10 Sources of Culture Shock when Moving into an Asian Apartment

Some of the culture shock that a foreigner feels in Asia will definitely stem from what they find (or don’t find) in the walls of their new home. Some of these differences I’ve whole-heartedly adopted and some I continue to reject even though I’m moving into year two of my time in Asia, so without further ado, here are the 10 good and bad differences between Western and Asian-style houses, apartments, and hotels.

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1. Kitchens (or lack thereof)

A lot of apartments in Asia don’t have kitchens, which is shocking for someone who grew up in the Western world where even my horrible freshman dorm at least had a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a crappy oven/stovetop in the common area.

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When I asked during my last round of Asian apartment hunting (in Taiwan) why this was the case, I was supplied with the helpful, “Because kitchens are dangerous and people might start fires.”

What? People also might fall down stairs or electrocute themselves through outlets, but I don’t see any landlords banning those. I’m open to a better explanation of this lack of kitchens in Asia, so if you’ve got one, send it my way.

2. What’s an oven?

Even if you find an apartment with a kitchen, I can guarantee you won’t find an oven. Ovens just don’t seem to exist in most Asian apartments. No cookies or baked goods for me, then. 😦

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Although I did manage to bake some decent cookies in my toaster oven when I lived in Vietnam. Yum, pumpkin spice.

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3. Line drying

In Asia, you’ll rarely find houses with dryers, and you know what? That’s fine. I really don’t miss drying my clothes by machine, and would be totally fine if America went the line-dry route and it became acceptable to air all your clean laundry in the sun.

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It’s better for your clothes and the environment, so why not, really? Any wrinkles can just be ironed out later.

4. No bathtubs

Asian apartments typically have wet rooms instead of Western style showers or bathtubs.

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This means water pours from the showerhead onto everything else in the room (no curtain) and drains down through grates/drains in the bathroom floor. I actually don’t miss bathtubs or Western-style showers that much, but I’ve got friends that miss ‘em a lot, so heads up, tubs aren’t really a thing here.

5. Slippers

In Asia, you typically leave your shoes outside and put on house slippers when you enter the house.

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Frankly, this just makes sense and it’s cleaner than wearing your dirty sneaks inside the home. Get on board with this one, rest-of-the-world.

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It’s about time.

6. White tiles

I hate the white tile floors of Asia, and I just can’t get over this loathing.

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In my mind, white tile is an ugly but sort-of-feasible choice for kitchens and bathrooms. But in Asia you’ll find white tile everywhere. I’ve even been in apartments where the bedroom floors, walls, and ceilings were made of the hospital-esque material.

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And even if you think you can handle the look of white tile everywhere, trust me when I tell you it’ll start grating on your nerves when you realize how everything: hair, mud, footprints, EVERYTHING sticks out on white tile. OMG does it get scary looking if you’re not ruthless about cleaning it.

7. No windows

My second biggest pet peeve in Asia is the lack of windows. There is nothing… and I mean nothing… more depressing than walking into the hotel room you’ve booked for the weekend to discover that there are no windows and you’ll essentially be living in a cave. It’s not just hotels that don’t have windows either, but apartments and even some houses will be windowless or nearly windowless.

The curtains in the picture below are actually hiding the fact that this “window” is covered  up by the building next door.

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So builders want to cram a bunch of buildings together without worrying about covering windows, right? This makes sense I guess, otherwise you wind up with scenarios like the one above. But sometimes, there seems to be no clear reason why a window couldn’t have been installed.

Why aren’t windows a priority in Asian buildings, while Western buildings are all about those holes to the outside?

8. Hard beds

I’m pretty convinced Asian beds are harder than beds everywhere else in the world.

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You just can’t sleep on your stomach in Asia unless you’re prepared to have sore boobs all next day. That’s a handy tip for all my lady travelers out there.

9. Hotel “double” rooms

When you book a “double” room in Asia, you’ll almost always get two tiny twins instead of a big double bed.

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It’s not bad, but it’s weird. It’s great if you’re booking rooms with a platonic buddy though.

10. Bum guns

Oh, you thought I’d finally make it through an article without including this picture of a bum gun, did you? Well, I just can’t.

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Someday, dear bum gun, someday we’ll meet again.

What are some other differences between Western and Asian style homes that you’ve noticed?

And what aspects of either culture have you found the most shocking? Let me know in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “10 Sources of Culture Shock when Moving into an Asian Apartment

  1. Not having oven was the biggest shock for me. I mean I never really got how do Asian people make proper food without it. Wearing slippers at home was also a small shock but only because we don’t wear any shoes inside apartments here in Finland (another thing I have never understood…) I had really fun time reading this article so thanks 🙂

  2. Well, Asian Apartments some could be interesting. I think might now have kitchens because they tend to rent it to expats who mostly don’t stay home to eat. But hotel rooms in Asia could be terrifying. I am Asian but sometimes I cannot even fit in their bathrooms.

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