We get it. Setting off to a new place always stirs up a mix of excitement and nerves. There’s the thrill of discovering a new place, but there’s also the reality of being somewhere completely foreign. You’re surrounded by different languages, customs, and ways of life.
American Faux Pas in Europe
Looking for tips to smooth out the journey, a traveler recently turned to an online forum with a question: what should you avoid when traveling to Europe? The online community came back with a myriad of responses. From general travel advice to more nuanced cultural insights, the community offered a wealth of suggestions for those planning a visit to the continent that we would all do well to listen to.
1. Don’t Generalize “Europe”, We’re Not All the Same
The most common response from those answering what to avoid while traveling in Europe is simple: don’t generalize Europe. For example, one user points out that the continent has more than forty countries. Another highlights that some customs in countries are in opposition.
They say interrupting can be a sign of active listening in Italy, while in Finland, it’s considered extremely rude. Forget differences between countries, say some respondents, there are differences between regions within the same country. It’s all about learning the specifics of the area that you are visiting.
2. Don’t Eat at American Chain Restaurants
While it may be tempting to get something familiar that reminds you of home, several people say that while traveling, it’s a waste of time to eat at global chains like McDonald’s and Burger King. On the other hand, one traveler says it’s fun to try out the chains across the globe and see just how different the foods can taste.
As someone who has been to Europe several times, I’d back that up; it’s fun to eat at a McDonald’s that looks more like a nice hotel lobby than an American McDonald’s. Also, the food quality regulations across Europe are much stricter, so the food tastes significantly different from what we get in America.
3. Don’t Leave Your Things Unattended or Out of Sight (Duh)
Several travelers warn about pickpockets in major European cities like Paris, Rome, and Barcelona. They suggest keeping belongings like bags and purses in your sight so that potential thieves can’t snatch them up. On the other hand, numerous other commenters say that the fear of thieves in these cities is far overblown and that they have never experienced any issues.
4. Scandinavia: Don’t Get Too Close or Chat
As many commenters point out, there are differences in culture across Europe. Several point out that if you’re in any Scandinavian country, you should avoid small talk or getting too near strangers in public because the culture is about minding your own business. Someone relays a joke about Finnish people who were told to keep six feet apart at the start of the pandemic and asked, “why so close?”
5. Don’t Use Currency Exchanges in Tourist Areas
Currency exchanges are a dime a dozen in most major cities in the U.S., and the same is true in Europe. But numerous travelers warn against using them because of their high commissions for making cash exchanges.
Solutions to the problem range from using a debit or credit card to requesting Euros from your bank before flying. However, one frequent traveler says that it’s more about the specific area than the city and that they have found currency exchanges with even better rates than their bank in London and Paris.
6. Don’t Compare Prices to Dollars Out Loud
Doing exchange rate math in your head makes sense when traveling, but one conscientious commenter says you shouldn’t talk loudly about how much cheaper items are than they would be back home. So while it may be a great surprise to you to discover that some grocery store items are cheaper than expected, they may not be so affordable for the people shopping with you who can understand English.
7. Don’t Spend All Your Time in Capital/Major Cities
There are so many big cities across Europe that Americans likely want to visit, from Rome and Paris to Berlin and Vienna. But these cities aren’t the only thing that the continent has to offer. Visits to small towns give a much fuller sense of the culture you’re traveling around. Much like North America, Europe also has some fantastic natural sites to visit.
8. Don’t Overstuff Your Trip
Like the suggestion to avoid spending your entire trip in major cities, other travelers say you should avoid doing too much with your limited time. One traveler says they spoke with a friend who planned to do one night each in several major cities across Italy and asked what they should see each night.
They were horrified by that style of travel. However, most people agree you should spend time in the places you’re visiting; get a feel for them, and explore what they offer before jetting off to your next destination.
9. Don’t Go to Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest is a major cultural event outside Munich (where it takes place) now that people make trips just to attend. However, one traveler says that’s turned the festival into a tourist trap. So instead of having fun drinking great German beer, you’ll end up waiting to get any beer at all.
10. Don’t Be Loud
The most common thing that people say Americans should avoid in Europe is being loud. Americans are known for being noisy tourists and almost no European cultures appreciate loud conversations in public places. Some Americans who had traveled across Europe say they realized they and their families were much louder than anyone else in restaurants, airports, and even just walking down the street.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Our Woven Journey. Source Featured Credit Source: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock.
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.