Culture Shock

Many have travelled across the globe. Despite that, no amount of preparation could have avoided the inevitable culture shock that are bound to be experienced in a foreign country Many people confuse the term culture shock with the phase of feeling discomfort, confusion, frustration and homesickness before adjusting to a foreign culture. However, culture shock is so much more! Today, we will bring you stories of the two most apparent culture shock - in China and Japan.


Sasha is sharing her culture shock experiences when she was visiting China; and here’s something that never fails to startle foreigners (including Chinese people that are not from China) - the food.

What is ubiquitous in restaurants in China? The answer is startlingly obvious: Lazy Susans dominate the dining tables. Prior to coming to China, Sasha had always imagined Chinese food as your typical General Tso’s chicken, egg rolls, crab rangoons, and fortune cookies. But after arriving, she came to the realization that not a single one of those dishes are served in China. During the first few weeks here, Sasha’s volunteering group went out to dozens of group dinners. Being introduced to the Chinese way of dining out, there was unquestionably eye-opening, to say the least. For one, the community style of dining was drastically unfamiliar in comparison to the American dining ways- whereby everyone ordered their own main course. But that was not the case for China. Dishes after dishes are laid out on a lazy Susan. The table is spun around and you grab what you like; and this is not only a mere starter, a main, and dessert here; a Chinese dinner is a never-ending marathon of food. It often starts out with some cold dishes, and is followed up by a wide variety of main courses. Of course, rice, dumplings, or noodles are a must-have in every meal. Sasha learnt many different things - soup comes last in a Chinese dinner instead of first, and dessert usually consists of a massive fruit plate, not her usual ice-cream, pudding, or chocolate marshmallows.

Dining out is also a very social experience in China, and by that I mean it’s hella noisy. Back at home, I was taught to politely and quietly eat in a restaurant, and say things like, “Excuse me, waiter. Could I have a glass of water?” I quickly realized that in China, however, you can just yell out, “Waiter! Bring a glass of water!” . Chinese restaurants are usually crowded, noisy, and smoky. There are “no smoking” signs posted everywhere in Beijing, but no one seems to pay them any mind. I was always taught that it was rude to noisily eat my food, but here in China slurping your noodles is a sign that you enjoy them. A dinner out in China is usually quite raucous, and more often than not it involves heavy drinking.
Chinese people enjoy eating just about any part of an animal. Whereas Americans basically only eat chicken breasts, wings, and thighs, Chinese will also dig into the liver, heart, and especially the feet. There’s an old Chinese belief that eating an animal organ will benefit your corresponding organ – eating a heart is good for your heart, eating a brain will make you smart, and eating an animal’s penis will, well you get the idea.


Sara Whittaker from Britain went to Japan for eight months to study Japanese on a scholarship. If there was an award for orderliness, Japan would win without fail. They are so famed for their unique lifestyle that at times, seems almost alien to outsiders. Here are a few of the interesting and notable things Sara’s experienced during her stay.
After spending some time in Japan, people tend to get complacent when it comes to safety and crime.Only in Japan, will you see the locals reserving cafĂ© tables with their handbags whilst they leisurely queue.Only in Japan, will you witness lone teenage girls walking home from school late at night without any guardian. Only in Japan, groups of men walking on the streets are more likely greet you with a respectful little bow than to threaten you. Indeed, it has been incredibly comfortable, being able to live in a utopia where crimes are so rare. But don’t let yourself get used to it. If anything, it is inadvisable to make a habit of keeping your wallet dangling out precariously from your pocket should you intend to return to Britain...

In Japan, customers are treated like long-lost members of the royal family. The staff never fail to smile, never too busy to lend a hand to help and never expect any politeness in return. People sometimes take the courtesy for granted. There really is nothing you can do in response to the enthusiastic shouts of “Irashaimase!” (“welcome”) except nod in acknowledgement. Whatever you ask the service staff to do, they will do and they will do it to the best of their ability - nothing less.

Etiquette. In Japan, chopsticks are used everywhere. Do not ever stand them up in your rice; the likeness to a pair of funerary incense makes this a huge impropriety among the Japanese. Also, it is best to restrain yourself from waving them around as you speak. Using chopsticks to point at people is an absolute no-no.

As long as you’re in Japan, you will, one way or another, come across low tables where diners sit on the floor and gape at people who are able to kneel down and rest their body weight on their heels for hours - while you, on the other hand, will have to struggle for a bit and shift positions from time to time.

The Japanese can be quite indirect with their requests and suggestions so make sure you’re aware of what they are really trying to get at. For instance, when someone offers to demonstrate how the cloth provided can be used to wipe the surfaces: they are asking you to clean the kitchen.


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