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27 Oct


What Culture Shock Looks Like

October 27, 2014 | By |

The journey from India to Paris was remarkably easy. It was like Lufthansa gently scooped us up in Delhi and placed us down in Paris… the travel was so easy that we were even more shell-shocked by the transition.

Leaving India, we had a quintessentially Indian taxi ride to the airport and a quintessentially sweet interaction with the emigration officers, who asked when we would return. Our 9-hour flight to Germany and 1 1/2 hour flight to Paris were remarkably empty, quiet, and smooth… so much shorter and easier than a night bus that it was even more surprising to touch down in Paris. We were greeted by a magnificent cloudy sunrise through the plane windows. In the cab, we passed sculptures of cows in the manicured divider on the civilized highway from Charles de Gaulle into Paris, a far cry from careening around cud-chewing cows amidst honking swerving cars in India just hours before.

Here’s what culture shock looks like:1) Crossing a street (Paris, France vs Old Delhi, India)

2) Looking down a narrow road (Umbria, Italy & Kathmandu, Nepal)

3) The town center of a small village (Brittany, France & Punjab, India)

4) Fish market (Paris, France & Kampot, Cambodia)

5) Fruit market (Paris, France & Kampot, Cambodia… not all that different!)

6) Municipal trash (Paris, France & Dharamsala, India)

7) View from a train window (en route to Versailles, France & Taj Mahal, India)

8) Inside a church/temple (Spoleto, Italy & Dharamsala, India)

9) The main altar (Assisi, Italy & Kopan Monastery, Nepal)

10) Where you worship… (Spoleto, Italy & Boudha, Nepal)

11) A pretty door (Paris, France & Vrindavan, India)

12) Ornate ceiling (Paris, France & Dharamsala, India)

13) An ancient courtyard (Brittany, France & Patan, Nepal)

14) A king’s obsession (Chateau de Chambord, France & Taj Mahal, India)

15) What remains of an old moat and an old stream (Vannes, France & Rishikesh, India)

16) Where to buy meat (Sucre, Bolivia & Assisi, Italy)

17) The great river (Seine & Ganga)


  1. Andy Beck

    What is difference between the public restrooms in France versus India? What about street pan handlers busking for money? No to mention people lawyering up to sue for personal injury as the result of gross negligence.

  2. Michel Swornik

    I have a strange remark to make: Although France, Italy and other countries of affluence are pretty and well organized, with beautiful architecture,great foodstuff available, I have the impression that the people of economically poorer countries are more welcoming than the richer ones.
    What has been your experience?

    Thank you for your travelogue!

    • Mitch & Jewels

      Michel: It is a really great question and one we have thought about a lot lately. We are constantly shocked by how generous people who have little material wealth can be… one of our favorite moments was when a couple on a train platform in Myanmar thrust a plastic baggie with THEIR lunch in it into our hands (through the train window) as our train was pulling out of the platform, just to be generous to us as guests in their area. There have been so many moments like that… but at the same time, we have met so many welcoming and generous people in our last month+ in Europe. We have been tempted to make a generalization about economically wealthier/poorer countries, urban/rural areas, predominantly Christian/Buddhist areas, etc… but we think the bottom line is that people are people, and while some people (from all backgrounds) are looking out for themselves, there are so many amazing people (everywhere, from all backgrounds) who are kind, generous, and warm-hearted.

  3. Michelle Austin

    Hi Jewels and Mitch. I have enjoyed your blog several times since spending time with you and your awesome parents in Antarctica. What a fantastic, enriching adventure you have had! Thank you for sharing your well written experiences and beautiful photos. Safe journeys.
    Michelle Austin (fellow Team Salp member)
    PS. Bob and I have moved to Asheville and would love to connect when you are here sometime. Have intended to reach out to Amy and Michael but their addresses are buried deep somewhere in one of my disorganized, not yet unpacked boxes.

    • Mitch & Jewels

      Hi Michelle! Thanks for your message… we will respond via email. =)

  4. Dave Valdman

    this has got to be the greatest blog post of all time

  5. Andy Beck

    It is wonderful the trip you are taking. At least I get6 some idea where to visit for a short trip. I always wonder when I visit a new place where do people work, entertain themselves and the infrastructure of the community. For instance your pictures in Europe show a pristine environment with a secure infrastructure. For me, I wonder about the electrical grid, water system, transportation, housing and supply chain with commerce.

    The writing of Macro Polo through his book ‘the Travels of Marco Polo’ depict the the culture and mercantile system in central Asia in 1300. I do not know if you were able to visit any factories or science centers but India has any amazing software development hubs and educational systems that train people with engineering and software development skills. Their trade associations which they use for business networking.
    With Europe they have strong zoning codes which do not allow for teaching development like strip malls and residential complexes. The European building construction industry builds to the high quality of residential and office units that blend into the environment following the STEM approach. Your photo’s do not show the billboards, strip malls, and neon lights with advertising. that you see in the States. When you travel see how they build new homes, office buildings and roads. View the electrical and water grids.