21. Amsterdam. Knew they biked, but didn’t expected multi-level bike parking lots every mile. Jesus christ I loved it there.
22. I was surprised at how much time the Balinese people spend on religious ceremonies, offerings, and worship. Yet despite being some of the most religious people I’ve ever encountered, they were completely nonjudgmental and understanding of others.
23. Went to Gdańsk, Poland a few years ago with work and I was not expecting how beautiful the place was especially the old town. The people were friendly and the food was delicious. I then went to Krakow two years later and was equally impressed.
24. Just how empty Russia is. There was this one town we were going to visit which was planned by our guide, a 100 or so kilometers away from Moscow and its a ghost town. We stayed in a hotel there with the other tourists and our guide. It was a 10-11 story hotel and we were the only people there. Outside of the hotel in the city, there were restaurants, shops, etc everything you’ll find in a city but they were all empty except for their owners. we rarely found one or two customers there. You could literally walk in the middle of the highway there. It gave an eerie vibe but we enjoyed our stay.
25. How impenetrable some American accents are. I’m a native English speaker, but being in New York made me feel like everyone was speaking a different language.
Also, how unsocial and lonely Sweden felt. In Ireland, it’s not uncommon to make small talk with strangers. If you pass someone on the road when walking you’re usually expected to smile at them at the least. It’s the complete opposite in Sweden, I think. People seem not to acknowledge each other or try not to draw any attention at all to themselves if they’re in public. A local explained that if he goes to a bus stop and sees someone else already there, he would wait at least 5m away, even if it was raining and the stop was the only shelter. It felt very odd to me.
26. I went to the Caribbean when I was younger to some of the smaller islands and I was shocked by the level of poverty that exists there, this was almost 20 years ago now so could be different today but at the time pre-internet and being young and naive all I’d ever seen about the Caribbean was the white sand beaches on TV but it was quite an intense experience.
27. The sense of safety in Japan. I had expected some level of safety, but was blown away by how you could literally leave a purse on a park bench and no one would take it. You could walk late at night and feel safe.
At Tokyo Disney, we had a stroller for our then nearly 2-year-old. Happily left it outside each ride with a bag full of our stuff with complete confidence that it would be exactly as we left it.
Also how willingly everyone engaged with our nearly 2-year-old. We expected some “kawaii” gushing, and we got it (especially from school girls), but everyone would stop to say hello, or distract her if she was grumpy. The best two memories I have are of an elderly man on the train playing peekaboo with her, and another elderly man pinching her cheeks and telling us she looked exactly like a kewpie doll.
28. China. Almost every store and vendor, including street food and vegetable stalls, use mobile payment.
29. I went to Spain and the sides of the road were smoking, and a bit on fire. No one said anything and the fire was getting pretty massive. It was just like, oh that happens here it’s just on fire sometimes.
30. Israel. Didn’t know what to expect, but what I wasn’t expecting was cats. So many cats everywhere.