24 Americans Share Their Biggest Culture Shock Experience After Visiting Europe.
"You can fit all of Europe into Texas!"
American on Reddit were asked: "What was the biggest culture shock when you visited Europe?" These are some of the best answers.
1/24 As a teenage Texan boy who visited Germany in high school, I'd say the biggest shock was the billboard at the end of our street with a topless woman on it. I looked at that thing so much I still have it memorized 20 years later.
2/24 Beer and other alcohols in places I wouldn't expect to find them. I was quite surprised to be able to have a beer at a museum; I'm used to the intellectual set pretending to not want anything to do with alcohol. It was like I was actually in a land made for adults instead of children.
3/24 The French are generally nice, it's Parisians who are assholes and give the whole country that reputation. And they're not singling you out because you're American - they're assholes to each other too.
4/24 Normal-sized bodies. Very few jacked body-builders, very few morbidly obese people. They just have generally lean, healthy physiques.
5/24 I realized how many freebies we get in the US. Free refills, as much ketchup as you want in fast food places, free toilets, etc. In Europe, you have to pay for everything. I got used to it.
6/24 Sweden: The first thing I noticed is your cities are so quiet! No cars honking their horns, no music playing or dogs barking. I couldn't even find anyone talking on their cell phone. Nobody seems like they're in a rush either Sometimes it was eerie being in cities that quiet, just the sound of bicycles going past.
7/24 The fact that I could easily WALK everywhere I needed to go within a town in Germany.
8/24 How much walking I did. Not because I needed to, but because it was easier.
9/24 The smoking.... People smoking everywhere. Restaurants, street corners, cafes.....
When I landed in Vienna there was a 10 x 5 meter plexiglass box in the airport where 7 Austrians chain smoked while waiting for their luggage.
10/24 I've backpacked Europe 3 times now. I'd say the biggest culture shock was that not a single person struck up a conversation with me except at the hostels.
11/24 Spain: Alright, it's afternoon, time to get some errands done. Took me a full week to realize 2-5 the whole country shuts down.
12/24 Remnants of the two world wars are everywhere. You can actually see lines across many of the buildings where they used new brick and mortar to rebuild after Hitler blitzkrieg'd them to shit. Many of the towns I visited in Germany and Czech Republic still had anti-tank hedgehogs sticking out all around the borders or along main roads. The locals said they figured it was more of a pain to dig them all out, so they just left them as a daily reminder of the cost of war. Fascinating to me.
13/24 The sense of history and age that is everywhere. Buildings that are hundreds and thousands of years old, roads that have been walked for a hundred generations, etc.
14/24 When I visited Rome, people just walk into the crosswalks and the cars just stop for them.
I'm from NY. I can jay walk with the best of them... but f*ck man, I need my pedestrian crossing signals! Crossing streets in Rome really took up the majority of my vacation... it was like playing a terrified game of double dutch. And those drivers... they sense weakness.
15/24 It surprised me when the people of England always referred to Europe as if they weren't a part of it.
I was talking to a girl in the Royal Navy and I asked her if she liked something that I can't recall. She said, "No that's way too European."
16/24 Beer vending machines in Austria.
17/24 The education system - particularly at the university level.
I studied abroad in the south of France for a year during my Undergrad. I was placed into the 4th level of an actual French Institute, instead of going through an American immersion program. Basically, at the start of each semester, they give you a big long list of classes, and the only requirement is that you take 4 exams at the end. Meaning, there is no enrolment, no set schedule, nothing like that. You can show up to whatever classes you wanted, whenever you wanted, so long as you took a certain amount of finals at the end (which, by the way, were ORAL).
I really couldn't believe the autonomy afforded to university students, coming from the US where class enrolment is highly regulated.
18/24 In Amsterdam, my buddies and I stopped by a McDonald's to grab drinks while we walked around the city. I saw a white kid, with crazy dreadlocks, crazy Hip-Hop styled clothing/half-Rastafarian clothing grab his tray, turn to a very crowded room, scouring for a table and not see an empty one. This is when a man in full business attire pulled his tray back a bit on his table, and beckoned the guy to come sit with him. This wouldn't EVER happen in the U.S.
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19/24 I moved to Germany a few years ago and the first thing I noticed was how skinny and how well dressed everyone was.
20/24How slowed down everything is. When you go to a cafe, there's usually no to-go coffee. You're expected to sit down or stand at the bar and drink your coffee slowly. Out to dinner, meals last hours and start way later than they do here. We would always stand out as the fast moving Americans on our way to class.
21/24People take the time out to enjoy their dinners at restaurants. The waiters don't hurry to present you with the bill as soon as you've finished.
22/24 I don't know if I'd call this a culture shock because I was only visiting Paris for a few days... but I was surprised when I had to pay to use public bathrooms. I mean, I'm a big fan of being able to just walking into a bathroom and poop when I need to poop. Public bathrooms at an American mall might not be very clean, but I'm glad I don't have to drop two dollars to poop.
23/24 Soda is expensive in Europe, man. I'm not a big beer drinker, so I'm used to ordering a Coke or something at a restaurant when my friends go drinking in the US. But whew, don't you order a Coke at a restaurant in Europe. It's gonna cost you.
24/24 I was ridiculed about asking for a ketchup bottle for my burger and fries at a restaurant near Normandy. Four french men in the booth behind me kept doing their Frenchy type laugh (OHhhohnnhonnn) and pantomiming out squirting ketchup onto food. They even grabbed the bottle off of my table and started to pass it around between them making jokes about it.
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Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.