If you’ve traveled to a foreign country before, chances are you’ve experienced culture shock, but the truth is culture shock can happen anywhere. There are different cultures even within one country. But the more different a place is than what we’re used to, the bigger your shock will be. Being from Western countries, the places we usually find most different are in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Culture shock doesn’t denote a better or worse culture, just a different one. These experiences and the resulting shock, while scary, are good for us. They help us grow and open our minds to different ways of thinking. Here is a list of five cities that will really shock your senses:
Very quickly, Marrakech will put you into sensory overload. In central square, you will see things you only assumed with Arabian cliches, like snake charmers, acrobats, fire-eaters, and fortune tellers. You will be brought back to the days of Marco Polo and the spice trade with numerous market sellers displaying their herbs and spices. The smell of these alone is enough to make a person overwhelmed.
Bangkok is an alive and riveting place. But for just as much excitement there is also an underbelly of scamming and sex industry. Westerns are basically seen as walking wallets and not only will you be stopped by every local vendor trying to sell you something, you’ll be quoted a much higher price than Thais. For just as much leniency as there seems in Thailand, there is just as much harsh punishment for rules that don’t exist in the West. Bangkok can be a confusing array of experiences and rules, but it will offer you all the excitement you can stomach.
Most people who go to Cairo don’t experience what they think they’re signing up for. Yes, you’ll see the Great Pyramids of Giza while you’re there as well as the Sphinx and many other nearby sights, but the city itself is a strange contradiction of old world Islam with fake tourist traps. There is also no such thing as freedom of speech in Egypt as anti-Islamic comments are not tolerated and can get you thrown in jail. Women are also not viewed the same in Egypt as they are in the Western world. If you want to avoid stares and vocal criticism, you should dress conservatively.
The sheer amount of people in Beijing is enough to shock you on its own. Beijing is the third most populated city in the world’s most populated country. If the amount of people weren’t enough, Eastern culture on it’s own is very different from the Western world. With an array of dizzying lights, cars, and skyscrapers, Beijing is also heavily polluted. Be careful crossing the streets as pedestrians don’t have the right of way like they do in the West.
New Delhi, India
India’s capital is sure to overwhelm even the most experienced traveller. This chaotic city is suffocating with sights and sounds and smells. Traffic lanes don’t seem to exist in Delhi, with cars and bikes weaving in and out of everywhere. If there’s a space to go (and sometimes even if there isn’t), you can be sure someone is taking it. Living standards are far from what most Western people are used to as well. Living on a budget does not mean the same thing to the people of New Delhi as it does to you. Because of this, scams involving tourists are frequent. This aggressive and unruly city will be sure to captivate you as much it is frightens.
All these places will very quickly overwhelm you and put your senses into overdrive. Culture shock is real and it will happen. Best way to deal with it: take a deep breath and dive in headfirst.