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What cultural or legal differences have you been surprised by in your travels?

What cultural or legal differences have you been surprised by in your travels?

Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 01:27 PM
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What cultural or legal differences have you been surprised by in your travels?

I for one have led a sheltered life. Traveled all over the US (49 states)with my apple pie american parents/family, plus Canada and TJ Mexico (very briefly).

I am just getting ready for my first trip to Europe and was reading over a post about Ambien. It never occurred to me that drug laws were different in European countries, or anywhwere else for that matter. Not that it's weird or anything, just never thought about it.
The funniest thing I was shocked by was in San Diego, the first time I heard someone speaking spanish, I saw them speaking Spanish to thier dogs! I never thought dogs could understand Spanish! So Goofy! That still makes me chuckle

So what cultural differences have you encountered that you weren't expecting?
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 01:31 PM
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coed toilets
asking where the "toilet" is located is considered okay
weird looking toilets
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 02:01 PM
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Yeah, the toilets.
And also not to sneeze in public in Japan. A huge no-no.
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 02:40 PM
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no need to worry, you'll never find a toilet.

Europeans don't understand bathroom, restroom etc.

Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 02:52 PM
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KJulie, where the coed toilets at?
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 03:51 PM
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Toilets covers a big part of the differences. Coed toilets are common throughout eastern europe. Also, there you won't always find the stool to sit on like you are used to. There will be holes in the floor to squat over, so practice this position before you leave to build up the thigh muscles. And for the guys who try this, your billfold, will fall right down the hole, so take that into consideration. Also, there may not always be toilet paper, so always carry your own.

I was in Japan years ago and they were really coed. I was standing at urinal when woman walked up beside me to wash her hands. WOW, I jerked around so quickly I peed all over my jeans.

There will be a lot of differences you will encounter for things just as simple as waiting in lines. A lot of countries don't have nice lines like in US and UK. People just crowd around, push, shove, etc. Not for the weak or faint of heart.

Cleanliness is another big difference, so have a strong stomach. Even with a strong stomach, get a prescription strength anti diarreal to take with you.

It can be a lot of fun, but can be a disaster if you haven't done quite a bit of preparation. Of course, others will tell you to not think ahead about anything . . . just go and wing it. Depends on how well you handle disasters.
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 03:54 PM
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Have had coed W.C. in Paris.

Don't be a polite American and ask for "the rest room". In London, they literally showed me to an employee break room and had me take a seat. I sat there for about 10 minutes splitting my gut, before a light bulb came on. Asked for the toilet and got it right away! The embarrassing thing was, my tour bus of +40 fellow travelers had been waiting for me all that time outside!
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 04:22 PM
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I never realised a toilet could cause so much confusion! We Brits are famed for our "toilet" humour where all jokes are below the waistline!
I found it amazing when driving in the US that people obey the STOP signs even on empty roads. Then again, I know that Europeas are amazed that the British will always stop for pedestrians on a pedestrian (zebra) crossing. Indeed, if you didn't, you could be booked by the police for driving without due care to other road users.
As for the Spanish understanding dog, here in Wales, we always speak Welsh to our dogs. An example is "cwtch" which means loosely "go to your basket". I read about a Welsh farmer that sold his sheepdog to an English farmer. The new owner had to contact the old one because the dog would not round up the sheep as he could only "understand" Welsh!
Another thing that amazed me about the US was the absolute politeness in everyday life (not the "have a anice day", but genuine please and thanks).
Old Jan 23rd, 2003, 04:50 PM
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AR: What a nice comment about the U.S.! I have often read negative opinions here. I've always thought we were pretty friendly, except for the occasional rude service person but I figure it's the business's loss. I do think the English are far and away the most friendly people on earth (or at least where I've traveled).

Anyhow, fun thread. My eye opener was the toilet paper or rather, the lack thereof. Wouldn't travel without it now. Never ran into a coed toilet that didn't have a lock on the door. I was prepared for the "hole in the ground" ones but tried to avoid them whenever possible. Remember when you took a family trip and before leaving home your Dad would say "has everyone gone to the bathroom?" Good advice before leaving your hotel. Oh, and another thing, I did have to get used to asking where the "toilet" is rather than the restroom. Although, in French it sounds much better.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:00 AM
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Yes, the toilet situation is quite casual in Eastern Europe regarding the coed situation. Another thing is that in large public restrooms, cleaning ladies are always at work. You know how in USA at McDonalds, etc., the guys and gals come around sweeping and moping under your feet at the tables? Well in EE the cleaners (always women) will do the same thing while we guys are standing at the urinals.

Also, these places charge a small fee, usually equivalent to about 20 cents or so. The collector is usually a woman and she just sits inside the door with a clear view of the urinals and sometimes the stalls don't even have doors.

So for you guys who are somewhat squeemish about when you can get the stream started, it will be an interesting experience.

Don't know what is going on in the women's area. Perhaps to meet all 'equal treatment' laws, there are male attendants over there.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:07 AM
g in S
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Ask for the toilette or WC. Most anyone will understand this.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:21 AM
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The toire in Japan that is like Captain Kirk's seat on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Japanese baseball fans & their organized cheering.

Window shopping in certain areas of Amsterdam.

No hats on men. Sticking out in the crowd when wearing a baseball cap.

Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:26 AM
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I've always been surprised by the closing and opening hours of stores, banks, pharmacies and the like. So used to being able to run out anytime and do my business or shop here at home. Also found it strange that some countries (Switzerland, for ex.) you have to go to a pharmacy store to buy things like tylenol.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:35 AM
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I am female, ran into the coed restroom situation at ORLY while I was changing my clothes and 2 guys walked right on in!

But the most interesting difference I find is when you need to use the bathroon in Italy, the phrase is, "devo fare il pipi." (yes, pronounced pee pee!) This is quite socially acceptable for both men and women, but whenever I had to say it I still tripped over the words! Just cultural conditioning. Regarding cleanliness, I have seen restrooms at both extremes, BOTH here in the US and in Europe, so I don't think there is a universal rule. But do carry your own small supply of TP.

Another interesting conversation I had with a Male italian friend (just a friend) yesterday:
Many people in Europe think it is strange when they see Americans smiling all the time. It is seen as somewhat insincere, whereas we think we are just being nice. When an American woman smiles at you in passing, it is percieved as an open invitation, and is one reason that American women are thought to be "easy."
Since I was raised to offer a quick smile in many social situations as a politeness, it is now almost an unconscious reflex. These subtle differences are fascinating to me!

And I loved AR's sheepdog story!!!!
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:38 AM
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I think that the first time I was in London, I was surprised when needing something at a pharmacy, how helpful the pharmacist was and that they are able to do more than US pharmacists for customers.
Then there is also the surprise that I was able to get allergy meds without prescriptions and aspirin with codeine.
In London on the Tube, noticing the many "gentlemen" still giving a seat to a lady or elderly person.
In Paris it was the toilet in the floor. I knew about them, but meeting one for the first time was still memorable.
Gypsies in Paris being allowed to go as far as they do with the panhandling and begging.
And I too enjoyed watching a man on the Blvd St Germain, have a conversation with his dog and got a real laugh out of my husbands remark about the dogs being so smart, they understand French!
Quinty, you are going to just love it!
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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Legal difference:

In Switzerland, employers can ask for specific ages/sex/martial&family status for applicants:

"Looking for 25 -35 year old Female with no children to work as cashier"

Lawyers would have a field day with that in the US!
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:44 AM
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Although I've only been to Italy (once in the middle of a heat wave in August), the biggest surprise to me was no ice in your drinks! After drinking hot red wine all day, I needed something cold and icy, so figured McDonalds should have ice. Wrong! Even though the ads on the windows showed big, icy drinks, no ice was to be had!
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:48 AM
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My most memorable surprise was when I discovered that children in Denmark could speak fluent Danish.

For about three days all of the kids had been speaking to me in English.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:52 AM
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One thing that I noticed is that at smaller stores (in France I experienced this) you do not go around picking things up. The shopkeepers will rush over and offer to show you things. That is fine with me afterall it is their store. I just have a hard time remembering because I am used to just browsing on my own and asking for help if I need it.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:56 AM
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Yes! that was a surprise to me too! And they leave you alone while you shop! None of that "Hello my name is so and so", they let you shop but all you have to do is look their way and they will come help you.

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