7 Honest Stories: What Country Was Your Biggest “Not What You Expected” Experience?

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The experience of traveling to a new country can be an exhilarating adventure. However, sometimes our expectations don’t align with reality, and we’re surprised by what we find. A traveler on a travel forum asked for others’ stories about what countries differed from what they expected. From the vibe of cities to the approachability of the population, there are many reasons why a trip to another country may exceed expectations or disappoint.

1. Greek Islands

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A hiker was in for a surprise when they took a trip to the Greek islands, having previously believed they were only worth visiting for their beaches and sunny weather. After going on a hiking trip to one of the islands in October, it became one of their favorite trips ever.

They’re already planning another trip to the islands. They were partial to Athens, whose archaeological sites were as expected, but the food they describe as being out of this world. Everywhere they went, there was more food, and they were tempted to try everything in sight.

2. Vietnam

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This next vacationer’s story reveals how mental states can taint our experiences. They visited Vietnam in 2011 and had an average experience due to being too touristy and having unfriendly, argumentative people. The place, they thought, was an unjustifiable hassle.

They initially thought they would never return, but due to a visa run, they returned in 2019 and had an incredible time. They describe the locals as kind, generous, and friendly, with great food, a fun party vibe, and lots to see and do.

They speculate that their previous experience may have been affected by their mental state or other factors, but ultimately concluded Vietnam is a great destination that they had unfairly compared to other countries they had been to, like Laos and Cambodia.

Others shared the opinion that Vietnam was an affordable and beautiful place with lovely people, though they were warned of the country being “sketchy,” “dodgy,” and “touristy.”

3. Slovenia

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A traveler with low expectations for their trip to Slovenia was pleasantly surprised when they arrived in the Balkan country. They describe being blown away by the lovely people, exceptional natural landscapes, and delicious food.

Others add that Slovenia has impressive caves, and the area of Kobarid is breathtaking. A fellow traveler says they went in with preconceived notions based on pictures of Slovenia, but when they got there, they fell in love with the country and would even consider living there.

4. Paris, France

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One astute observer noticed a surprising lack of mentions for Paris, France; despite the city being such an infamous letdown to so many tourists, there’s a phenomenon named after it: Paris Syndrome. In response, a seasoned traveler of France explains that France’s different neighborhoods and even Paris are incomparable.

The touristy sites, as they call them, be crowded and stressful, but there are more laidback neighborhoods. They claim you need a week to experience both.

Another person verified that there are dirty spots in France packed with scammers and pickpocketers, which exceeded what they had been warned about. However, they grant that the food and landmarks are even nicer than expected, leading them to desire more exploration of France. Some places are famous for a reason.

5. South Africa

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Travelers who have been to South Africa unanimously agree that visiting the region can be jarring due to the stark contrast between the country’s wealthy and poor communities and the diverse cultures. A tourist describes their experience of South Africa as being “disorienting.”

They say Johannesburg was reminiscent of home, yet many other things were out of place. Additionally, they describe a series of extremes: extreme wealth, extreme poverty, towns that are entirely comprised of white Europeans, and small towns that are the opposite.

The country feels segregated in every way, which was surprising for them because they knew little of South Africa’s history before going. Other travelers concur that the country’s wealth gap is unbelievable.

6. Japan

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Japan is often touted as a utopia of safety and innovation. However, one journeyer contests this reputation. They say they managed to find several areas that could only be described as sketchy and unsafe. Another visitor wrestles with the idea that their expectations of Japan may have been too high.

While they only spent a little bit of time in Tokyo, they did make a stop there, as well as in Osaka, and they think it’s similar to any metropolitan city, just a bit cleaner and more organized. Other than that, though, they argue that it’s much of the same. Kyoto, they describe as being much more unique and cultured. 

7. The Netherlands

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This voyager prefaces their story with the disclaimer that this is likely an unpopular opinion, but they were not fans of the Netherlands. Though it was a brief trip, they thought Amsterdam was disappointing because they didn’t connect with the place or the people. Regarding the local cuisine and culture, they found the food weird and the vibes off.

To make matters worse, they witnessed a racist encounter that put a sour taste in their mouth for the area. The Schipol Airport was also the worst airport experience of their life. Another jet-setter responds by claiming they had a similar experience in the Netherlands, describing it as unwelcoming.

However, other people offer different opinions, declaring Amsterdam a second home to them because it’s so welcoming and beautiful. Another argues you can’t characterize the whole country based on some bad experiences you had in one city.

You Probably Can’t Afford These 10 Travel Destinations(They’re the Most Expensive in the World)

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You’re not imagining it; travel costs have increased. That’s not stopping luxury travelers from jet-setting around the world, though. In fact, new data shows travelers spent 44% more on trips to the 25 most expensive destinations in the world compared to that spent on travel to other countries.

You Probably Can’t Afford These 10 Travel Destinations(They’re the Most Expensive in the World)

10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women Traveling Solo

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Sadly, there are still places where female travelers face a heightened risk of violence and harassment. As a result, it’s more important than ever to prioritize the safety of women on the road. To help you plan your next adventure with confidence, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most dangerous countries for solo female travelers to avoid.

10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women Traveling Solo

10 Reasons Americans Are So Easy to Spot in Foreign Countries

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Are you an American curious to know what makes it evident to Non-Americans? Me too! So when I came across the question, “What are obvious immediate giveaways that someone is an American?” I jumped right in to discover these top-voted responses.

10 Reasons Americans Are So Easy to Spot in Foreign Countries

19 of the Cheapest Places in the World to Travel

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Do you want to spend less and travel more? We have you covered with a great list of some of the cheapest places to travel to.

19 of the Cheapest Places in the World to Travel

21 Travel Gifts Women Actually Want

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These travel gifts for women are a great way to show your favorite traveler how much they mean to you while elevating their travel experience.

21 Travel Gifts Women Actually Want

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.