What is your most memorable cultural shock?
In summer of 2015, I was in Helsinki, Finland for an internship. Although, I had read that Finnish people are reserved and like tostay within their space, I had not expected it to be this:
At a bus stop: You are alone in the shade of the stop and that is your space. No one will come to bother you.
Inside a bus: You enter a bus and see that all the window seats are occupied. You don't have a seat and have to stand. Respect that space! (This is rather extreme, but you definitely get anxious as to where should you sit.)
You are scared to shout to the driver to stop the bus: I was running to catch the bus and signaled the driver by my hands to stop the bus. I entered the bus and saw all eyes were turned to me. I have never felt so guilty of anything.
I caught my Finnish neighbor sneaking into his room and pretending that he didn't see me in the hallway:
There was seemingly no traffic and I decided to cross the road while the light was still red. I looked back and saw a man shaking head in discontent. I waited for it to turn green next time onward.
Finns don't like small talk. You ask general questions and a long, detailed answer follows.
In Japan, during my first week here, I had to go through a medical check-up in the university clinic, a normal procedure for the new students and old ones as well.
I didn't know where the clinic building was, so I asked another student about it. She told me that she was on her way to the clinic too, and that she could show me the place. While we were on our way, she began asking me where I was coming from and so on; as I was replying to her, I noticed that she was wearing a face-mask, one exactly like this:
I thought that perhaps it was a must to wear a face-mask before going to the clinic, as a kind of protection against some prospective infections.
I asked her: "Is it necessary to wear a face-mask before going to the clinic?"
She replied: "No, no… I just didn't do my makeup today."
Found to be the most common type of public toilet in China, I genuinely thought that I would eventually be able to learn how to use these things and become at one with the culture during my two-month stay in Beijing last summer.
I never managed to learn how to use them in my entire two months spent in Beijing.