When I was seven years-old, I took a trip a few hours outside Mumbai, India to my grandfather’s village. We sat down for another meal at another family-friend’s home. I wasn’t hungry, but I remember noticing frowns on the faces of the elderly women when I refused food. I clearly had no choice in the matter.

I’m left-handed, so I tore the naan-like bread and gathered the curried-vegetables with… you guessed it… my left hand.

The lady seated next to me, tapped my left hand with enough gusto that I dropped the piece of bread. My eyes widened. She then “guided” me through the motions of eating with my right hand. She proceeded to do this two more times. I looked at the woman, bewildered. I didn’t even want to eat and now I couldn’t even pretend to eat in peace?

It was my first memory of culture shock, a term coined in 1958 to describe the anxiety or personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life. One can suffer from a lack of direction, not knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate given the different language, customs and level of development.

I later found out eating with one’s left hand is very much taboo, for reasons you may have already guessed. Looking back and replaying the scene in my head, I can’t help but laugh. But as a child, I was confused and embarrassed.

What: Whether you’ve traveled half way across the world or drove to the opposite side of town, we here at JohnnyJet.com want you to share your culture shock moments with us- from the good, the bad, and the most memorable. The best story wins a travel package valued at nearly $100 USD.

  1. National Geographic’s 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas: This comprehensive guide of top destinations, expert advice, and scenic highlights will make a lovely addition to any travel junkie’s library. Packed with thousands of exciting ideas, maps, and charts, this book will jump start your travel “bucket list. Reduce culture shock with the traveler’s notebook; at-a-glance climate, language, currency, shopping tips and many more.
  2. Eagle Creek Travel Duffel: This durable bag features a storm-flap protected, main compartment, removable padded shoulder straps that adjusts for a comfortable carry, and a front exterior zip pocket for easy access with a back slip panel to stack on wheeled luggage. It’s smaller-sized duffel which also sports a convenient, reusable pouch that works as an internal packing accessory for shoes and clothes.
  3. GoGo Foldable Metallic Water Bottle: With 500ml liquid carrying capacity, what makes this product even more travel-friendly is that it’s pliable and so easily stored. Gone are the days of hassling with an empty bottle on the go, just fold this up and stick it in your purse.

How: Leave us with your favorite “culture shock” moment in the comment section below. Include your name and an email address. All official contest rules apply. 

When: The winner will be announced next Wednesday, June  27th and be contacted by a JohnnyJet.com representative. The last day/time to enter will be on Monday, June 25th 6pm PST.

Why: Take it from me. Being forced-fed curry is not a pleasant experience.


6 Comments On "Culture Shock Travel Contest"
  1. Sonia|

    I was riding my horse in England and we stopped in a Pub to have a drink. I said to my friends. “Oh my Fanny hurts”. Well they gave me a strange look !!!! in England fanny means some part of a ladies private area!

    I ofcourse meant my behind..honest

  2. Jennfer Walsh|

    Culture Shock Close To Home – I vaguely remember this culture shock incident I encountered when I was 2 years old. My parents took me on vacation to New Hampshire (I am originally from Massachusetts). We were in a restaurant and when asked what I wanted to drink, I answered, “coffee milk.” The server looked at my parents and asked if they were sure that was what they wanted me to have. My parents told the server yes. My “coffee milk” was placed before me and I took a sip only to spit it out and make a face only a child can make after eating something shockingly different. The part of New Hampshire I was in did not have the coffee milk I know, so I was served a hot coffee with milk at 2 years old.

  3. Alaena Hostetter|

    I was studying abroad the summer of ’09 in London with a bunch of girls from my program at my university. Part of our summer abroad program was taking weekend trips to neighboring countries.

    One weekend we were in Belfast for our weekly scheduled dose of culture shock, but this situation definitely takes the cake of all of my previous and subsequent culture shock moments traveling abroad.

    We were bar hopping (or pub hopping) in Belfast and met an interesting, fun and attractive group of guys. We hung out with them for a while and as the pubs were shutting down they asked if we wanted to go to an after party. We all wanted to keep the party going so we agreed to take cabs to the designated place.

    As we were talking logistics they started to say something about having some “craic.” But to our untrained American ears “craic” sounded a lot like “crack.”

    We all started to freak out, hoping we heard them wrong. We asked them what they said, and they repeated it, “Craic. It’s just craic!” We started backing away from the group of guys and told them we weren’t interested in hanging out anymore. They looked shocked like, “Was it something we said?”

    The more we backed away, trying to hail cabs for a ride back to our hotel, the more they tried to assure us, “We just want to have some ‘craic.’ A little bit of ‘craic’ never hurt anyone? C’mon girls, you’re down for ‘craic,’ aren’t you?”

    We were so freaked out we couldn’t get away fast enough. We all jumped in cabs, and they were STILL trying to explain what they were talking about. We told the cab driver, “Forget them, DRIVE!!!”

    We all got back safely in our hotel rooms feeling thankful that we did not go with these guys to the party. We told our professor the next day about what had happened, looking for some reassurance that this is not normal behavior in Belfast. He had a great chuckle and explained to us that “craic” is slang for “fun” in Northern Ireland, and we had worried for nothing.

  4. Polly Pollard|

    Upon boarding a boat traveling between islands in Indonesia I found a spot and put my backpack down hoping to secure a place for myself and my traveling companion during the passage. An Indonesian man took exception to my choice and slapped me across the face! I wasn’t able to communicate with him; however, his discomfort with my choice was readily apparent and I was shocked both physically and culturally.

  5. William Chinn|

    My wife, a 3rd generation Japanese-American, was told by her parents that when they passed away, the Koden given (money to the family to help defray the cost of the funeral) had to be recorded and when those people passed a similar amount had to be given back. Her parent had done it, now my wife had to do it. This requires subscribing to the local American newspaper as well as the local ethnic Japanese newspaper forever and monitoring the respective obituaries. As time went by and we grew older, her parents passed on; our interest in going back to our Buddhist Temple grew. Our minister, another 3rd generation, was discussing tradition and death in his sermon. He flat out stated that monitoring the obituaries was crazy and a waste of time, and the people in Japan haven’t done it since WWII. We still catch ourselves turning to the obituaries regardless.

  6. Melfed|

    I was travelling solo through Russia on the trans-siberian train when I came to a small town and decided to stay for the day. I was on the bus talking to a friend in English and some old woman came up to me. She looked at me with a big smile and said “hello”. I responded “hello” and proceeded to chat with my friend. The woman again was interested and said “how are you?” to which I politely responded “fine thank you”. Eventually she asked where I was going and I responded the train station which is also where she was going so we got off the bus and walked there together.

    During this time the woman quickly told me that she had lost her husband 6 months prior and was on her way to settle some of his business. She then looked at me, hugged me, and said meeting me was the best thing that had happened to her in a long time. She then proceeded to say that talking to me was the first time in her life that she had ever spoken English and ever met a native English speaker. The town I was in was only recently opened to the public as it was a Russian military town for military officials only. The woman was a translator for the Soviets and spent her whole life translating military documents from English to Russian.

    The woman started to cry and was hugging me and kissing me constantly. My encounter with her was the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life. She put me on the right bus, bought me a pack of cookies, and walked off the bus saying “remember me!”. I don’t think I could ever forget such an experience! Culture shock beyond ever imaginable!

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