Exploring new destinations brings the joy of discovering unique cultures and lifestyles. Yet, even seasoned travelers encounter local customs that leave them puzzled.
Have you ever encountered a tradition you just couldn’t wrap your head around? A recent social media post sparked a lively discussion as globetrotters shared the customs they found most perplexing on their journeys. Here are some of the top responses.
1. Flush or Fold? Mexico’s Toilet Paper Predicament in Restrooms
Unlike many parts of the world where toilet paper is conveniently flushed away, in Mexico, it is common to discard used toilet paper in bins placed next to the toilet.
“For me, it’s in Mexico where the septic system can’t handle toilet paper, so there are small trash cans next to every toilet for the.. um.. used paper,” said one commenter.
While it might initially strike visitors as unusual and uncomfortable, locals are accustomed to this practice. There are now more and more European-style toilets whose septic systems can well handle toilet paper, but it should not come as a shock to you when you come across one that requires you to dispose of your toilet paper in a trash bin.
2. Difficulty Navigating Squatting Toilets Abroad
Squat toilets, common in various countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, are a source of bewilderment for travelers accustomed to toilet seats.
“Squatting toilets. I know it is just local culture/tradition, but I hate going into a public toilet and being welcomed by others’ effluence…” said one comment.
It is understandable that anyone used to toilet seats would have trouble getting used to squat toilets. Squatting is uncomfortable and sometimes a source of hygiene risks.
3. Spanish Slow Motion: Getting Used to the Tardiness Culture
The distinct time shift in Spain is a source of huge concern for many tourists. With everything happening several hours later than many are used to, it remains a custom for visitors to adapt to. Breakfast at midday, dinner at 11 pm, and nights that stretch into the early hours are all part of the Spanish slow-motion culture
One tourist said about their time in Spain: “I’ve been to Spain twice and can’t get my head around everything happening 3-5 hours later than I’m used to… Breakfast at midday… Dinner at 11 pm… Out for drinks until 4 am…”
In a world full of hurries, Spain seemingly invites tourists to decelerate and cherish every moment they have.
4. The Barely Private Restrooms in the US
For many international visitors, one of the most puzzling aspects of American public restrooms is the conspicuous gap between the stall door and its frame – a gap wide enough to defy privacy norms… and can be uncomfortable to people from other countries.
“How American public restroom stalls have that gap between the door and frame wide enough for you to make eye contact with anyone walking outside the stall,” read a comment.
Another commenter revealed, “The one thing I don’t like, that’s less of a deal, is the gap between the floor and the walls/door. Walking into the bathroom to see someone by their shoes is weird.”
5. Feast Mode On: Is Your Appetite Big Enough for the Philippines?
While it may seem astonishing for people who are used to having two or three meals daily, Filipinos have five.
“I’m Filipino. Brought my Canadian husband home, he had difficulty adjusting his appetite because we eat five times daily,” read one comment.
Have your appetite ready when visiting the Philippines. Mealtime is more than just a time for sustenance; it allows family and friends to gather, chat, and share a bite together.
6. To Tip or Not to Tip?
While tipping is considered a customary practice in the United States, many visitors find the whole thing perplexing.
“The unhinged tipping culture in the US. I want to go to a restaurant without feeling like an ungrateful Scrooge or ripping myself off. I understand staffing is an expense; just factor it into the price! Less egregious but in a similar vein is not including tax in stores,” said one commenter.
“As an American – both of these have always bothered me. And I WAS a waiter, bartender, and Bus Person for years. I still think tipping is 1. a rip-off to customers, 2. a disgusting disservice to wait staff, and 3. perpetuating allowing restaurant owners to not have to pay their staff. It’s gotten so unbelievably out of control. Anywhere you go now, it’s asking for a tip on the card reader, or someone is swinging an iPad around so it can “ask you a few questions,” with number 1 being how much more you would like to pay for the service.”
7. The Price of Privacy: Encounters With Europe’s Pay-To-Use Restrooms
If you thought you could visit a European grocery store or fast-food restaurant and use a clean restroom, you might be in for a rude shock.
“The library in Amsterdam is a giant, modern, amazing facility with free everything: free computers and internet to use; free books and movies to borrow; it even has game consoles set up for free use. But the bathroom still costs money because there is a bathroom workers union, and they are not to be messed with,” said one comment.
Another user, with an even surprising toilet encounter, said, “I was just at a mall in Berlin (aptly named Mall of Berlin), and the bathroom was technically free, but they pushed you to donate at least half a euro to keep it clean and would yell at you if you tried to walk past without paying, but it’s free.”
8. Handling the Heatwave Havoc in AC-Lacking Europe
For many travelers used to the comfort provided by air conditioners in the scorching summer, the absence of them in most European destinations was shocking.
“Lack of air conditioning in Europe and no screens on the windows. I was staying in Italy at a Marriott property, and the hotel room was sweltering in December. I opened the window, and the room was immediately flooded with mosquitoes.”
9. Unspoken Nuisance: The Disturbing Normalization of Catcalling
Catcalling is downright rude and derogatory. The unwelcome comments and whistles are considered to be very disrespectful in many countries.
However, one commenter could not understand its popularity in Latin America. It seemed to be an everyday thing, and nobody seemed to be much bothered by it.
“Women being hissed at as they walk down the street. A method of catcalling in many countries. I experienced it most in Latin America,” they said, revealing a custom they could not bring themselves to understand.
10. Urban Roar: The Deafening Noise in Manila
While Manilla is a sought-after tourist destination, according to some commenters, it’s not one of those places you can go to relax and unwind.
The tourists who have been to Manila can’t help but comment on the noise and chaos in the city.
“The absolute disregard for noise pollution in Manila. It’s almost impossible to escape the noise. There are loud cars and beeping everywhere. Also, nobody uses headphones. People will play videos at full volume, and nobody seems to mind, and so many of those videos have these annoying sound effects. I feel like I developed some disorder there,” read one comment.
11. Thirst for Change: Europe’s Unconventional Tap Water Culture
Many people were used to asking for free tap water when they ate at a restaurant. Many people were used to this until they visited Europe and realized that they had to pay for refillable tap water in the European restaurants they went to.
One commenter expressed their frustration, saying, “I went to Italy and Switzerland, and it was so frustrating how regular water wasn’t free and refillable! I only drink water, and being outside all day, I can drink a lot of it. But I hated how we had to pay for the water in restaurants, and it wasn’t even that much! Only .5 -.75 liters for two people. I don’t get why regular water can’t be included in the service charge that Italian restaurants charge.”
12. Turkey’s Nonchalant Approach to Traffic Safety
Some countries completely disregard traffic safety, which was a huge shock to travelers who come from countries that adhered to traffic safety rules.
One commenter said, “People driving without a seatbelt in Turkey. Why?”
In reply to the above comment, one user listed more countries whose disregard for traffic safety was baffling. They said, “You can go ahead and add Eastern Europe, Egypt, Morocco, and Mexico. It is a macho culture. You are offending the driver if you wear your seat belt. You have to trust the driver. There are also special metal click things that they insert into the seat belt to stop annoying dinging, which every car has now.”
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