Culture Shock – World Travel Syndrome

Culture shock is something that all world travelers are familiar with, but not everyone knows how to deal with it. If you don’t believe me, here is a list of some of the best travel sites out there – go  and see what they are doing, be sure to have a look at  world travel stories.

Culture Shock

culture shock
It happens to everyone, even the most seasoned travelers as you will see below.

It is common to experience culture shock when living in a foreign country for an extended period of time. Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation, insecurity, and anxiety one may feel in unfamiliar surroundings. Values, behaviors, and social customs we routinely take for granted may no longer serve us in our new environment.

Arriving in Morocco, I was overwhelmed. I’d spent the day hitch hiking without success in Spain, found all the guesthouses and hotels in Tarifa closed, and on a whim, I bought a ferry ticket to Tangier since at least the ferry office was open. On the ferry, I tried to remember a little bit of Arabic, decided to not stay in Tangier since a traveler in Valencia a few nights before had told me it was full of thieves and touts, and since a friend had told me Fez was wonderful, I decided I would head there…

Getting off the ferry in Tangier I was accosted by touts, I found a taxi (rather the driver harassed me long enough that I decided to hire him) and I went straight to the train station. A late night train and a 3 am arrival in Fes where I was accosted by more touts and finally I found my way to Bab Boujaloud the next day, booked a cheap room, and locked myself in. Over the next few days, I found myself avoiding Moroccans, not ordering food that I didn’t know, and in general acting like a suspicious and unhappy guy. This was culture shock.

At the time, I can tell you that if you had suggested that a year and a half later I would be living in Fez, married to a sweet Moroccan girl, and building a life here, I would have told you that you were nuts. And maybe you are, I certainly must be, but here I am, none the less. And while I still periodically experience small bouts of culture shock, the initial spell wore off after about a week in country….

Denis Pulis from Travel With DenDen found more than she expected as she moved from Malta to Switzerland:

When approximately ten months ago I announced to my friends and family that I was moving to Zurich, Switzerland, I was greeted by the usual Swiss stereotypes. ‘It must be squeaky clean and full of green spaces’, one friend commented. ‘I love Swiss Chocolate!’ another one exclaimed enthusiastically. ‘Send me some when you get there.’ My parents were simply grateful that I wasn’t going to go to South Korea or Japan, as I had previously wanted. ‘It’s only two hours away’, my mother said, breathing a long sigh of relief. ‘I’ll try and come visit’, my dad said. ‘I love nature’.

Precisely because of the fact that Switzerland and Malta were so close, before boarding that plane bound North, I had had no expectations. It’s Switzerland, for god’s sake, not Afghanistan, I had found myself thinking – True to some extent, but so deceiving on many others. Why? Because now, 10 months after the day I touched down on Swiss soil, I know clearly that what I had thought to be a familiar place was not familiar at all. I discovered that the land of chocolate, cheese, friendly smiles, impeccable service and picture perfect views is the land of the tourist. The land of the immigrant is something else entirely. I discovered strange things, seemingly ridiculous things, and things which were only skin deep. The following are my thoughts and impressions of what it really means to live among the Swiss (in Zurich, in my case).

And culture shock can go both directions as Gayle Pescud found when she contemplates returning back home from her life in Ghana in a post titled The Topless Insanity of Itchy Appreciation

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While Sasha writes about the difficulties of food appreciation and doing what you say you will do when that food is actually composed of a partially developed duck fetus in a partially cooked egg in Vietnam.

baloot, culture shock Check out this description at BarefootInk and see if it makes you hungry:

I am one who is true to my word… today in Vietnam I found this delicacy – which is perhaps not exactly the same as Balut – but close enough to count I’m sure. In Vietnam it is called Hot Vit Lon… and basically it is a fertilised duck egg with a baby duck inside. This egg is then boiled, the top is cracked off and the liquid (embryonic fluid I guess) is then drained into a cup and shot down by the consumer – in this case, me.

But the shock of a culture isn’t always bad, sometimes it’s just that it is different as Katya from True Bulgaria writes

Have you seen a real Gypsy camp?
Small huts made of almost anything – blankets, carton boxes, plastic bags…
Small fires smoking here and there…
Horses calmly grazing…
Garbage scattered everywhere…
Kids running around bare feet…
Friendly Gypsies, proud to live in the camp…
Large, empty, rusty tin is the stove and the heating…
The next day a popular pop-folk star was going to sing at a wedding in the camp for a wage of 1000 euro per hour…

Of course, most of culture shock is simply a matter of the patterns we’ve learned not being the same in a new place. This can be seen at My Bella Vita as Cherrye undergoes a Calabria checkup in ways she never imagined

It was time. In fact, it was past time-way past time-for my annual gynecological check up. So, like any modest American girl, I made my appointment, then dreaded the day and counted the hours until my visit. I always postponed and procrastinated this ever-so-invasive exam in America-where they spoke English-so you can imagine I was none too thrilled with this new addition in my cultural experience repotiore .

You see. I had been to a Calabrian doctor’s appointment before so I knew the doctor’s office, complete with desk, computer and phone and the Examining Room were one in the same. I’d also been warned not to expect a private changing closet, stiff little pink paper gown or a tissue-blanket to cover my legs.

I was prepared. Kind of …

Calabria check up, culture shock
And Culture Shock isn’t just shocking at the doctor’s office, it can also affect you with something as simple as making lunch…

Every morning during the “vamos a la escuela” rush, I yearn for the simplicity of making the kid’s lunch back in California. I used to mindlessly throw together ham and cheese sandwiches, fill little containers with granola and a banana. Now, after living in Spain for over a year, I think about preparing three-course meals – a primero, segundo y postre. That is standard for brown baggers and school-cooked meals. And forget brown bags. Here kids bring three-tiered insulated containers to transport their lunch. And, don’t forget the mini bottle of olive oil for their primero.
Read the rest at

culture shock
From the biggest countries to the smallest countries, travelers always run the risk of the dreaded Culture Shock, even in the countries with the heaviest monarchs…

Tonga, or Pule?anga Fakatu?i ?o Tonga, is the only monarchy in the Pacific. A constitutional monarchy in theory, a bit more feudal in reality. Former king, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV was once famous for being the world’s heaviest monarch.

See what Sophie found in her Travels in Tonga

And then there is Japan, the Hermit Kingdom. Todd over at Todd’s Wanderings gives us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be The Hermit in Seclusion in the Hermit Kingdom.

Japan can be a difficult place to navigate. Rules about in groups, out groups, superiors and juniors provide fertile ground for new visitors to misstep and offend the wrong person. Five years in Japan had taught me a lot about how to manage relationship, but what do you when you incur the hatred of a Buddhist Monk on the island of Shikoku?


Japan, travel, culture shock
Finally, here are some common sense tips for how to overcome culture shock from Wikihow


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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

12 thoughts on “Culture Shock – World Travel Syndrome

  1. Having traveled extensively in Europe, Western Africa and Latin America, when I arrived in Morroco, I thought I was prepared for the touts, etc. NOT. We definitely got the gringo tax there. Nevertheless, I agree – Fez is a lovely place. Enjoy!

  2. Brilliant work guys! It’s all there – the drama, the nerves, the unknown, and then finally that stage when one can look back at it all and have a giggle. It’s wonderful to see this blog carnival go live, thanks to Vago the Vagabond for hosting, you’re obviously the host with the most!

  3. Nice job with the blog carnival Vago. Really nice read and great to have so many perspectives in one place. Cheers.

  4. Thanks for the tips you’re talking about it so the rest of us is able to know! Will use for sure. To tell you the truth, the trick for me, you got to bring about the place that first attracted you both and also avoid a lot of bad choices we all make naturally if you want to save marriage alone

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