Culture shock examples – funny to weird to sad stories

Pelican Inn near Hwy 1

Pelican Inn near Hwy 1

To show you that culture shock happens to every expat, I have compiled a list of culture shock examples from other expat blogs.

Imagine for a moment that you just arrived in a country far from home, not knowing the country’s customs, culture or language. The wheels of the plane touch down and the feeling of exhilaration vanish to a moment of panic. What should you expect? How should you behave?

Anyone just arriving in a foreign country is unsure of how to behave in this new place. The whole experience can be daunting and overwhelming. The first few months abroad can be a real emotional roller coaster!

People refer to that phenomenon as culture shock: being uprooted and feeling disoriented in a foreign culture. Everyone will experience it to some degree. Initially these experiences might be upsetting, but after a while you will hopefully regain your sense of humor and will start laughing about your mishaps and misunderstandings.

There are different culture shock stages one goes through when you adjust to the new language and culture. This adjustment can bring about negative, but also positive effects of culture shock.

Did you know that you could experience a reverse culture shock when you go back home?

On your journey towards cultural adjustment don’t lose your humor! There will be plenty of situations that will be quite funny.

I have walked between the German and American culture for many years. As a result, I feel very comfortable in both societies and their way of life. Culture shock doesn’t happen to me anymore. However, I am sure that I have not assimilated totally to the American culture. There is still a German part inside me, which will always stay with me.

To give you an idea that culture shock happens to most expats, I have compiled a list of culture shock examples from other blogs. Some culture shock examples are just laugh out loud funny, some are weird and then one is very sad. I am keeping that one for the end. That story really touched my heart.


Culture shock examples


Annie Andre of the blog ‘Annie Andre’ escaped her American cubicle to live with her husband and kids in France. She writes about her experiences and gives advise about how to escape to France.

In a list, she compiles culture shock examples that she experienced in France and from all over the world. For example, she describes the different kinds of toilets which are found in many parts of the world!

“Not all toilets are created equal.

Some toilets have lids; some have a lever you push, some you pull. In other words not all toilets look like American toilets.

In FRANCE: it is not uncommon to find toilets with no seat covers or lids.

When I lived in Japan, I was surprised to learn that many of the bathrooms were actually squatting toilets.  If you are really lucky, there was a pole to hang on to so you didn’t lose your balance.

I admit, at first these differences in the toilet do seem a bit strange but after a while you get used to it.”




The blog ‘Oh God My Wife Is German’ brings us a witty story about an unpleasant experience at a dentist’s office caused by misunderstanding. The author of this blog is living in Germany and writes about his life as an American expat. His goal is to make his readers laugh!

“I was taking a B1 German integration class, which is kind of like saying your German language skills are “intermediate, but you still suck.” Nevertheless, I felt I should have been able to make a simple appointment entirely in German. Here is what was said, if you were to translate everything directly into English:

ME: *Striding confidently up to the reception desk* “Good day to you. I would gladly like to make my teeth scrubbed clean.”

RECEPTIONIST: *A chubby woman with terrible hair and a deviated septum* “Okay. Would you like to have a professional examination with the dentist, or have a professional teeth cleaning?”

ME: *Looking stunned and confused, having only recognized the words ‘dentist’ and ‘teeth’*”




Karen van der Zee writes colorful and entertaining posts on her blog ‘Life In The Expat Lane’. She grew up in the Netherlands and has lived in many parts of the world. Besides writing for her blog, she has written over 30 romance novels.

In the following post, she is telling the story about newly arrived expats in Ghana. Karen describes in an amusing way how the newly expats are aggravated about traffic, dirt, toilets, restaurants and are not really seeing poverty and suffering.

“One evening in Ghana, at the house of friends, my man and I met a couple in their thirties who had recently arrived in the country. 

It was their first time in Africa. “That’s so beautiful!”  A lovely voice floats in the air as we enter the sitting room at the Sorensen’s house. 

We’ve been invited to dinner and to meet new arrivals Andrew and Valerie whose latest habitat was sterile Singapore.  The voice, we now realize, belongs to Valerie. 

What is so beautiful?  We don’t know.”




Amanda Kendle publishes posts about travel on her blog ‘Not A Ballerina’. She shares her experiences with her readers in both a meaningful and fun way. In the following article she writes about her disappointment about not suffering from the expected culture shock when she moved to Germany.

“When I first moved overseas to Japan, I definitely experienced a degree of culture shock, as anyone who’s been to Japan can understand – they do lots of things differently there.

I soon adjusted and loved living this different life, and when I moved on to Slovakia I found another complete set of things that were different, mostly centered around the remnants of socialist days which had not been gone that long when I lived in Bratislava in 2003-2004.

Then I moved to Germany.”




Kristy Rice is an Australian blogger and writer. She has lived with her family in 7 countries and writes with humor about her experiences of her expat life on her blog ‘Kristy Rice: 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle’. The following post tells us her funny story about her stranded car in Qatar.

“The culture shock of arriving in a new country can be severe. Possibly you’re driving on what feels like the wrong side of the road, the street signs may be in a different language and none of the items in the supermarket look vaguely familiar. For an expat, the first 6 to 12 months can bring all sorts of surprises.

Over time though, we begin to adjust and maybe even forget about the things we originally felt we couldn’t live without. On a good day when the sun is shining and you’re enjoying what your new country has to offer, you start to feel like there’s really not that much difference between where you are now and where you were originally from.

And then something happens.”




Heather is an ex-expat and the writer of the blog ‘Not From Lapland’. She used to live in Lapland and is now back with her family in England. In the following post read her hilarious story about all the things you can buy in a Finnish supermarket.

“There is very little you can’t buy in a well stocked Finnish supermarket.  Bread, milk, rifles, fishing nets, bullets, porn magazines, sex toys…

Wait, back up there a minute.

Sex toys?

Because I have long gotten over the shock of rifles, bullets and porn mags being readily available. Why would you buy a sex toy from a supermarket?

Seriously, can you imagine it?”




Susanna Perkins is the author of ‘Future Expats’. On her blog, she gives detailed information about how to accomplish an overseas move and how to support oneself while living there. In the following article Susanna gives a candid account of her first few days after arriving in her new home of Panama.

“I became a Panama expat one year ago.

On March 13, 2012, I landed — along with my mini-mountain of luggage — at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City.

I’d flown down by myself to find us a place to live. My husband and the dogs would follow once I’d accomplished that mission.

I had no definite plans. I’d reserved a room at the Centrum Tower Hotel in Panama City for the first night, but everything after that was a mystery.

My first few days here were pretty stressful.”




Russell Ward, originally from England, had moved to Canada and is now living in Sydney, Australia. He writes in his blog ‘In Search Of A Life Less Ordinary’ about his expat life and his ongoing search for a life less ordinary.

In the following amusing post you will find out that you might have trouble understanding Australian English even when British English is your native language.

“The Olympics truck has rolled on by (at least until the Paralympics). Games fever has passed. London 2012 is over and done with. Rio awaits in four years.

It’s a pretty good time to cool your jets, maybe give the other things in your life a fair suck of the sav, and make sure you don’t get your knickers in a knot when doing so.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about it’s thanks to the wonders of the Australian vernacular creeping into my lexicon.”




Stuart, an English man now living in The Netherlands, reports in his blog ‘Invading Holland’ about language misunderstandings, cultural confusion, bizarre adventures and a few cases of mistaken identity. His hilarious article describes a visit to his hairdresser gone awry.

“If you spend any amount of time living in the Netherlands, people will tell you that there are several very good reasons why you should learn the Dutch language.

For example; they might suggest that it will make it easier to meet people and make friends, or that it will help you fit in and understand what is going on around you.

But they are wrong. These are not the reasons why you should be learning the Dutch language.

There is only one reason that really matters and it is very, very important one…

It is so that you receive the haircut you were intending to get when visiting the hairdressers.”




Ariana Mullins is the American writer of her blog ‘And here we are’. She shares her family’s stories of challenge and adventure as expats in Europe, as well as inspiration for living a simple and meaningful life. Ariana writes beautifully about her time when she repatriated back into the US.

“But in California, I felt like I didn’t know how to do anything, or how to be me in a completely new context. I couldn’t figure out how to dress– I never seemed to be able to look like everyone else. 

There were no answering machines in the Philippines, and whenever I got one when I was making a call in the States, I would freeze up.  I didn’t know how to pump gas because, even though I had a Philippines driver’s license, we never had to pump our own there.”




Laura Leigh Parker records on her blog ‘Laura Leigh Parker’ about her family’s life in SE Asia, the US and when they are back in Asia again. She and her husband have headed a Christian children’s home and a humanitarian foundation in Asia.They are also involved in counter-human trafficking efforts.

Laura writes a sad and heartbreaking story about sex trafficking. When I read her story, the image she drew with her words stayed with me for quite a while.

“They walk the streets selling roses – flowers in the Western world that husbands give wives for Valentine’s Day or boyfriends bring dates for prom.

But, just recently, I’ve learned that selling roses here means something much different than a “Happy Anniversary” sentiment or a falling-in-love proclamation.

On the streets of Southeast Asia, children and women selling roses often means

they are selling themselves.”



What is your experience with culture shock? Do you have some culture shock examples?




11 Responses to Culture shock examples – funny to weird to sad stories

  1. Annie Andre June 10, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing my culture shock post with your readers. It was fun reading about other travellers culture shock experiences. I especially enjoyed Ariana Mullins article.


    • Heike June 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      Hi Annie, I really enjoyed your stories. I had fun looking through the internet and read all these culture shock stories. It’s a part of being an expat.

  2. Heather June 23, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    Ha ha what a great list of culture shock posts. thank you for the mention. :)

    • Heike June 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      You are welcome, Heather. You had great stories to tell about Lapland.

  3. Amanda Kendle June 24, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Heike – culture shock really is a funny thing, isn’t it! Appreciate the mention.

  4. Heike June 25, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    It surely keeps life interesting for expats. Amanda, I enjoyed your story.

  5. Russell July 26, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    Thanks for the mention, Heike. Great to see others are having as much fun as me! 😉

  6. AliReza July 9, 2015 at 5:27 am #

    yeah they where funny i wish i was abroad to talk English with other but because we dont have money we cant go any where i whish a day come that i go abroad to talk English

  7. reda April 15, 2017 at 4:03 am #

    in my case .it is not very funny < because my is the one that went to me

  8. Wahji Paaji April 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

    Maasai follows a very weird tradition of drinking raw blood. During festivals, or when someone is sick, they drink raw blood of cow because it is believed that it gives them strength. Also a recent study shows no sign of heart disease or cholesterol was found in Maasai tribe unlike the Americans. Strange isn’t it?
    For more information please visit
    Wahji Paaji

  9. Susanna Perkins December 5, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Just saw that you included one of my culture shock accounts in your roundup. Thanks for the shoutout!

    Nice article, with an informative variety of experiences and points of view. :-) I loved Stuart’s reasons for learning Dutch!

    I hadn’t been aware of your blog previously, but I’ll be following now.

    All the best,

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