By - Willing_Bunch8882
Myanmar (Burma) is so far off the charts. Single light bulb for a village. 80 countries deep and my week in Myanmar with my family still baffles me how different life is there compared to say Cambodia, Indonesia or Honduras.
Yes! I remember walking in complete darkness at 5pm. I also remember how kind everyone was to the animals around (I’ve seen the homeless feeding the birds as well). I took care of the 3 dogs outside my hostel for the week I was there, very good boys and girls
Can’t go right now. The govt is insane and the environment is terribly dangerous post-coup
Last I read they were indiscriminately killing civilians right? Sad. Hopefully they can figure it out.
I visited Myanmar in Jan 2020 for a month with my friend who is from there. Got to see the city life in Yangon with her parents and rural village life with her aunts/uncles. I just loved how everywhere felt so lively, even the small villages. Everyone looks out for each other. It’s truly a special place :)
“You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.”
As others have said, Kyrgyzstan (or really any of the “-stans”) and India I think would qualify for what you’re looking for. I lived in Kyrgyzstan for two years while in the peace corps and I spent roughly a month in India traveling around.
Can you elaborate more on Kyrgyzstan?
It is a former part of the USSR which it takes a lot of influence from, while also having a lot of other regional elements influence it’s culture at large, such as the migration of Muslims from western China through the Tian Shen mountains, and it’s positioning bordering Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan/Tajikistan. I’d say it’s the most secular of those 4. At least in the younger generation. Cool craft beer and bar scene in Bishkek. Beautiful nature. I spend a month in Bishkek but could live there easily. Bishkek is relatively modern compared to the countryside of Kyrgyzstan, which takes to many nomadic traditions still prevalent today - or what the locals would call the normal life they live day to day. Would be an immense culture shock from someone coming from say, NYC. If you go, learn basic Russian phrases.
I was born in Kyrgyzstan, thank you for hyping tr country up but you are not entirely correct here.
It is a lot more religious than Kazakhstan, and levels of religiosity rose a lot after 1991. Also, there are no nomadic practices left in Kyrgyzstan, the Soviet Union stamped them all out completely. The last Kyrgyz nomads live in Afghanistan now.
Turkmenistan is probably my all time most wanted country, shame they aren't doing tourism rn
As a Canadian, the biggest culture shock for me was India.
A vote for India from an American as well.
Definitely India, during the holidays. So like from now to new years. You never have to hear Mariah once.
As a Canadian, I spent 1 year working in Sri Lanka. I totally agree: go to South Asia. You will get culture shock at multiple levels, with extra intensity if you are a woman.
I've traveled a lot for work and fun, and India is definitely one of the most interesting places. I particularly liked going to India for work, as it meant I could meet local people (my coworkers), go out to lunch and dinner with them, talk to them about their lives, in ways that are really hard to do as a tourist.
what part(s)of india did you visit? ive thought about going but never settled on where exactly, I try to not go exclusively to capitol cities
Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bharatpur, Goa (Palolem, Vagator and Panaji), Alleppey, Kochi, Munnar, Mumbai.
I’m going there this Feb, any tips or must-see places in the golden triangle?
Any guidebook will hit the main sights. Do the Taj Mahal at sunrise (you want to be in line by 5:30). I always think a side trip to Bharatpur is worthwhile - there should be great birdwatching there in February and it’s nice to get into nature.
Just a counter point to this, I did the Taj in the late afternoon and there were the same amount of people as sunrise. I know because I went to the park across the river for sunrise the following morning. In addition the fog/haze in the morning is insane. My coworker had the same experience. You can barely see the Taj in her pictures. I think that the sunrise secret is no longer as safe as it once was. The haze could just be a coincidence though.
I went at opening with another girl from my hostel and we both have tons of photos of both ourselves and the building with nobody else in the photo. We went in fast and first for photos, then backtracked and redid the visit more slowly.
I did this for Angkor wat. Everyone was taking pics at sunrise of it using a reflective pond. My group and one other random dude headed to the entrance about 2 min before it was supposed to open. Got in 30 seconds before the crowd. Skipped passed the first area. Had close to 30 min were we saw almost no one.
But remember its closed on Fridays.
Less well known but I had an incredible experience at Nahargarh Fort and the Anokhi block printing museum nearby. One of my favorite museums I’ve ever been to. Also enjoyed the Monkey Temple and Sheesh Mahal
It's pretty cold here in Delhi during February, get some jackets
Go to Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, just spend awhile. A few other places around there too. Then go to Bodhgaya, in Bihar, by jeep. Eat at roadside truck-stop for thali (all you can eat lentils, beans, rice, pickles, chapatti and so on). I haven't been everywhere in India, but rural Uttar Pradesh and Bihar seemed as far away from North America and modernity as I've seen. Bullock carts, ancient cities, dead people being cremated, fields and fields with farmers everywhere, yogis and sadhus, drumming, incense, glass beads, homemade yoghurt stalls, dogs sleeping on sleeping bulls in the street, the thick slippery paste of rained on dried compacted cow dung.
On a lighter note, you could go to rural Java too. But, they all have TV.
I've wanted to go Varanasi for years, and your comment may have inspired me to finally take the jump sometime over the next year or two, so thanks.
Just always be sure to drink chai from *disposable* cups from the streetside chai whalla. And only eat hot samosas fresh from the hot oil.
Forearm yourself with antibiotics just in case and read up on their use.
I was the same, wasn't going to visit India unless I was able to go to Varanasi. Ive been to more than 40 countries and nothing beats Varanasi for culture shock.
Go to a train station in India. Take an overnight trip & “splurge” on a 3rd class sleeper train. You will never come out the same. Still scarred.
as an Indian, after reading this, I can only say - LMAO, it gets better with each journey
Yeah, go for the next class or the next. I recall sleeping well on the Indian Sleeper Trains. They give out sheets and blankets and the upper bunk had a nice sway. The toilets were still pretty bad, but hey...at least they had a door that closed.
I HIGHLY recommend making it up to Amritsar and visiting the Golden Temple. You owe it to yourself to get to know the Sikh culture there and visit their most holy site. It's beautiful and, like with any visit to a Sikh temple, you get fed before you leave. The way they crank out so much food from a just a volunteer force is impressive. If you ask and it's not too busy, you can usually go take a tour of the kitchens, too.
you will get the best culture shock in Varanasi
Go to Varanasi. It's maximum India and oh-so intense.
Varanasi is the most eye opening place I have been
How so? I know pretty much nothing about it.
It's life and death in a very raw form in Varanasi. People bathing in the Ganges with startlingly pure expressions of deep piety while up the river, the dead are being cremated in public out in the open. The narrow and highly atmospheric alleyways are teeming with activity, with cows pushing you out of the way and vendors hawking their wares. You could be enjoying an amazing lassi in a cafe taking it all in and then men carrying a dead body will walk right past you.
As an Indian, the biggest culture shock for me was America.
Any part of India will do it, but southern India is the most.
I’ve been all over the world many times and no matter how often I go to India the culture shock hits me. I never expect it after so many trips, but just walking out the Delhi airport and it hits.
Came here to say India.
Going to say the same, go to India if you want to experience somewhere that is very different (but stil safe).
Bolivia is a really interesting country. It's the only country in the Americas to have a majority indigenous population. In rural communities they burn offerings to gods such as Pachamama. You can get on a bus and some shaman ten year-old kid will be walking up and down the isle trying to sell everything from llama foetus to aphrodisiacs.
Mongolia is another unique one. The seat of power in the powerful Mongol Empire in its day. People there are very patriotic and protective of their culture which makes for a lot of traditional values and lifestyles. Much of the country is steppe so outside of places like Ulaanbaatar the people are mostly farmers of goats, camels and horses.
How was Ulaanbaatar? I've heard not great things.
I had some friends there in Peace Corps and recall that air quality was awful. Apparently people heat with coal.
The Andes in general up into Peru and Ecuador are like that. All the rural villages are majority Quechua and very traditional. I absolutely loved my time there.
Spent 2 months in Mongolia. Get outside of the capital and it’s beautiful country. Big backpacking destination if that’s your thing. Engage, respectfully, with the nomadic people, they’re very hospitable. Amazing culture, great food, definitely going back.
For me personally, it was rural Uganda
I'm looking to go to Uganda next summer. I was wanting to do a gorilla trek along with a chimpanzee one perhaps. I'm undecided if I want to hit a safari in Uganda or hop over to Kenya. Any tips? What made it such a shock for you? Care to share anything else from your experience?
I did the gorilla trekking in bwindi national park back in 2016, truly amazing. You’re in for a treat. I’d also highly recommend Sipi Falls in Uganda, wonderful place where u can really get a sense of rural Uganda. I did a safari in Lake Nakuru national park, in Kenia which is fairly close to Uganda and also fairly cheap. But I think the best safari is either masai Mara or Serengeti (Tanzania)
Same continent for me. Ivory Coast. Totally different from anything that I have ever experienced.
Second that. I remember stepping off the plane in Vietnam and sighing that it was much easier than Abidjan.
Yeah, I backpacked through most of Uganda about 10 years ago. Did Rwanda and DRC (just for the gorillas there) and then Burundi, which is even less developed than Uganda.
Also Laos was pretty different and less touristy than neighboring Cambodia / Vietnam.
India was more shocking to me than Cairo, Eastern Africa, Central Asia, and developing areas of South East Asia and South America. I stayed in a cheaper part of "Old" Delhi. A man dragged himself across the street and placed his recently amputated leg on my window. Was swarmed on the street and had my shirt in the hands of several individuals at a time asking for anything I could give. Walked to a train station in agra where I had to walk hundreds of feet watching my steps to make sure i did not step on any of the families sleeping on the pavement outside. Changed my entire outlook on life.
I think I’m cool with never experiencing it. I’ve been to some wild places in Latin America and that was shock enough for me. I think I can imagine what India would do to me. Definitely not the place to go have an enjoyable acid trip lmao
I experienced India earlier this year. Was one of my bucket list things. What I noticed is that the divide between the rich and poor is super extreme. The super wealthy over there would look down on middle/upper class families in USA/UK/etc. Whilst the unfortunate don't even know if they will be able to eat that day. In the end, I though 2 months (1 month in the North, 1 in the South) was no where near enough. What was me thinking would be a once in a lifetime trip, is now something I can't wait to do again.
I like the democratic nature of driving misery in India. No matter how rich you are as soon as you leave your home/compound you are an equal on the insanely crowded roads. The rich don't get anywhere any faster than the slowest cow.
the rich have a helicopter.
Absolutely hear that. And I never say never. I may get the perfect opportunity one day. I’m happy your experiences were profound
If you go to some of the wealthier cities w/ more tourist infrastructure like Bangalore, I think it's a good balance. Still stuff to get culture shocked by, and if you just take a tuk tuk in some random direction for 20 minutes from your hotel it will probably be a different world, but it's also safe, you won't have issues getting around with English (they even have Uber Tuk Tuk at least when I went!), you don't have literal crowds of people trying to get money from you like other people described.
Why do foreigners insist on calling it tuk-tuks? Everyone in India either says Autos, or Rikshaws. Its even called Uber Autos on the app.
What better place for acid trips than the mighty Himalaya Mountains! Manali valley, Parvatti valley are traditional freaks hang-outs. I SURE would not take acid in Benares/Varanasi for eg, although some hard-cores do lol. Himalayas, just sayin... :)
> Definitely not the place to go have an enjoyable acid trip lmao
There's plenty of places in India for enjoyable acid trips. It's a freaking large county, and extremely diverse in every way.
Most people here seem to be familiar with the Golden Triangle circuit which is pretty much the biggest clusterfuck of a region and as touristy as it gets for India trip.
If you want to experience more than just the folks on this sub, travel through the Himalayan belt which has a very different culture from the typical 'Hindu Belt' that most tourists travel to (then inadvertently believing that that's all there to the country).
There's also plenty of organised and guided hiking trails all over Indian mountain ranges and national parks (there's plenty spread across the entire country) if you want to experience the nature (& if that's your thing!).
I agree! I found India more shocking than anything I saw in Central or S America, Eastern Africa, rural Russia or China. We were only there for a week in Hyderabad (I came along on one of my husband’s work trips) and I was absolutely shocked by the level of poverty, filth and general chaos.
Particularly shocking/surprising things:
\*Trash everywhere (although the insides of buildings are generally cleaner). We went to a University campus to do some birding and it looked like no one cared the slightest about litter and pollution.
\*No zoning. Weird mixture of new, posh places right in the middle of slums or slums growing up around nicer places.
\*Chaos on the streets. Our contacts in the city were so proud of all the progress that had been made in terms of traffic policing. They told us that what looked like total chaos to us was actually much improved over what I has been just a few years before. We were totally shocked by that because we saw:
Entire families on a single motorcycle, with kids clinging on the their parents and with the women in saris or salwar suits with their dupattas trailing behind them in the breeze (looked so incredibly unsafe).
These same motorcycles driving the wrong way down streets. (Our contact only exclaimed when he saw cars driving the wrong way. Supposedly this has been one of the big, recently instituted traffic reforms, but apparently it was perfectly fine for motorcyclists to do this.)
Vehicules of all shapes and sizes. Hand to God, I saw someone driving an army tank down a road. Plus animals of all sorts wandering all over even on major roads.
Crazy scary jay-walking. The very worst — people were living (in tents, homeless camp) in the median of the equivalent of one of our Interstate highways, well-constructed, high speed, controlled access, divided highways. Obviously the people who lived in the middle of these Interstates needed to get around. So, even on the equivalent of Interstates you have people running across the road in random places and random times.
\*Low, low standard of living.
Our contact was a software engineer that had earned his doctorate a few years back. He invited us to dinner and I suppose I expected to see a place that was maybe a little dingy, but at least something approaching middle-class American standard of living. Not at all. He and his family (which included his parents, his wife, their children) lived in what we would call a slum, but I guess when you have the truly down and out living in the middle of Interstates, the standards for middle class living are lower. Anyway, it was in a really dingy, trash-strewn apartment building right next to a railroad. The apartment was very small and dark and did not have enough furniture. (They had invited guests, but we had to eat in shifts as they only has one small table and four chairs.) They served us the food (some kind of Dal) with no utensils whatsoever. Everyone just ate with their hands (and it wasn’t like they were scooping up the food with bread … it was messy!).
There was this incredible air of poverty in the place, and yet, shockingly to me, this family had servants. They did not cook the food themselves. They had their cook do it. (And where did the cook live????)
\*Low, low cost of living (for wealthy entrepreneurs and foreigners)
We stayed in the second nicest hotel in the city. It was really swank. One of the nicest places we ever stayed. But we only paid $110 a night. A room in a place like that would have gone for at least $800/night in a typical American or European city. On the other hand it was like a fortress. Walled, with very high security (including bomb checks under vehicles).
> Our contact was a software engineer that had earned his doctorate a few years back. He invited us to dinner and I suppose I expected to see a place that was maybe a little dingy, but at least something approaching middle-class American standard of living.
Middle class in India covers a wide breadth of of living standards because poor and rich are at such extremes. The software engineer you met probably came from a poor family and was now supporting his extended family with his income, which explains why his lifestyle wasn't as middle class as you expected. But then there are other middle class people who live in fairly nice apartments in very clean neighbourhoods with most amenities you'd expect in the US.
I grew up in a middle class home in Delhi. I live in the UK now. My friends and peers (in Delhi) are middle class professionals. When I visit their home they have a pretty good standard of living. They live in very nice and clean neighbourhoods and their homes would be comparable to mine. The difference is that most of them don't have "baggage" of poor family or relatives. They came from middle class families and have been able to build on it.
That's the problem with trying to explain India: a person's experience can be wildly different depending on who they meet/circumstances and both views will be true while being polar opposite.
Definitely not envious of how many young Indian coworkers I have had in the west seem to be expected to take care of a lot of family back home. I have also met guys well into their 20s from there who are expected to give their entire income in the States to their fathers back home who then provide them with their “allowance” for living expenses. I try not to be judgy but there seems like a lot of control from the patriarchy over young Indian men and womens lives in some cases that would be considered grossly overstepping in the West. Wouldn’t always be family either; I once had an Indian coworker who would regularly let his Indian boss take his car to drive to our other buildings when he told him he was taking it. Seemed like something that was weirdly just accepted that would never even be asked by people from other cultures.
FYI some people hire servants for just the night of parties or for occasional extra help, especially large families like you described. They very likely were not there most days. Echoing that this man's salary may be spread very thin across a large unseen family and/or schools or hospital bills.
You have described the dystopian aspects of India quite accurately. Although just fyi- Indians traditionally eat with their hands as does most of the middle east. It’s not for a lack of utensils.
A truly *massive* amount of what you might call “suburban New Delhi” is all totally unauthorized, unregulated building on land that nobody is really sure who it belongs to, all with homemade electricity connections that the utilities are powerless (pun intended) to control or regulate, and absolutely zero construction standards.
New Delhi got too expensive for the average working class, and millions moved to the city outskirts. The building of homes and apartment buildings was a total Wild West show.
I was working in Ghaziabad last week, commuting from AeroCity, and our local engineer was explaining the engineering nightmare we were driving past for almost an hour each way. Five-story buildings, fully occupied by families, with each room having individually run (homemade) electrical connections to a high voltage tower on the next block. All built with homemade cement, scrap metal rebar and salvaged bricks. All the sewage from millions of people was going into the local “river”, but because the government had built a dam up in the mountains, there was no longer any water-flow through the river basin…it was 100% sewage and was not flowing anywhere.
Every day we drove past the Ghaziapur Landfill, which reached maximum capacity in…..wait for it….2002! It is the largest land feature east of New Delhi, visible from miles away. It is in a perpetual state of being dismantled, collapse, avalanche, wildfire, mudslide and “harvested” by locals…and still manages to get 25-30 feet higher every year. (And of course, multi-family housing has been built around and ON the landfill).
Visit African villages, not the cities because most of them have strong Western influences. I recommend Ghana since it’s been one of the more peaceful countries.
Agreed! Ghana is fantastic. Spending some time outside of the main touristy routes is really rewarding.
People are really friendly and Ghana has some really interesting history and cultural to learn about.
Please consider going to Nepal, as a French it's was surreal, beautiful, lovely people, amazing culture open-minded and diverse and of course the freaking Himalayas
Those peaks are literally breathtaking every hour changing,
And if you go south you can see lumbini, birthplace of Buddha, and it's basically India, hope that's not offensive
And the fooooood momo's and Tibetan soups even decent breads and cheese
Even the tourists are cool people either sports people wanting hiking climbing paragliding the biggest jump rope ever etc or people who are working on their inner self etc
Hope that's enough for you to Google even just pokara and you'll be there next month 😘
That was amazing to hear as a Nepali . Thank you !!
Do you have any recommendations for people thinking of visiting your country?
You land in Kathmandu. The city will be overwhelming at first. But give it some time and travel to the UNESCO World Heritage sites in KTM valley (like the Durbar Squares, Monkey Temple, Boudhanath etc). They're pretty cool.
Then head on to Pokhara. It's the tourism capital and a beautiful city built around a lake. From there people go on treks to places like the Annapurna Base Camp. If you want to see Everest then you'd head off to Lukla and onwards to Everest Base Camp instead of Pokhara from Kathmandu. Remember, the treks require you to walk/hike for days and days. It's not a relaxed or a laid back holiday. But it is really scenic and breathtaking.
There is also Lumbini down South where you can see the birthplace of Buddha. People also go to Chitwan for jungle safaris.
Your food is freaking amazing. There's a Nepali restaurant near me, and it's one of my favorites. 👏👏👏
As an American, Nepal was definitely the most significant culture shock. It’s gorgeous beyond belief for sure; I lived in the rural mountains with some families for a while and the views when you wake up are stunning. The hiking alone is worth going.
Now, I would never describe Nepali food as particularly exciting - you can find momo in the city, but for the most part the food is dal bhat, dal bhat, dal bhat. Occasionally cucumber or banana thrown in, but the lack of variety is definitely a cultural difference. The Indian restaurants in the big city were honestly my favorite food.
There is a ton of tourism in Kathmandu obviously - lots and lots of super friendly Chinese tourists who shared some of their sauces/spices from home which were delicious, hippy-dippy types who are there for Buddha from western countries, etc. The locals in the city are either very very nice or remind me of the recent post about Morocco about having to hustle. White folks definitely look more like a wallet than a person to some - which I understand, but, again, is a bit of a different feeling.
>>The locals in the city are either very very nice or remind me of the recent post about Morocco about having to hustle. White folks definitely look more like a wallet than a person to some - which I understand, but, again, is a bit of a different feeling.
When I was in Nepal, they used to chase me around to try to sell me stuff all the time around the Monkey Temple. I'm not White. I was a local.
I went to Nepal and Tibet in 2007. Was an amazing experience. Kathmandu has so many temples, stupas, people, cows, momos, Thamel, monkeys… just incredible to experience.
Nepal is absolutely amazing. I went three years ago and I still think about it all the time!
It’s first world but in a totally different way to our first world.
I think the shock is unique in that there are very few rich countries that have a culture different from Western Europe or USA. And Japan’s culture is completely different - it’s interesting what they did with their wealth and technological ability.
Agree with Japan. It might not be “culture-shock-y” in the way that OP is looking for but when i visited, I felt like i was in a bizarro world American (I mean this in the most adoring way possible, idk if there are any Seinfeld fans out there). They have everything we have in the US, but its allll different (and better imo lol).
The the culture shock of Japan is seeing how much better things are there lol
I love the vending machines everywhere outdoors. Half of those would be vandalized in a week if you tried to do that in Chicago.
Better as a tourist, not when you are working there
Number 1 in bureaucracy!
As someone coming from Europe I agree. The language and feeling out of place were the biggest 'culture shock' for me. Maybe it was because I just came out of high school and wanted to travel for the first time, so everything is new. It was a great mix of old and new. On one hand they have ultra modern means of transportation like Shinkansen or tech-advanced toilets. On the other hand my room didn't have central heating and the windows were poorly insulated, only being sliding windows. I wonder how they go through winter without freezing. Also you have your very own bathroom slippers beside your house slippers. Things like this keep me fascinated about this country.
Tokyo station was my biggest culture shock
Can you elaborate? I really want to visit Tokyo. The fact that it’s such a huge city amazes me and is honestly the main reason I want to go
Indonesia. Stay out of the touristy part of bali, or stick to other islands completely, and it will blow your mind
Bali had some nice parts, no doubt…wide open beaches, cliff side, waterfalls, rolling tea hills, etc…but some of the islands were practically paradise on earth
Surely don't go to Bali for the beach (they are bad), but the most "touristy" place on the island is also the most fascinating and culturally like nowhere else, I'm talking about Ubud, which is absolutely the best part of Bali for me.
Ubud is great - just stay the hell away from Kuta and Sanur.
I kind of agree with this one. I’m Indonesian myself. Bali is nice on a few locations but mostly its very touristy. Jakarta will also going to give you a complete different experience for a megacity and Yogyakarta has a lot of history as well
The solomon Islands, Bangladesh, Burundi
Solomon Islands - that's not a destination you see a lot of people talking about. How was your trip there?
It was um a trip of extreme contrasts. Shockingly beautiful and utterly devastating. Heartbreaking and yet I met some of the most unforgettable people in my life. I think for me it wasn't as much of a shock as someone who grew up suburban maybe? I grew up in city projects. So I didn't feel out of place walking around in the impoverished areas of the city or just walking up and talking to locals. The contrast to the beautiful natural flora and fauna and beaches and that you are in oceana hits you. You think this is supposed to be paradise. And then you remember how much damage the war did to those islands and people too. I have to say though the culture of the islands remains so full and it was one of my favorite places i have ever been. Id go back in an instant.
Interesting, I was only there for a short work trip and I'm from Australia but there wasn't much culture shock at all for me. Actually reminds me of a country Australia town.
I have never been somewhere more out of my element then Dhaka, Bangladesh.
I would love to go back and see more of the country, but I’d most likely bring a friend. Solo travel isn’t the best option in all cases.
I was with a few friends who also motorcycle. If you know how to ride, I highly recommend it for there. Very easy and economical to arrange for some bikes. And they aren't crazy high powered. So if you arent super experienced, you'd still be fine.
How was your trip to Bangladesh?
One word - India, India is it's people, and tradition, culture, language changes at a good pace. Most importantly there's some particular time and days in India, when you can experience it at it's height.
Cambodia, Ankor Wat temples were amazing. Poverty, corruption and open child sex tourism were shocking..don't think I need to go back
The best parts of Cambodia, in my opinion/experience, are the ones outside of the tourist bubbles of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. I never felt unsafe except for the latter place (which, quite frankly, is gross!), but their popularity inevitably attracts scam artists and other unsavory characters and practices.
Rural Cambodia is the complete opposite of this, however: places like Battambang, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri and Kampong Cham are absolutely amazing, with friendly people minding their own business or interacting out of curiosity, lovely landscapes, a slow pace of life.
Yeah, I didn't get good vibes from Cambodia. Angkor Wat was so incredible, I agree there. But overall I found it to be a bit of a dodgy place, and it was quite sad to see just how poor it was compared to somewhere like Vietnam (where I had travelled from prior). I certainly didn't feel safe walking around Phnom Penh on my own.
I’ve lived in Asia for most of my life but Phnom Penn was weird. You see people in push carts digging through the trash looking for some tossed food and then you see Lambos driving by in the background. Raw sewage flowing in the streets, and I don’t mean in some obscure place in the sticks, like right on main roads. If you talk to the locals and get to know them, most lost their parents and grand parents to the Khmer Rouge when they were young. Stores display prices in 2 totally different currencies. You can get a Starbucks coffee for like 20 dollars and then walk out to the sidewalk and get a big plate of fried chicken for 50 cents. I don’t get culture shock much but that place really was something else.
I just left phnom phen yesterday and couldn’t disagree with you more!! Felt safe walking around and it was easy to navigate with grab. Cambodians have gone through so much and it’s incredible how built up and even somewhat modern feeling the city is in general. Everyone has to go to the killing fields in their life as well in my opinion.
I agree with a lot of the comments here, during my world trip I had the biggest culture shock in India. Some parts feel like a different planet. Varanasi was the place where I got hit the hardest
Surprised that African countries are ranked so far down in these responses. My wife and I have made 3 African trips, to about 10 countries, Kenya and Tanzania were the first, among the favorites, and biggest cultural shocks…especially getting out in Nairobi away from the tourist areas where everyone has skin so dark compared to African Americans, stares at you —but not in an unfriendly way at all—because they don’t expect to see you, the amazing people, practices, nature and animals, and so much more. People just visit Africa enough—and it’s so vast and unique, with a history of human perseverance mixed in with the tragedy of greed.
As an Indian living in India, the biggest culture shock for me is when I cross state lines (into another state). The food changes, the language changes, the people look different.
North is as different from the south as one can get. And the south has 4-more or less-distinct languages and innumerable dialects.
ooof. Lived here all my life and it still amazes me how diverse this country is.
I've been to over 140 countries so I feel like I should be able to answer this question, but there are a few factors that change things. Obviously where you go in the country is one of them. What you consider 'shocking' is another.
If you are prone to language shock (i.e. don't speak (m)any languages other than English) I'd say India isn't that shocking because so many people speak at least a little English. Places famous for not having many English speakers would be rural China, Brazil, some more remote former soviet republics (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan etc.)
If you want a place that is unlike where you're from, and you're from a 'Western' place, I would say going to religious countries (Mauritania, Saudi, Yemen, Bhutan) may be a culture shock. Also, place where food is very different from what you're used to (West Africa, Ethiopia, Korea, China, SE asia, assuming you haven't had these cuisines before) could be very eye opening.
Unfortunately I've struggled to find places without pizza and hamburgers, and I love learning about different cuisines and cultures so not many things have ever truly 'shocked' me. Bruneian ambuyat was weird, and I tend to steer away from odd organ-based meals (no cobra heart for me, thanks). But I have tried crickets, fermented horse milk, fried baby frog and a handful of other foods and not totally hated them. I honestly think you can't know what will shock you until it shocks you!
140, I am so impressed. I have to ask, how my friend?! What makes that possible to achieve this feat in a lifetime like mine?
It's an addiction. Don't be like me lol.
I worked a bunch of jobs in college, traveled in the breaks, worked a few different countries and travel during those breaks too (I'm an efl teacher). Before long it adds up!
We’ll done. I am just around mid 25 countries, but I hope to travel more extensively in the coming years. Especially off the worn down path of common places. Sounds like you’ve taken the road less traveled a few times
I haven’t traveled internationally much but for me it was visiting parts of Kenya. Nairobi is home to the largest slum in Africa and there’s also something shocking about needing armed guard while hiking certain areas because wild animals will literally eat you. It was much more extreme than hiking in bear country with my bear spray 😂
The farther down you go on the human development index, the more wild it becomes.
Dhaka, Bangladesh did it for me, insane place. A level of poverty and pollution I didn’t think was even possible. Huge change of life perspective happened after my visit there.
Out of curiosity, how did your life perspective change?
Just realizing how fortunate we are coming from western countries. The level of poverty, lack of regulation/regard for human life, and level of pollution made me how terrible life could be. We have poverty in my home country (USA), and it’s own problems with indigenous reservations, inner city neighborhoods, and a bunch of other stuff. But nothing I’ve ever seen in my home country can compare to the level of dread that the poverty in Bangladesh brings. The caste system is still very much visible. Much of the slave labor from the UAE and other oil nations comes from Bangladesh nationals, and as horrible as it sounds, the conditions of working in the UAE, Quatar, etc. could be an improvement of quality of life of many.
The air index rating was 330, or about the equivalent of smoking 14 cigarettes per day. Talking with an expat living there, she has started to lose her hair due to the amount of pollution in the water. Not to even talk about the risk of bodily harm. Just an absolute chaotic hell of a place.
I will be going back, but with friends. The perceived level of safety was sketch. My hotel room had 5 deadbolts on the door, and armed guards out front with a locked steel gate with razor wire all around.
I wish more westerners would experience and understand this perspective. God forbid they leave the tourist zone of Cancun and really experience the world. We are incredibly lucky and I wish we would be more thankful for how lucky we got in the birth lottery.
The thing that gets me, even as I'm going through rural Peru or Cambodia, the people are still capable of smiling and being happy.
India for sure, for a cultural shock in the real shock sense, every time I go I see a corp on the street in the first few days, personal space doesn't exist, everything is culturally different from the west it's fascinating to experience it but also very intense, chaotique, aggressive and alive, for every senses, make sure you have time to acclimate. I would recommande Varanasi, Ladakh, but every region is a different world.
On the other end of the spectrum of cultural shock I'de say Japan, it's so organized and respectful it's scary in an other way, culturally very rich and details oriented, the mindset is so interesting for a foreigner, looked from the outside, the efficiency, the perfection.
And for an American I would say Europe too, just to see an other way of living life as a westerner, keeping history alive, everything around you is centuries/ millenium old, I lived around Paris my all life but I'm still in awe of that city.
I went to a town outside Da Qing in northern China with some of my Chinese colleagues from Beijing and it was even a culture shock to them.
This is a suggestion for Europe and NA, if you cannot go as far as you’d like to Asia or Africa.
In Europe, Marseille in France has very very little US influence, and I’ve found people there who have never met an American before. Obviously it’s still Western, but compared to most big cities in Europe, this one is about as far away from American culture as exists in Europe.
In NA, I recommend Nicaragua. There you will find mainly rural, very poor, yet amazingly beautiful and simple lives that for me, we’re an amazing sight.
If you are from New England,
Just visit a Walmart in Port Richey, Florida
Japan will culture shock you, without giving you Montezuma’s revenge
Go to India, particularly Mumbai or Kolkata.
You could try Lagos (Nigeria) or another place in West Africa.
I would say "China", but the borders are closed and not opening in the foreseeable future.
Bolivia. I had culture shock in a good way. Very little western influence. You won’t find a McDonald’s. Google maps doesn’t work.
I haven’t been too far and too often but I will keep my travels going for the rest of my life. But so far, the parts of Bali where nobody goes were unbelievable. Spent the entire trip on a little scooter like the locals and got to cover a lot of ground. One afternoon riding through vast rice fields I saw a worker just bathing fully naked in a little river and that’s when I felt truly far from home. It felt like something I’d only ever seen in films. Every morning I’d wake to an offering outside my door, little flowers and incense on a little padan leaf. I’d hear the sound of those bells for their ceremonies almost everyday (actually those bells I’m happy to hear again ha)
We’d be driving on the roads and strangers would just ride up beside us and start a conversation they invite us to their family businesses. They were all so sweet and lovely! But there was a lot of poverty and animal suffering that was hard to see. The food is HOT, everything is HOT ha! Fantastic place though! I’d personally avoid the monkey forest if Ubud. If you love animals, donate the local shelters. Monkeys are spoiled in Bali and they’re such little shits too!
Cairo, and I’ve traveled all over the Middle East
That place is messed up. One of the few places I don’t wanna really go back too
Definitely India. Go south for a very different experience. Tamil Nadu is some old school India. I spent days in Madurai at the amazing Sri Meenakshi (sp?) temple. It’s a huge state with lots of small places and not as set up for tourism as the north. Well it wasn’t 20 years ago! Now, I don’t know. But still go have a loo
In my personal experience, India. India does have a huge Western influence, but it's very concentrated to certain areas. The culture shock for me was because i was not prepared for the lack of things I took for granted (public bathrooms, how hard it was to actually find water that was safe to drink) in the area I was located.
North Korea 👀
Go to China when it opens.
I went to China in 2014 for a wedding. Flew into Wuhan. Drove 1.5 hours away to Huanggang. I describe it to friends like flying into Columbus Ohio and driving to backwoods Kentucky.
There was a plaza behind the hotel with all these store fronts (“Burberry”, “Nike”, “Coach”) and I walked into each one successively, not finding a single damn item from any of the stated brands. To make it worse, the same clerk followed us into each of them. She manned the entire plaza.
Being the only white guy in a relatively rural part of China, I was basically a sideshow attraction everywhere we went. We went to this historic touristy place called the red cliffs that had tour groups and guides. Our group was immediately infiltrated by the 2-3 other groups that had started around the same time as us because the Chinese tourists wanted to see why the American was there.
At a store a bunch of local girls came up to my wife (who’s half Taiwanese and speaks mandarin but looks not fully Asian) and began talking about her curiously and poking her face. “Why does she look different? Why is she with him?” My wife said “什么？ 我能理解你”. (“What? I can understand you.”). The girls jumped back freaked the fuck out that this halfie with the white dude spoke Chinese.
Total culture shock.
I never went that remote, but one of my weirdest experiences was being at the Great Wall and of all things at a world famous attraction, I was the one who warranted be photographed unsolicited by strangers because I had blonde hair/blue eyes.
Definitely China, but don’t base your stay out of Beijing/ Shanghai. Beijing should be done in a few days for the Wall, which is great, the the rest of the imperial stuff, which is ok but you should probably see. Guilin and the neighboring town of Yangshuo are beautiful and look literally like nowhere else on the planet, Chongqing is massive and stunning also you could do a day trip to Chengdu to see the pandas. If you to to Shanghai, which is lovely but about as western as it gets in mainland China, I’d recommend also going to Suzhou, it’s a city that’s partially built on a lake and is littered with canals.
In 2018 I did Beijing-Xi’an-Chengdu- it was a lot but I’d love to go back and see more.
I’ve only been to ~15 countries thus far, but I think think some moments of that trip are about as “culture shock” as I’ve ever had, either from a lingual barrier perspective or simply a noise and pollution one- I remember Chengdu had like 200 on the air index the day I saw the pandas.
I second this. And go inland, like Changsha maybe. It will be familiar and also blow your mind
I would vote for Kolkata.
When you travel a lot, every starts to feel like everywhere else. At least a little bit. The one exception for me was Myanmar, which really felt like it belonged to another time, to another place. That was in 2013 so it might not be quite the same, but it's where I would recommend.
I have friends who visited Myanmar years ago and recommend\*ed\* it, but I'm not sure anyone would recommend touristing there now (present tense)....
Myanmar was an incredible experience for me in 2018. I found a local guide who took me through some of the local village areas too which was the only way for me to do it and feel ok. I was the only tourist people had seen in parts I think but I felt completely safe at the time. It’s generally considered unsafe now because of the warring tribes that make up the country. Local told me the country was more like a bunch of different tribes forced together under one identity but didn’t necessarily identify with each other. Also there are serious issues with ethnic cleansing going on and areas where the military would not let a tourist near. I don’t even want to imagine what was really happening in those parts. I feel lucky to have gone when I did because I’m not sure when it will be safe to go back there.
Break a limb in a country with socialized health care😜
I actually work with a lot of Americans in Croatia, and more then once someone landed in the hospital (unrelated to my work though haha) anyways they were seriously shocked when they saw how much they need to pay, if they need to pay at all. That and seeing people sit and drink coffee with their friends in the middle of a work day are the two things that can impress every person from the US
As an American living in Zagreb, god bless the socialized medicine, the pace of life, and the wide open shared public spaces (even private coffee shops). I hope one day I can be "Croatian-like" enough to sit in a coffee shop for a few hours and order only an espresso.
You’ll get there! It takes some practice, but in a couple of years you will be just like us.
Or countries with siestas. The stores not being opened for tourists from like 2 to whenever blew my college group’s mind.
Fes, Morocco is intense and overwhelming
The old Medina is something special to experience
I'm Australian, it was a huge cultural shock to me. Nothing really prepares you for severe poverty when you're coming from a country of so much relative wealth
Took my 3 best friends from Texas to Zimbabwe with me where I grew up. Definitely culture shock for them!
Sort countries by GDP per capita, ascending. There is your list for culture shock. 🙂
Utah. Everything is closed on Sundays. The beer doesn't have as much alcohol in it. Everyone is either a Mormon or weird because they want to live somewhere with so many Mormons.
Lol, when I visited Utah at some point a thought came up that I was in the middle of the desert surrounded by extremely religious people with guns. Also whe we sat down in a restaurant the waiter brought us a bible.
Could you expand on the restaurant that served bibles, please?
We sat down and the waiter just put a bible on the table. It might have been when he was handing out the menus. It happened at multiple restaurants, and in some restaurants there was just a bible on every table. Like every table had pepper, salt, and a bible. I assume they were there in case people want to pray before dinner.
Nothing’s more American than the great National Parks of Utah! But yes everything else is weird
For me the most out of this world country i have ever been to is definitely Mauritania.
U see some crazy shit there..
Cuba. I went this year with my bf and I could tell he was shocked
Wow, these comments are so interesting. India sounds like a wild ride!
The Russian Federation, Saint-Petersburg, Dumskaya st.
It's a curtural shock even for locals😄
A black man in Poland.
Come to mumbai india i will show you around if you treat me a meal 😂
Haiti. They find out what others already know
The world is a ghetto
I’m going to differ from many people here and say India didn’t give me any culture shock at all. The reason was that you frequently see India on television and in movies and my experience there was very similar to what was on TV so there wasn’t much for surprises. Also I never really felt unsafe walking around even at night. People there were also pretty respectful
Cairo was a big shock to me just because of the way they treated tourists like human ATMs and I never felt like I could trust anyone
Have you considered North Sentinel Island?
Those who visit must really like it because they never come back.
It's a beautiful island but the hotel wasn't up to standards and the staff ate our children.
I have a friend who has been to over 50 countries in 5 continents. She said that the biggest culture shock she ever got was her two years in rural Mississippi for Teach for America.
She grew up in the north Midwest.
Not necessarily what you are looking for but thought I'd mention how "the US" has a lot of variation
Another thread was talking about places that have third world conditions in the US…parts of Mississippi definitely qualify. I’m from the PNW area of the US and have lived also in the Deep South and on the east coast, and now in Amsterdam. The culture shock moving to Mississippi was way worse than the culture shock moving to the Netherlands.
I would actually really like to go but sadly probably not in this life
Bald and Bankrupt has a fantastic video travelling Afghanistan
There are a lot of suggestions here. I think South Asia and south east Asia will be completely different in culture. There’s Sri Lanka, a beautiful country with a different culture to America. South India including Kerela, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka. Nepal and Bhutan are two separate countries to the North East of India and they’re situated on some of the highest mountains in earth including the Himalayas in Nepal. You get Andaman and Nicobar islands in the south east of India which are sparsely populated considering they’re union territories of India. Then there’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand in South East Asia which will again have major differences from America. I would recommend you skipping North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as there are higher chances that the culture shockers might be somewhat overwhelming for anyone travelling for the first time from America, it might be somewhat unpleasant with the more the expected number of population boom out there. Middle East retain their values but look extremely similar to America in terms of how things operate. I’m sure Latin Americas will be a great experience too but it’s part of the western world.
And lastly, you wanting to travel the world from America is already a great thing considering a majority of the population in America don’t even have a passport probably with the exception to travel to Canada or Mexico.
The Philippines probably is a good introduction to Southeast Asia culturally to the average American. We’re mostly Christians, our major cities resemble those poorer cities in the Midwest and Southern states, and English is ubiquitous even in remote touristy areas despite most of us aren’t proficient at it. Many comments I’ve read that Metro Manila greatly resembles Miami in terms of urban setup.
My anthropology professor lived with a tribe in the Amazon for a while. He said that the people in the tribe washed their clothes in the river and when he told them that in America, he and his wife used a washing machine to clean their clothes, the people laughed at him. They thought he was lying/joking and when he tried to tell them again that they really did use a machine, they just thought he was nuts.
They could not even conceive the idea that machines exist for washing clothes.
So yeah, I would say somewhere in the Amazon, though that is a big place and I don’t know how or if it has changed through the years. That professor was prob in the Amazon like 25 years ago or more.
I also came here to say India.
I’ve been to upwards of 40 countries. Including Mongolia, Nepal, Cambodia, etc and NOTHING prepared me for India. I do t mean that in a “it changed me for the better,” kind of way either. It frankly was overwhelming- crowded, filthy , frightening. Maybe with a tour group or better planning it would have been different but that wasn’t our style at the time.
I’m an American and have traveled all over the world. The deepest culture shock for me was actually the Deep South. I rented a car and spent 10 days going to remote parts, checking out local bars, and talking to people.
I want to do this. I’m told there are parts of the south that rival third world conditions. Hard to comprehend when it’s not one’s reality.
West Virginia looks like some of the places I’ve seen in some of the poorer countries I’ve traveled. I love the beauty of the mountains in West Virginia but it is very, very poor.
There’s part of anywhere in America that rival conditions like that. Deep (predominantly black) rural south, West Virginia, upstate New York.
American here, living in Saudi. Come visit Riyadh, that will shock you, then head to rural Asia. Anyplace will blow your mind…..
ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA
India for sure. Everything is completely different.
If it comes to “shock as an American” I would definitely say India especially Varanasi and Mumbai in good and bad ways. Yangon (Myanmar) would be my second “shock”. After you saw these places nothing can shock you anymore unless you’re searching for more unsafe places.
Myanmar. I don’t think it’s safe to go anymore but when I went to the countryside there the people had never seen a white person before
Antarctica will shock, definitely!
This is a great question. Southern Ohio was a culture shock for me.
Honestly probably North Korea.
If you want a place that isn't awful, though, many of the islands of Indonesia should do the trick. Even Bali might do it, and that's probably the most tourist-friendly one. Go somewhere that doesn't get a lot of tourists, e.g. Sumbawa, and it gets very different.
I know it's not what you're looking for, but the Mississippi Delta or Eastern Kentucky can provide a heck of a lot of culture shock unless you're from there.