20+ Things in Foreign Cultures That Make Tourists’ Eyes Pop


Going on a trip abroad, we naturally expect to come across things and customs that differ from what we’re used to. Some tourists even read forums and guidebooks to prepare in advance. Still, at times, all of us have had travel experiences so weird, they leave us open-mouthed!

We at Bright Side love to collect stories about the unusual stuff that people encounter around the world. Lately, we’ve followed threads on Quora and Reddit, and discovered real gems. These posts are from users who’ve recently been to another country and come across something they couldn’t keep to themselves. Culture shock has never been so fun!

  • There are no taxis in Turkmenistan, but — any car can be one if needed! You just flag down any driver, hand them some money, and get delivered to your destination. © Priyank Tiwari / quora
  • In Egypt, city traffic is like some sort of organized chaos. No street signs; minimalist road markings; few traffic lights; little to no formal pedestrian crossings; car horns as a means of communication. Buses, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, cars, and donkey carts — all clutter the roads at once. Speed limits and seat belts? Never heard of them! © katstackz / reddit
  • I moved to Dubai 3 months ago. The locals abide by traffic rules more than they heed their religion. You can cross a busy road with your eyes shut, provided you use a crosswalk. Every damn vehicle will stop for you! © Sunny Kumar / quora
  • In Armenia, if the bus is full and you can’t find a seat, fellow passengers will offer to hold your bags for you. The first time this happened, I thought that the helpful guy was trying to rob me. So, I just smiled politely and declined. Later I learned that helping each other on public transport was a common practice. The locals really are that nice over there! © Lyn Hacop / quora
  • In Finland, people ride bicycles in winter — even when there’s ice on the roads & pavement. I asked a local friend about this, and he said: “Well, yeah — in freezing weather, I usually fall off my bike a few times on the way to work. Also, after these rides, your face needs defrosting. But it’s still faster than walking!” © Asworengash / reddit
  • In Costa Rica, they don’t have addresses. We encountered this problem right away while trying to get to the hotel from the airport. The directions went like this: “Drive straight, then turn right at the green church and go another 25 miles.” Fair enough, no sweat. Unfortunately, somewhere between the time the guide leaflet was written and our arrival, said church got repainted yellow… © misskinky / reddit
  • On my visit to Ecuador, driving along the local cities’ winding streets, I often saw dogs roaming the flat roofs on houses. Apparently, it’s quite normal over there to use the roof as a kind of extra backyard. © anonymous / reddit
  • In London, people sunbathe in city parks in their underwear. Also, office workers enjoy topless sun bathing at lunchtime! © Kazzilla / reddit
  • People in Germany take the rules very seriously. Imagine you’ve found the office building you’ve been looking for. It’s right in front of you, just 5 ft away. Unfortunately, there’s a 1 ft high fence separating you from the entrance. Now, an American would step over the “obstacle” and be done with it. Whereas a German would go off in search of a gate door in the fence (never mind that it stretches for 2 city blocks, in both directions!). © wbsgrepit / reddit

  • In Japan, bowing (ojigi) is one of the chief ways of showing respect. I was surprised to see vendors bowing to us outside their shops (even though we showed no inclination of walking in). What’s more, it is customary to bow to departing vehicles (like airplanes and buses). © Supraja Kommuri / quora

  • The custom of greeting and exchanging pleasantries with people you don’t really know is still strong in the English countryside. Yesterday, I was out with a friend, walking his dogs, and we must’ve said “good morning” to about 30 strangers, just because “it’s polite.” In my country (Finland), talking to someone you don’t know well is, at best, weird (if not outright rude). © Norppalapsi / reddit

  • I recently visited Iceland, and — there are no protective railings at any of the local natural attractions. I mean, you can walk right to the edge of a waterfall. If the area is unsafe, the only thing to indicate it is a thin rope, stretched 1 ft above the ground. The local authorities prefer not to spoil the beauty of these places with ugly barriers, etc. © RadiantCatmeow / reddit

  • On our visit to Okinawa (Japan), many locals tried to touch my girlfriend’s long red hair. One woman even ran across the street for that sole purpose! © blindserialkiller / reddit
  • I’m from Iran. During my recent stay in Belarus, my girlfriend and I went to a restaurant. Being unfamiliar with the local cuisine, I decided to play it safe and order rice. The food arrived, we started eating. Suddenly I noticed that my girlfriend was looking at me in shock. I asked: “What’s wrong?” and she said: “In Europe, no one eats rice with a spoon! We use a spoon only when eating soups!” Europeans, do you really eat rice using a fork?! © Farid Taee / quora
  • My biggest shock when visiting Saudi Arabia was that, in restaurants, women eat in curtained-off cubicles. This way, during the meal, only those men who are members of the family can see them. © Siddharth Oza / quora
  • France has an extraordinary number of pastry shops! Of course, they do sell pastries in my country too, but — the shops are less ubiquitous, and the sweets are more expensive and not as yummy. We may have bakeries and groceries on every corner, but, in France, it seems that there are more sweet shops than people! Also, there are many bookstores and art galleries along the Paris embankments — you can literally hang out in them for hours. © Jordyn Mumby / quora
  • Siestas in Italy are pretty amazing! Most of the small cafes/shops close daily from about 12:00 to 15:00. The owners and their employees go home for a meal and a nap. This is fine for the locals, but very disappointing when you’re a tourist! © Scott Zane / quora
  • On my first evening stroll in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), I saw street vendors selling snacks by the riverside. Among the treats on offer were all kinds of deep-fried insects and reptiles: snakes, cockroaches, grasshoppers, frogs, beetles, and lots of other stuff too weird to identify! © Sampriti Saikia/ quora
  • There are no trash cans on the streets of Tokyo, but the city is perfectly clean. Everyone puts their garbage in a bag and carries it around, to dispose of back home. © Papafynn / reddit

  • In Iceland, when the locals visit shops or restaurants, they often leave their children in strollers outside. I’ve read about this before, but thought it was more of a figure of speech. Nope. I actually saw this happen in the capital, Reykjavik! © Shrek5ever / reddit

  • On my trip to Great Britain, I discovered that sinks over there have separate hot and cold taps. Most of the time, it felt like the water in one tap was too hot, and in the other one — too cold! © Yesayas Taslim / quora
  • I have a friend who lives in Nicaragua. On my visit there a few years ago, he told me: “In local cities, you’ll see people standing outside banks with stacks of money and calculators, who’ll offer to exchange currency for you.” At this point, I thought: “Right, I definitely won’t fall for such an obvious scam!” Then my friend continued: “Those people are legit. You can exchange your money with them.” I said, “Really??!…” Repeated this question about 20 times before I actually believed him! © SquidLoaf / reddit
  • For people in Canada, “slightly above freezing” means “very warm.” Winter lasts for up to 6 months over there. Coming to Toronto in February, I was prepared for the weather. What I wasn’t ready for, was to see the locals walk around in shorts and T-shirts at 35°F. No, you can’t convince me that this is normal! © Alexander Wijaya / quora
  • I just returned from Cairo (Egypt), and the thing that struck me the most about life over there was the “baksheesh culture.” I mean, this is absurd. They often “help” you when you don’t need any help, and then ask for a baksheesh (tip). I don’t mind tipping waiters or taxi drivers, but — the locals expect money for everything, including giving you directions in the street! © Devala Peracini / quora

Have you come across something unexpected while traveling abroad? We’d love to read your stories in the comments!

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