"She Wouldn't Let Me Eat": People Are Sharing The Cultural Differences They Learned About From Visiting Other People's Houses

This post contains discussion of child abuse.

Everyone's got their own stuff going on in their own homes — it's what makes us all unique. Redditor u/mango-chocolate recently asked the people of Reddit, "What is the biggest cultural shock you experienced when going to someone else's house?" Some really fascinating answers here:

1."I worked with this young Cuban woman as a waitress while I was studying in university. She mentioned that her sister needed some help with math in her nursing program, so I offered to go over and tutor. When I arrived at the house, her sister invited me in and started unloading the refrigerator of leftovers. I wasn't hungry, but she was persistent and made us some food anyway. My friend comes home, looks at us studying — in front of me I have snacks, water, and a coffee — and she begins screaming that her sister didn’t offer me anything to drink or eat. Their parents came home, and they started yelling about the same thing and accusing their daughters of being bad hostesses! I felt bad, and I somehow allowed five drinks to be served to me and so much food that I was stuffed for the rest of the day. The whole experience was a weird combination of feeling guilty or like I may have insulted them, but also feeling loved and appreciated."


2."I hung out with my college roommate's family around Christmas. NO books in the house, none. She told me her parents didn't want challenging books in their house to make the kids feel stupid. The parents were professors at our college."


a library of books
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3."I'm first-gen American (Asian). Due to TV cereal commercials while watching Saturday morning cartoons, I grew up believing that white people would simultaneously have a glass of milk and a glass of OJ in the morning, as part of this complete breakfast. You can imagine my disappointment the day after sleepovers at friends' homes."


4."Back in high school, I visited a friend's house and had to use the bathroom. I asked her where the toilet paper was in the bathroom, and she said, 'We don't really wipe our butts in this house.' Girl, what?!"


A roll of toilet paper
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5."My family (French) has strict rules regarding food and when you should eat. During COVID, I got stuck in Austria for three months at my now-fiancé's family's house. First of all, they don't really eat in the evening — just cold bread with some stuff on it (cheese, ham). Sometimes they would cook rather late compared to my usual eating times, and I was sooo freaking hungry, but I didn't want to complain. One time, her mom decided to only cook after work, so it was around 5 p.m. when she started. At the time, my last meal was around 8 a.m. I decided to say something to my girlfriend, and she just went, 'We snack whenever we are hungry.' I went, 'But we're adults, we're supposed to eat only at meal times.' She was very disturbed by that. And, yes, my fiancée really doesn't like my family's habits, because lunch is too early for her and dinner is too big."


6."As a kid, I visited some friends who had scary 'Yes sir/No sir' fathers who were quick to use a belt on them. None of those guys turned out well as adults, I might add. The funny thing is, my dad was an Army platoon sergeant, yet he was a jovial and easy-going father."


7."I was raised by two women (my mother and my dad's wife) whose notion of cleanliness was such that rooms were sterile. It looked to me like the point was to make it look like no one lived in our house. By contrast, I was used to being called and feeling like I was a 'messy' person because none of those things are priorities to me. The first time I went into the house of someone who was truly messy — I'm talking leftover candles from a birthday party that happened two weeks ago still on the dining-room table messy, basement so full of junk the notion of separate rooms has been made abstract — it rearranged the way I looked at myself a little."


a very messy kitchen
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8."I went to a friend's house when I was about 8. They were serving macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. I hate hot dogs — always have. I asked politely before she made up my plate if I could only have the mac 'n cheese. This lady was furious. She wouldn't let me eat, and actually made me sit outside on the deck every meal I happened to be at her house after that, too. That was a shock."


9."Growing up as a teen in Australia, I had a friend who had recently moved from South Africa, and we would regularly hang at each other's houses during weekends and holidays. He lived in a very expensive mansion-type house — marble foyer-type arrangement, etc. One sunny day, his grandma opens the door to me, and across the fancy foyer someone has hung rope back and forth, and then hung up lots of large pieces of red meat with clothes pegs. The marble floor is covered with pieces of newspaper stained with the meat fluids that have dripped, and there are two giant oscillating fans blowing toward the hanging meat. This is the day I learned what biltong is; before getting the explanation, I was absolutely fucking frozen in terror."


Slabs of beef jerky hanging
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10."My friends' parents would make them finish their meals, even if they said they were full. The meals looked huge to me. It felt depressing. If I was full at home, I'd never be pressured to eat absolutely everything if I didn't want to."


11."Saying a prayer before a meal. I live in eastern Germany. I had never seen a religious person before. I thought that was just like a children's tale, like Santa."


People praying at the table
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12."I went to a buddy's house to get some weed from him. The house was super clean, his mom was baking and wearing a nice apron, it looked like a scene from the 1950s or something. Two weeks later, the DEA kicked in her door because of the meth lab she had in the basement. Seems like it was her and her biker boyfriend's setup."


13."People not saying 'I love you' before leaving or hanging up the phone. I was always taught to say 'I love you' to family before hanging up the phone or saying goodbye. You never know when your last goodbye will be so let the last thing you say to a loved one be 'I love you.' A tradition I continue to practice to this day. Yet I think I was the only one who did that in my friend group."


14."I went to a friend's house at age 9 and was floored that she didn't share a bedroom with her little sister. On top of this, she also had a double bed and a small TV in her room hooked up to a PS2."


A little girl playing a video game
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15."My parents are really good cooks. I would eat dinner at friends' homes and be horrified."


A little girl and boy looking disappointed at their plates with vegetables
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16."I went to my boss’s house. She made us take off our shoes and socks and put on brand new white socks that she kept by the door. We also had to sanitize our hands and wear latex gloves. This was way before COVID."


17."I was at my friend Dana's house for the first time, and spent the night. I remember being so in awe of how freely she spoke to her parents. At breakfast, her mom made buckwheat pancakes, and Dana spat out, 'WHAT IS THIS SHIT, MOM???' I was stunned into silence, mouth agape. And her mom said, 'I was just trying something new...' and she sounded so hurt. Nobody I knew would challenge their parents like that, much less curse at them. And with zero repercussions! I think my brain exploded."


A mother and son yelling and pointing at each other
John Sommer / Getty Images

18."My ex's family used one cup towel as a communal napkin. No paper napkins or paper towels. No individual washable cloth napkins. One cup towel for everyone, even at large gatherings for holidays. And there was this weird peer pressure to use it whether you needed to or not. I learned to eat carefully so I wouldn't need to wipe my mouth — or I'd stash a napkin or paper towel in my pocket to use discreetly."


A woman wiping her mouth
Motortion / Getty Images/iStockphoto

19."My wealthier childhood friend had central air — this is New York state, in the 1970s/1980s. It was so cold, and the air was just so different. At my house, we practiced natural AC. Leave windows and doors open at night, close it up during the day."


And finally...

20."When I was a teen, I was genuinely shocked to see that other families actually loved each other and wanted to interact and say nice things to each other. I kept expecting it to turn dark, and when it didn’t, I had no idea what to do and felt completely ashamed and out of place."


Got your own stories? See you in the comments!

These entries have been edited for length and clarity.

If you are concerned that a child is experiencing or may be in danger of abuse, you can call or text the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 (4.A.CHILD); service can be provided in over 140 languages.