Assumptive Expectations: Small Changes Between Countries

People tend to become very confused when something is different than their expectations.

What does this look like? Well, maybe it looks like walking downstairs to your kitchen in the middle of the night and taking a big swig from the can of ginger ale that is enticing you from the countertop. When the taste is very bitter and you spew the drink across the kitchen, it becomes obvious that it most assuredly was not ginger ale but tonic water.

The expectation for the sweet taste of ginger ale made the bitter tonic water so much worse. Why? Because the mind was practically salivating for something sweet and the bitter taste essentially shouted Boo and scared the brain into overreacting. This example is relevant because it helps explain our actions when coming across unexpected differences in other cultures and locations.

“Outlets” by Daryl Fritz is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Very small differences are exaggerated in other countries. For example, I went to plug my phone into an electricity socket when I was on exchange to Griffith University in Brisbane Australia. I want to note that I had even bought a converter, so I thought I was super prepared.

My phone wouldn’t charge! I was stumped and confused. I actually tried every single socket within my dorm room. Nothing would work and my phone was down to 2% battery so I was panicking.

Luckily, I was living in a student residence and decided to ask my new neighbour named Kye. I awkwardly re-introduced myself and explained my problem. His response was chuckling and flipping a switch somewhere else on the socket.

I probably could have slowed down and noticed the switch myself, but I was expecting the same thing as Canada and didn’t spend too much time looking at the face of the socket.

Because of my expectations, a task that was so easy for him to do was very difficult for me until I was showed how to properly use the socket. I had just assumed that simple things like light switches would be the same as Canada but obviously not. The biggest takeaway from this is that when you are travelling, utilize locals and don’t expect even the simplest parts of life to be the exact same as where you are from.

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