Shock a Culture or Culture Shock?

Culture shock is a more formal way of saying “What the &^*% is going on with these people? We don’t do that back home!”

I think it’s exciting when I get a little bit of culture shock. Through the whole process you learn about a new culture, point out the cultural differences between your own culture and a foreign one, and most importantly, you learn to accept something you probably thought was nonexistent.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day routine that we think that in another part of the world they do the same thing as we do in the exact same way. The thing is, in certain places there is no need to cross the border to find out things work differently than we imagined them. Since I have spent most of my life between the US and Ecuador, which means that since I was small I knew that even the way you cook food is different, I have had an open mind to all people and things that are foreign. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that I can shy away from getting culture shock now and then.

My semester abroad in London, Ontario (Canada, for those of you who don’t know)  taught me this, and the following are some of the “shocking” things that occurred that have made either go huh? or laugh out loud when they happened.

Remember, “shocking” is completely subjective depending on where you were raised and the life you lead.

1. Oh, so you want some beer?

It’s 11 pm. First Saturday in London, Ontario. 3 South Americans. Nothing planned for the night. What to do, what to do? Buy some liquor, of course. As any Ecuadorian or American would do, the first thought would be to walk down to the corner store or the nearest supermarket to grab a beer. We thought it would be that easy. When we arrived to the nearest corner store, the three of us inspected each and every fridge, liquor to no avail.


South American #2: Calm down, there has to be some type of liquor.

South American #3: Let’s ask the clerk. Sir, where do you have the liquor hidden?

Clerk: You’re in Ontario. There’s no liquor at any store. Only the beer store and LCBO.

South American #1: But we can get some at the supermarket… right?

Clerk: You can’t get beer at a supermarket.

All 3 South Americans:

It turns out, we were liquor free that night. It was only after a couple of days that we were fully informed about the weird Ontario liquor laws. You can only get liquor at LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and The Beer Store (the creativity amazes me). Well, I don’t know the reasons why it’s like this in Ontario, but please let Ecuadorians know before going. Shall ya? At least we can avoid having the clerk at the corner store laughing at us.

2. Take off your shoes, please.

There’s an unwritten law in Ecuador.

You don’t take off your shoes unless you’re in your house. Period.

Unless you’re at the beach, sleeping over a friend’s house or getting in the pool/ shower.

In Canada when you walk into a person’s home, you just simply take off your shoes. Here’s the evidence:

3.Bring Your Own Beer


Just how in spanish you say “Mi casa es su casa” we also believe in “Mi cerveza es su cerveza”: My beer is your beer.

When there’s a party it is more or less expected that the host have liquor, and while as a guest you can arrive with some to the party, it’s everyone’s liquor.

It’s simply ludicrous not to share. Even among people you’ve just met, sharing a beer eases the tension.

Alfer all, I think we all learned to share in Kindergarten.


  1. Hahahaha!
    I love the BYOB one!
    The same thing happened to me the first time I went to a house party in the States. I learned my lesson, for sure!
    I like the “I’m the host, I’m supposed to provide the beer” way of thinking, but I LOVE the BYOB one better. Yes, it’s nice to share and all that crap… But you know there’s always some sneaky little bastard that wants to drink everything in sight and will screw people over. So… As always, the more the merrier! I’m all for BYOB! 🙂

  2. I can relate. I remember when I was visiting my Great Aunt in Vancouver, BC, a friend and I thought we’d stop at Safeway and get some drinks, just as we would at the Safeway in the U.S. I learned that day you have to go to the off license or liquor store. Say what/!

    It’s good perspective- it’s so true in the US we have the mentality of BYOB. Part of me believes it’s more common among students who don’t have a lot of money( and college parties often get big! )vs. parties amongs 30’s, 40’s etc… It’s true sharing brings people together but I’d argue this is a case, of “I don’t have much money and I want to drink a lot, and there may not be much to share” mentality.

  3. Mafer, you’re right. There’s always a “sneaky bastard”. But I think that literally inviting someone to your house to drink but telling them to bring their own booze kind of goes against “inviting” them in the first place! We just have to let them know: nada de colados! Hahaha!

    Lauren, whoever said Canada and the States are much alike was completely wrong, at least in the liquor department. I think you’re right, but at least amongst friends knowing when to pay back the favor of “free booze” is a must. Just this weeked I invited my friends to drink and bought everything. They know that the next time we meet, it’ll be their turn to chip in. 😉

    Thanks for commenting!

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