Europe is a brilliant travel destination for Americans. Most of Europe speaks English, it caters well to tourists and there is a wealth of history and culture to discover. Whether you’re after a relaxing beach holiday (try the Canaries), or you want to explore somewhere that’s rich with history and culture (try Rome), you’ll find something here to meet your needs.
However it’s also important to recognize the key differences between Europe and America and to be aware of these when exploring the continent. There are many things that Americans should know going in when they visit Europe and understanding the cultural differences can help a great deal to make your trip go more smoothly. Follow the advice below to make sure that you don’t put your foot in it and to really blend into your surrounds.
Holiday Styles and Standing Out As a Tourist
Different cultures have different reputations across Europe based on the way that they behave when they’re on holiday, and recognising these can help you to get along better with the locals and the other visitors. Germans for instance have a reputation for steeling sun beds and for pushing in queues – try not to get mad, that’s just the system that they use in Germany and it’s not meant rudely (though it means you’ll have to get up early to secure yourself a sunbed on a holiday in Spain). Likewise the Brits are known for being lager louts and sometimes causing trouble on nights out. Again, most are harmless really, but if you notice a rough looking crowd in the pub it might be worth keeping your distance.
So what of Americans? What do Europeans think of US visitors? Well mostly it’s positive, but there’s also a stereotype about Americans being loud. If you want to fit in while you’re in Europe, then acting a little more subdued can help interactions to go well. A perfect example of this, is that Europeans don’t really clap out loud at the cinema. If you don’t want to stand out, then follow their lead.
Generally it’s no bad thing to be enthusiastic of course, as long as you aren’t intimidating the locals. What’s not great however, is to stand out as an obvious tourist which can make you a target for pickpockets and con artist. To avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, try to avoid obvious tourist clothes and maybe even buy a few threads from the local shops. Some things that can make you stand out as an American are light coloured shoes, undershirts beneath your shirt and short shorts. Europeans brave the heat… it’s up to you if you want to join in…
Tips That Can Save You Money and Win You Friends
When you’re out in Europe the customs and traditions will depend largely on the country you’re in, however there are still some things that you need to be aware of that can help you to save money and get by.
One tip for instance is to try and avoid shops and restaurants that are blatantly designed to cater to tourists. You will find these in the most bustling parts of cities like London and Rome and of course they will cost more money to shop in and offer provide inferior value. If you want to eat well, buy better souvenirs and really experience Europe the way the locals do, then walk a little further off the beaten track in order to find hidden gems. Doing a little research online can also help here, and even better is knowing a friend who lives there and knows all the best hangouts.
There are also a few customs and sights that you should get used to in Europe. One thing to learn right away if you are going to be driving, is how to use a roundabout which is relatively simple once you get the hang of it but can give you pause for thought at first.
It’s also worth learning the value of currency when you’re in Europe – for most areas this will be easy as most countries now use the Euro though you may need to look up GBP if you’re heading to London or Zloty if you’re off to Poland. Note that when you eat in most restaurants, the service charge won’t always be included – in which case it’s normal to add around 10%.
You should also make sure to look up any national holidays before you visit your chosen destination (they’re often different from American holidays and it can be disappointing to find everything’s closed). It’s also worth noting that not everywhere in Europe will speak English. Even in countries where they probably do speak English, like France, you can win a lot of brownie points by making an attempt to speak the local language. Just learning ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘hello’ in French can make the people you speak with much more agreeable and helpful and it’s fun to learn. Note as well that the places where they do speak English, will speak UK English rather than American. Words like ‘chips’, ‘pants’ and ‘sidewalk’ are all slightly different and can cause confusion if you don’t do a little research before you set off.
Once you’ve got all that down, all that’s left is to head out there and learn the differences for yourself. Bon voyage!