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Old 01-07-2014, 11:01 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Of the countries you've visited, which gave you most of a 'culture shock' when you visited?

I understand that prior experiences will affect things, but try to imagine that prior to visiting each of these countries, you'd never visited them before. It will vary with your experience, city vs rural.etc, but I think, on the whole one can make generalisations. Things like the way things are done, traffic, buildings, food, the people's behaviour, dress, customs, exoticness of the landscape.etc.

Sri Lanka - Least developed and my only direct experience of South Asia. Rich compared to much of India (comparable to the second tier states) but under-developed. Lots of tin-roofed shack-like houses even in downtown Colombo. Lots of beggars too, many with one leg.etc. People's dress in rural areas was mostly traditional, women in saris and men wearing sarongs (like a long skirt). Most are very religious, which can be seen at innumerable altars, shrines, temples, churches (there are Christian areas). People were friendly though.

Vietnam - Arriving into HCM Vietnam really 'hits' you with the sights, sounds and the smells. The crazy traffic gets getting used to - it feels like you're risking life and limb every time you cross the road or hop on a motorbike. Everyone rides a scooter or motorbike, sometimes you'll see whole families on one. Constantly hassled by touts. Language is so unlike English. Not a lot of big stores, countless little stores, restaurants, eateries, eating in people's houses. Snake white, silk worms, dog meat, seeing the more subsistence lifestyle of the hill tribes in Sapa. Vietnamese are still very traditional, strongly influenced by Confucianism/Taoism/Buddhism and native Vietnamese religion/beliefs.

China - Developed in the cities but still feels very Chinese. Poor hygiene often a shock. Horrible pollution, some strange foods (I didn't see that much of it). Outside the cities it feels pretty alien, hardly anyone speaks English, no English on signs whatsoever.

Thailand - Although it's touristed and has a lot of modern skyscrapers, shopping malls, amenities and western chains, Thailand still feels pretty exotic IMO. From the gold-gilded wats with saffron-clad monks chanting, to the colourful religious ceremonial decorations. The Thai language is not my favourite. Even the whole openness of the sex industry is pretty exotic/novel. Insects are probably the weirdest thing culinary-wise.

Taiwan - Actually felt more easy to get around than China. Smaller, more modern, higher quality of life...not as much weird food as China, either. Prevalence of English a bit higher than China. In parts very modernised and somewhat westernised (almost comparable to Hong Kong) but still maintaing traditional Chinese culture. Modern, easy to use public transit (announcements in English) Nothing too intimidating for the traveller actually.

Malaysia - Of course I'm more familiar with it than the others. In some ways the most westernised along with Singapore, partly due to the prevalence of English, but in many parts Chinese-Malaysian, Indian and Malay culture is still strong. People probably seem the least different, and there isn't really a lot of weird food compared to the above countries. Cities feel almost first-world, especially KL, with modern highways, skyscrapers, apartments, and malls, also with colonial architecture, especially Penang and Malacca. Has so many American and other global chains.

Singapore - Of course being a city state also helps. Truly caught between east and west. Many Singaporeans are pretty westernised, while some are still quite Asian. There's nowhere in Singapore where you'll feel truly lost, where no one speaks English or where there are no signs in English.etc. Interesting I feel there are 'several Singapores', the Mandarin speaking one, English, Hokkien.etc, Malay, Indian one. Little India might actually be the most exotic feeling part of Singapore imo.

 
Old 01-08-2014, 12:17 AM
 
Location: Singapore
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Biggest culture shock: China
It might come as a surprise to many that a Singaporean actually found China to pose a culture shock since it is part of the Sinosphere. China didn't play a particularly interesting role in the media feed here as Singapore only established diplomatic relations with China during the late 80's. Consequently, all I ever heard of or learnt about China when I was growing up were from cartoons and children books that portrayed China as the land of mythical gods wielding magical weapons.

I was a child on my first visit to the Middle Kingdom probably two decades back and the thing that struck me was the prevalance of the Chinese language everywhere. I felt more at home in London than I did in Beijing. Granted, many Singaporeans are able to read and write in Chinese but we don't actually use it in our daily lives. In the Beijing hotel where I stayed, I had to struggle to even adjust the settings on the AC controller as the instructions were entirely in Chinese. It was memorably the first time I had to operate something in Chinese or just freeze to death. The dreaded drills in character-writing saved my life, I guess.

Another thing I observed was how hardy and flexible the people were. That was in stark contrast to Singaporeans who cannot have things any other way than the one they're used to.

Last edited by lepillow; 01-08-2014 at 12:28 AM..
 
Old 01-08-2014, 02:54 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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So back in the 90s? China has changed a lot since then, especially in the cities, so I imagine it would seem even more foreign back then. Yeah I got separated from the group in Tiananmen square in December and I thought I'd freeze to death, lol. But yeah, the language barrier was definitely intimidating, so it was lucky I went with my mum who can speak Mandarin. Like in much of Asia there is a sort of organised chaos there.
 
Old 01-08-2014, 11:09 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
Thailand - Although it's touristed and has a lot of modern skyscrapers, shopping malls, amenities and western chains, Thailand still feels pretty exotic IMO. From the gold-gilded wats with saffron-clad monks chanting, to the colourful religious ceremonial decorations. The Thai language is not my favourite. Even the whole openness of the sex industry is pretty exotic/novel. Insects are probably the weirdest thing culinary-wise.
Many of the wats are indeed pretty dazzling and exotic looking, although after enough time, the exotic look starts to dwindle and they begin to look more like ordinary everyday cultural features to the landscape, which of course they are. I suppose that's just my view, but there are some really spectacular gems around. There's one up around the area of Don Meung airport/Rangsit that just sparkles and gleams. I've never been there, but always notice it when passing by. Another is just off the highway around Chatuchak area (I think). The mix of modern skyscrapers, malls, etc., and the wats, seem to make an interesting blend of old and new that works quite well together to present a visual sensation which is typical of Bangkok and Thailand.

I agree about insects as food. It doesn't appeal to me, although they're suppose to be nutritious. Giant cockroaches and waterbugs are epecially nasty looking to me. I'm not too keen about eating grilled rat-on-a-stick either.
 
Old 01-08-2014, 07:31 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
Many of the wats are indeed pretty dazzling and exotic looking, although after enough time, the exotic look starts to dwindle and they begin to look more like ordinary everyday cultural features to the landscape, which of course they are. I suppose that's just my view, but there are some really spectacular gems around. There's one up around the area of Don Meung airport/Rangsit that just sparkles and gleams. I've never been there, but always notice it when passing by. Another is just off the highway around Chatuchak area (I think). The mix of modern skyscrapers, malls, etc., and the wats, seem to make an interesting blend of old and new that works quite well together to present a visual sensation which is typical of Bangkok and Thailand.

I agree about insects as food. It doesn't appeal to me, although they're suppose to be nutritious. Giant cockroaches and waterbugs are epecially nasty looking to me. I'm not too keen about eating grilled rat-on-a-stick either.
I'd say in some ways they're the most spectacular in South-East and East Asia, as far as traditional architecture goes. Much more decorated than most Buddhist architecture, the Thai-Khmer-Burmese style is.

Next time I'm in Thailand I'm at least going to try a grasshopper or two, but yeah the big black cockroaches, no thanks, haha.
 
Old 01-08-2014, 11:33 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
I'd say in some ways they're the most spectacular in South-East and East Asia, as far as traditional architecture goes. Much more decorated than most Buddhist architecture, the Thai-Khmer-Burmese style is.

Next time I'm in Thailand I'm at least going to try a grasshopper or two, but yeah the big black cockroaches, no thanks, haha.
Not all the wats are as dazzling in terms of exterior decoration. Some are a bit on the plain side, but I think a lot of that has to do with donations in terms of materials and donated craftsmanship and labor.

I tried a fried grasshopper soaked in dark oil or something in a jar when I was a teenager. It was awful, but mostly because of the oil, too gooshy for me. The texture was still sort of crunchy but I thought the legs and wings were kind of inedible. I've never tried anything like that since. But sure, by all means, help yourself to a few of the cooked bugs. Some places offer fried scorpion, ant eggs or moth larva. Might want to consider a rat-on-a-stick, fresh from the grill, as a main course, along with a bottle of Chang or Leo to gargle and wash it all down.
 
Old 01-09-2014, 12:39 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,779,970 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
Not all the wats are as dazzling in terms of exterior decoration. Some are a bit on the plain side, but I think a lot of that has to do with donations in terms of materials and donated craftsmanship and labor.

I tried a fried grasshopper soaked in dark oil or something in a jar when I was a teenager. It was awful, but mostly because of the oil, too gooshy for me. The texture was still sort of crunchy but I thought the legs and wings were kind of inedible. I've never tried anything like that since. But sure, by all means, help yourself to a few of the cooked bugs. Some places offer fried scorpion, ant eggs or moth larva. Might want to consider a rat-on-a-stick, fresh from the grill, as a main course, along with a bottle of Chang or Leo to gargle and wash it all down.
Yes i'll have something on hand to take away the taste, lest it disagrees with moi! Maybe a glass of fruit juice or Thai-style milk tea, the sweeter the better.
 
Old 01-09-2014, 06:31 AM
 
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Many people find the concept of the Eastern toilet in China to be a cultural shock when coming from the USA.
 
Old 01-09-2014, 07:09 AM
 
Location: NYC based - Used to Live in Philly - Transplant from Miami
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I hope this is related. I am seeing it from somebody who come from metropolis(es) in Asia migrated to the US. I had been traveling alot as a child, moving from one metropolis to another due to my parent's job. But not until in high school I moved to the US (and have been here ever since).

The first culture shock as a teenager was the size of the malls. The malls in the US are smaller compared to the malls in Asia. In Asia, the teenagers congregated in malls during their spare time, so that was the first thing I tried to find when I first moved to the US. I was expecting those multi level malls with condominium on the top and indoor theme parks just like in Asia but could not find anything in the area.
The second culture shock was how individualistic people are. (Of course years later now, I feel that Asians are way too intrusive!). I don't recall any specific incident, but I vaguely remember that everybody was cold and superficial.
The third culture shock was how different the US was than how it was portrayed in the movies. (I first moved to South Carolina). I always thought that the US was either a congregations of tall buildings and skyscrapers a la NYC or beautiful beaches with good looking lifeguards a la Baywatch. Everything in South Carolina was so dull and suburban. Of course that time it escaped me that I had watched various movies with suburban settings, such as Ms. Doubtfire and Jumanji. Not until I moved to Miami 6 months later, I was like "OH this is what I remember in the movies!"
The fourth culture shock was the REAL southern accent (no offense). Growing up and going to international school as a kid, I was and am accustomed listening to different variations of English with different accents. But when I first listened to how some people speak in South Carolina, I did not even understand half what they were saying.

I hope I dont offend anybody.
Thanks!
 
Old 01-09-2014, 08:23 AM
 
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When I came to the US, I was shocked how much energy they waste.
The lights are not turned off even though there's nobody. The AC is set to 70 degrees which freezes some people...
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