1. Cuba to USA
The size of everything, I was picked up from the airport in a Ford Expedition, which was about the size of my house back in Cuba, and then taken to a six bedroom house. I remember I used to feel uncomfortable in the big rooms, so I would hang out in closets and what not at first.
On a side note, right before I left my older brother told me that in the US you could tell the toilet to wipe you, and a hand would come out of the back to gently wipe your bottom. He went on to specify that I must ask in English, because if I asked in Spanish, the hand would put a finger in my ass. I didn’t shit for a week.
So I guess another surprise was normal toilets.
Let me tell you a story. For the first few years of my life I lived in a rainforest in a little leaf hut with my grandmother. No electricity, no running water, no cars. It was literally a rainforest and I had no idea what the outside world was like.
My father who lived in Australia (he was deported from my country because my family didn’t like him) then decided that at 7 I would have to come to Australia for my education.
The whole experience was surreal to me. I remember flying on the plane and been so confused at how such a heavy thing could fly. Even the lights were amazing to me. Turning them on and off was like magic to my mind. When I landed in Australia my father asked me if I wanted a drink of water and my reply was, “There doesn’t seem to be a river anywhere near by, so how are we going to get it?” My dad then showed me a tap and my mind was blown.
Where was the river where this water was coming from?
The refrigerator also blew my mind.
In the village if we had meat we would eat it immediately otherwise and here was this magic machine that preserved it. He later asked if I wanted to go to the grocery store to get food for dinner. I replied with, “You don’t have to grow your own food?” My dad chuckled and we went to the grocery store. I was amazed. Most of these foods I had never seen in my life and there was so much of it! Also, I could eat any meat I wanted! I could keep going on with things that amazed me, but really there were so many.
Having visited South Africa, the price of food in general. Even with the conversion rate, everything was at least half the price they sell it in Europe.
- Roads are smoother
- There are traffic laws and most people abide by them
- People honk in third world to tell you they are there, in first world honks are used mainly for road raging
- People bargain more in 3rd Worlds
- Refrigeration isn’t standard in 3rd world. Things in refrigerators or coolers at the market, are just lit and blowing lukewarm air
- Ice is uncommon, if it is around its possible it came from a block of ice.
- Customer service exists in 1st world, 3rd world you eat what’s being made even if it is bad/made incorrectly/ don’t like? too bad
- Fruits are better in 3rd world, first world fruits (most of the time) are picked before being ripe and shipped.
- Diet soda options are everywhere.
- Both pepsi and coke options are everywhere
- water in most 1st world is drinkable by tap. 3rd world not so much
- Depending where you are, showers and toilets are combined.
- No flushing TP down the toilet in 3rd world countries
- most streets are clean in 1st world, trash litter garbage everywhere in 3rd world.
- There is no concept of a line in 3rd world countries…sadly even in China and middle east as well.
5. Tonga to USA
My uncle joined the Peace Corps and lived in Tonga (tiny island in the Pacific) for two years.
One of his friends from his time there went on a trip to the US and my uncle met her in LA.
Anyhow, they got into a cab at the airport and my uncle said that his friend had this terrible look of anxiety on her face and just kept looking around; her head was just darting around every which way. He asked if everything was alright and she said she was waiting for the high-speed chases, gunfire, and explosions.
My uncle had to explain that those sort of things typically only happen in the movies. For her the only window into the world outside Tonga was movies she had seen. It’s interesting how media, or the lack thereof, can shape someone’s perceived reality of the world.
- Being able to walk in the streets with your phone in your hand was a bizarre feeling.
- How everyone was on time.
- Passengers on trains have little to no instructions and mayhem doesn’t break loose.
- Being able to find a ride online from a stranger and not be murdered along the way.
- How everyone respected convention. (Once I saw a hat on the floor for about as long as I sat there and no one picked it up. In Honduras it’d have been gone in less than a heartbeat.)
- How they allowed (and protected) the nazi party to hold a demonstration. In Honduras, they would’ve been repressed in no time.
- How I didn’t really need a car. I was able to take public transportation with my expensive headphones, book and smartphone in full view.
I’m sure Buenos Aires (Argentina) in the 90s doesn’t qualify as “third world”, but… this was a culture shock to me too when I first moved to the States.
My childhood neighborhood was a group of 5 houses, kinda like a cul-de-sac. We all knew everyone, the kids grew up together, the moms all knew each other from PTSA meetings, etc etc.. My parents gave no second thought to letting me stay at a neighbor’s for the night, and it just seemed like all the houses belonged to us all equally.
I’ve been living in apartments in the US for ~13 years now, and it’s so weird to think of how little I’ve ever interacted with neighbors here.
8. Kenya to USA
I grew up in Kenya as a child and when I moved to the US, I was surprised how relaxed everyone was about not being mugged from.
I grew up in Zacapa, Guatemala, one of the hottest places in central America where you only find AC in banks. I moved to Arizona and I bought a car with no AC. People laughed at me when for getting it and I called them all pussies and told them how badass I was for living for years without AC. Springtime finishes and there I am, regretting my decision. I didn’t count on being constantly exposed to AC all day long anywhere I went except for the car. Every commute was like a sauna practically during the entire 18 months I lived there.
The taste of fruit and vegetables and the sense of community. Maybe this is just because fundamentally my family is quite anti-social, but when we lived in Zimbabwe and Uganda my brother and I were constantly visiting friends and the friends of our parents. But since I’ve moved to Canada I only occasionally see my friends outside of school.
I’ve lived in Sweden most of my life, but am now in the Ivory Coast. OH DEAR LORD. The fruits here are just EXPLOSIVE it is INCREDIBLE! I never really liked mango, until I had it here! It’s just so different, the texture, the juices, the flavours, it’s creamy and sweet and oh man. I’ll miss fruits when I go back.
When I first moved here from the Philippines I was surprised just how fucking clean it was. Holy shit, I felt like I could eat off of every goddamn surface of the airport whereas the airport in the Philippines would probably give you herpes if you sat down somewhere. Everything wasn’t jam packed to the fucking gills and nobody was pissing in the street.
My father grew up in Sri Lanka and if you’ve ever been to any south Asian country you’ll that the roads are deadly and nobody stops for anyone. He said the thing that surprised him most was when he went to England to study and people stopped at the crossing waiting for the man to turn green. When the man turned green he said it was like magic that the cars all stopped to let people cross the road!
14. Brazil to USA
- Everything just “works”.
- Banks have no armed guards, and while you’re banking, you have no fear that someone at the bank is spotting to see if you take money out, only to rob you a block away.
- You stop at a traffic light at 3am and you actually wait for it to turn green again, you don’t just do a rolling stop and run the light for fear of someone hiding in the bushes nearby jumping at you to take your car.
- A package is delivered to your front door while you’re away, you can be 99.9% sure it will still be there by the time you make it home, nobody is going to steal it.
- You have a problem with a company or a product, you can be reasonably certain that company will try to make it right, and not just laugh when you call to complain.
- If you call the police, they’ll actually come to your house. Same for ambulances and firefighters.
- You pay taxes, but you have good roads, hospitals, police, infrastructure (phone, street lights, water, etc).
- Politicians caught stealing are out of public life, with no hope of being elected again.
- Streets are generally clean and free of graffiti.
- If you need the justice system, it works reasonably well. Nobody is going to get away with murder because they have connections to a judge.
Grew up in East Africa, live in United States. Everyone is LOUD, from the little kid to the tall shy nerd, loud and eloquent.
Blows my mind every time. Also, 9/10 of white people try too hard to avoid awkwardness, such that it comes out counter productive, and almost everyone is just…super awkward (I work in retail).
When I came to Canada, it terrified me that people were so nice, especially when it came to traffic. The first few times it happened I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. I’d be standing in the little gap between traffic signal and pavement looking at this car that starts slowing down 20 METERS IN ADVANCE!! While I watch it expecting it to go past so I can cross the road except it STOPS! And then the driver makes a little hand motion thingy and I’m standing there thinking do you want me to go? Do you want to go first? What is this? Is this protocol? Is this what is done here? You wait for me? I as a pedestrian have rights and not a bullseye on my face?
Spent the first year or so just freezing like deer in headlights every time I had to cross a road because a lifetime of playing traffic Frogger in Karachi did NOT leave me with the impression that drivers knew what the brake was for.
And Canadians. You’re nice. And it’s damned terrifying.
As a 9-year-old coming to Chicago from the Philippines, a lot of things definitely caught me by surprise. Before arriving in America, I thought that everything was supposed to look like the Sims. Boxy houses in the suburbs with clean cut grass and the most regal people imaginable. Instead, I saw many similarities with the Philippines, especially in the urban areas. The poverty, the beggars, and the hardship that many people faced really caught me off guard. I used to think that the United States was the closest thing to heaven. And while I soon learned that America is certainly better overall, I was nevertheless surprised that many people did struggle in the mighty United States.
PUDDING IN A FUCKING CAN FROM SAMS CLUB. A WHOLE FUCKING BUCKET/CAN AND ICE CREAM IN A BUCKET WE ATE SOO MUCH FUCKING PUDDING IT WAS AWESOME. THEN I BECAME FAT AND HERE I AM 17 YEARS LATER FAT. FUCKING PUDDING.