinner and then still being the only patron at 11 p.m. when people start coming in.”
6. “When I was visiting London I was told that if someone behind you quietly clears their throat it’s the New York equivalent of ‘get the fuck out of the way.'”
7. “I don’t know how many other places do this, but it blew my mind that at most places in the Philippines, the norm at restaurants is that everyone collaborates and orders several dishes for the table, rather than ordering individual meals. I thought that was really cool and wish it were more normal in the US.”
8. “We asked for directions in London and ended up walking for MILES when we were told our destination was ‘just up on the right.’ Bonkers.”
9. “I’m definitely not a fan of so much ice in drinks at restaurants in the US. It ends up that at the end of the meal your glass is 90% ice and a shot of water. Also, your drink doesn’t need to be that cold! Liquids come out of the dispensers already cooled, the ice is completely unnecessary.”
10. “Having clothes dryers. On my first visit to Portugal, I stayed at several Airbnbs. They all proudly had washing machines but none had dryers. I’ve come to understand that hanging out my clothes to dry will be a fact of life for me in Europe.”
11. “Plumbing. Toilets in certain places in Europe clog if you flush a Tic Tac.”
12. “I’m an American and I used to live in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was feeling under the weather. I asked for ibuprofen and was to talk to the pharmacist behind the counter. I told her what I needed. She asked how many. How many? The whole bottle. Duh. She looked at me like I was a drunk asking for another round. She brought me back like 10 tablets and said ‘Two a day.’ To recover my shame, I explained to her that in the USA, these pills are in the store and sold by the bottle, usually at 50, 75, 100, 150, or 200 pills her bottle. She was shocked.”
13. “Service in Europe is awful. It took 45 minutes to try to get my waiter’s attention so I could ask for my bill. We came so close to just getting up and leaving because all the wait staff kept ignoring our efforts to pay (we were just going to leave cash and hope it was enough). Thankfully we finally got our waiter’s attention, but it’s seriously like this at so many restaurants. I absolutely hate it.”
14. “Outside the US, there are two small things that always shock me. First, the low frequency of garbage cans on the streets. Second, ever needing to pay to use a public restroom.”
15. “Traveling outside the US with small children or babies has given me a few small culture shocks, mainly because people are actually nice to them and interact with them. People give them candy. Waiters in southern Europe will talk to them, tickle them, and give them little treats. Restaurants all have high chairs, even nicer places. Spain you could have a kid out at dinner at 10 p.m. and no one bats an eye.”
16. “In China, no one drinks beverages with lunch. They drink after the meal. It baffled me when everyone was eating spicy duck tongue in the office and complaining about how spicy it was. Umm, drinking some water with it might help.”
Are there any cultural differences you want to add? If so, share it with me in the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.