Travellers and immigrants on Quora were asked: "What was your biggest culture shock going to Europe?" These are some of the best answers.
1. Your world gets a bit bigger
Multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity. The image of Europe I had in my head before I first came here is that it's filled with white people, and that's pretty much it. What an amazing surprise when I came here and saw people of all kinds of ethnicity and culture. I have never seen anyone of African descent before in my life. This was how I learnt how a Frenchman is not just a white dude, but could be of ANY race and cultural heritage, who identifies his first language as French. Same goes with a Dutch person, a Brit, and so on.
2. Was it two lefts, or a left and a right?
Lack of street signs. The signs are mostly general directions and since they use roundabouts instead of intersections, I'm not sure how it could be any more confusing for someone that doesn't know the lay of the land. GPS is the only way. But don't count on seeing the name of the street anywhere.
3. The sun'll come out tomorrow
So, having lived in Netherlands, and travelled around a bit of Western Europe for the past one and a half years, I have experienced a wide variety of culture shocks, ranging from minor to intensely surprising. However, this is the one which shocked me the most, and still confuses me sometimes: Long days during summer and short days during winter
As someone from India, a country close to the equator, the sun sets at around 18:30–19:00 in the summer, and at around 17:30–18:00 in the winters, so there is very little noticeable difference in the length of the day. Here in Europe however, especially further north, in the summers, the sun sometimes sets at 22:00, or even at 23:00 or later! It’s even later in the northern regions of the Scandinavian countries. This also means the sunrise is quite early, at around half past 4 in the morning. The other extreme in the winter - sunrise at 08:15 and sunset at 17:15 or so. This was extremely weird on those days when I had classes from the morning to the evening, so there were some days when I saw little or no daylight.
Sometimes, even now, I find it hard to get to grips with this; in the summer evenings, when I return from the supermarkets or a dinner out with friends, it’s still bright outside and it feels quite weird!
4. These boots were made for walkin'
The cities were actually walkable! I’m sure there are walkable US cities, but the “Atlanta area” covers about 132.4sq miles, with a population of less than 500,000 within the city limits. Compare that to Paris— 40.7sq miles, with a population of about 2.224 million as of 2014. The pedestrians in London, Paris, Edinburgh, Berlin, to name a few, were a shock to me. Even calmer cities like Geneva and Rome were lively. In Atlanta, I might walk a couple of blocks without seeing anyone in the middle of the day.
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