Are you hoping to visit Europe soon? That's great, but be mindful of the cultural differences between Europe and the US. Keep a wary eye out for these things, and try to avoid any faux pas while you're abroad! Going to another country is such an incredible experience. You can also learn many lessons along the way: the culture, history, people, and some incredible architectural works. Here are the 20 things people should avoid when traveling to Europe for the first time!
1. Restaurants that Strong-Arm you into Entering
One user shared, “‘Come, come sit down,' as they shove a menu in your face, fast talking, usually offering a free drink/entree/dessert, basically trying to get you to feel bad about turning them down.”
A second person replied, “Yes! Those people that just stand outside of restos and walk up to you with menus, walking alongside you, telling you to come and eat at their resto. So awkward and uncomfortable!! Experienced this in certain districts in London.”
Another user added, “I remember when I was really young, I was on holiday with my dad and family in Greece. Some guy shoved a menu in my dad's face, saying ‘We have chicken nuggets and chips!!!!'”
2. Street Scammers
One person stated, “Street scammers in Paris, anywhere really, I just mostly see it in Paris.”
Another user commented, “While grabbing wine on a patio in Rome we watched the police break up a scam ring in front of us. It was quite entertaining, especially after dealing with these schmucks all day trying to hustle you. We just sat, sipped wine, and watched the fun.”
A third commenter added, “My ex went to Rome and had her debit card skimmed. Two days after she got home, she checked her account and realized 5k was withdrawn in Rome that morning. Bank got her the money back right away, so not a big SeL.”
3. Take Flowers from Anyone
“In major cities, don't let anyone hand you anything such as flowers or whatever. Once it is in your hands, they start asking for money. They even gave a flower to one my kids and then wouldn't take it back. Just set it on the ground and walk away,” one user commented.
Another one shared, “In Florence, this guy was telling me he wanted to sell me a bracelet and I told him I didn't have any cash. He said it's fine it's free so he put it on my wrist and I started to walk away. He asked me for money and I told him I that I told him that I didn't have any money. He asked for it back so I gave it back.”
4. Set your Bag Out of Sight
One person stated, “Do not put your bag/purse/backpack on the back of your chair when you sit down to eat, especially outside. Thieves look for this, in groups of three or four. One of them will come from one side of you as a snatcher, and the rest will stand in a group very close to you taking or smoking, etc., pretending that they don't know the snatcher. Then the one guy will snatch your item, and run right through the group, in case someone is quick enough to chase. They will ‘accidentally' be in your way. Happened in Rome, but locals recognized it and broke it up.”
“Idk why people do this in any country at all. I've even stopped carrying a purse whatsoever unless I have a lot of places to go that day,” a second person replied.
Another Redditor added, “Unless you're in Switzerland, you could leave your bag on street here and it would be safe.”
5. Show your Inexperience to a Taxi Driver
“To avoid: letting the taxi know you don't know where you are or where you are going, the bad ones will drive you in circles and run the tab up. However, one thing that opened Germany up for me while stationed there was one interaction. I would ask in German' Sprechen sie englisch,' do you speak English? Followed by ‘Mine Deutsch ist scheisse,’ my German is sh*t. Everyone from women at the bar to elderly people would laugh hysterically and then immediately switch to English in good spirits. They just like to see you try, then they are more than happy to help you out. So my advice would be to learn a quick-fire phrase that you can pop off to quickly to avoid the fumbling and starting the interaction on a bad foot,” one person commented.
“Second part is really good advice because it shows that you have the respect to try, you don't assume everybody knows your language and you ask politely if they will go to the trouble of speaking your language or another one. Also, a reason why many Europeans dislike the French is because the overall stereotype is that unless you speak perfect French, they won't help you. Germans are awesome. I can talk to them with my hand and feet and they still will try to understand me, but maybe that's because I'm a swamp German,” another person replied.
6. Expect the same Store Hours
One person commented, “Don't assume that everything will be open during the hours you'd expect in your home country–this is true no matter where you're going. It varies by country and region, but in my experience, grocery stores, banks, post offices, etc., had much more restricted hours than they do in the US. In the US, it's rare for a grocery store to close before 9 PM, if it's not open 24 hours.
“In Europe, it's normal for grocery stores to close quite early, and for things to be closed on weekends, though this varies by country. Also, mind your manners. In America, you can often skip over the formalities without being seen as rude. In Europe, this is much harder. Be more direct about what you want, and more polite about requesting it. Part of what perpetuates the unfortunate ‘rude American' stereotype is that Americans tend to find European manners blunt, and Europeans tend to find American manners invasive.”
7. Restaurants with Translated Menus
“To clarify, menus that also show an English translation aren't an automatic disqualifier—sometimes you have restaurants that are good and just have a savvy owner who wants to be accessible to foreigners. But if a menu has 4-5 languages, then they're probably leaning in real hard on the tourist dollar and should be avoided,” one person stated.
Another person added, “Also sometimes you're just in a touristy area, so all the restaurants are going to cater to tourists to some extent. Many tourist places are a very poor value, but not every restaurant that caters to tourists is automatically bad. If you're in a big city, definitely avoid the tourist traps, but if you're in a small ski town you could be severely limiting your dining choices by ruling out anywhere that has translated menus.”
Finally, a third user added, “Usually they are just overpriced, not bad. And if you're short on time, maybe that's a better option than spending 2 hours looking for the best one.”
8. Renting a Car in Major Cities
Someone shared, “Don't rent a car if you're going to stay at a major capital, it's not worth it, it's much better to use public transport and get an occasional Uber.”
Another person added, “At the same time, I'd say to not to be afraid to rent a car if the bulk of your trip is in more rural areas. European cities are awesome but there are plenty of amazing experiences to be had in less populated areas that are hard to reach via public transit.”
Another Redditor added, “I agree. Public transport is amazing in Europe (major cities).”
9. Wearing Stilettos in Germany
“Do not… wear stilettos in Germany. You will slip and fall down in front of 100 people including children who will point and laugh at you as you wobble away on the cobblestone with quivering ankles,” one user shared.
“Somewhere in China, that woman I saw in heels on the Great Wall a decade ago is living her best life: planning her first big post-Covid trip, to Germany just to spite you,” another added.
“Because the roads and sidewalk can be so difficult, many German women have a very pragmatic approach to beauty. High heels aren't impressing anybody. The French call us sloppy, I call us all-terrain,” another commenter replied.
10. Split a Cab with a Stranger
“Lol top of the list. Creepy dudes outside airports tryin' to split cabs. Unless your dad's Liam Neeson,” said one user.
“Or standing there on the sidewalk offering you a ride because the taxi line is too long and telling you to follow them to their car. And I don't have a Liam Neeson,” the second person replied jokingly.
11. Messing with the Royal Guards in London
Although they can look like toy soldiers, don't mess with the guards outside of Buckingham Palace.
One person commented, “Isn't that like… common sense?”
Then the second person replied, “Unfortunately not. Tourists and YouTubers are constantly harassing them, then [complain] about it when the guard violently shoves them out of the way.”
12. Ignoring a Country's Traditions
“Be respectful to memorial places. Don't come to the idea to make selfies or similar. Inform yourself about the traditions of the country. In some countries, you can openly make small talk with strangers, while in another one, you do have to approach them like a wild animal,” shared one user.
“I just remembered those idiot teenagers who made silly photo sessions in Auschwitz. I don't know where they were from, but c'mon, I can't believe some people can be so stupid,” replied another.
Another Redditor added, “I remember visiting the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and seeing a police officer arrest a kid who was trying to graffiti part of the structure. Like, who [even] tries to vandalize a Holocaust memorial in Germany??”
13. Ignoring Local Etiquette
One person shared, “Avoid speaking without exchanging greetings first (in France at least) and not responding in kind when someone greets you. In other words, exchange bon jours before you ask where the toilet is. Avoid letting your kids act like monsters in public—in restaurants, in particular. Avoid rushing through meals (unless your kids are acting like monsters).”
The second person replied, “I feel like somebody who works at a hotel that houses tourists should understand that the local customs don't apply to every tourist and that Americans don't consider it impolite to speak without saying a greeting first.”
14. Exchanging Cash instead of Using the ATM
“Coming over with a bunch of cash ($) and using an exchange service to buy €. Just use your debit or credit card, everywhere. If you need some cash, take it out of the atm. Exchange rates will be much better, no commission, 3% fee from your bank, but that's reasonable,” one user stated.
A second person replied, “Except Germany, where a lot of places haven't discovered credit cards yet.
Another commenter added, “Not entirely sure about this. The emphasis should be on avoiding money exchanges located in prominent tourist areas. In London and Paris, I have always found money exchanges that comfortably beat anything the banks or credit card companies were able to offer.”
15. Responding if Someone Thinks you Dropped your Wallet
One person shared, “If someone asks you if you dropped your wallet, don't reach for where you keep it. You're telling them exactly where you keep your valuables.” Somebody replied, “Just start patting yourself on random places, and you can sneak in a quick tap on the wallet pocket too if you are not sure if you actually have it.”
16. Assume that Europe is all the Same
“Avoid assuming Europe is all roughly the same. It's a continent, not a country. You don't go to Japan and expect it to be like Indonesia just because they are both in Asia. In other words, it all depends on which country in Europe you are traveling to,” one person stated.
“This is pretty much exactly what my comment would have been. There's over 40 different countries in Europe OP,” a second person replied.
Original Reddit thread here.
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