29 Things You Need To Know About Traveling in Europe
Updated: 4 days ago
Living part-time in Europe I’ve found that common things in America just don’t work the same way abroad. Europeans are much more formal in their upbringing, more earth conscious (good luck finding cheap Ziploc bags), and more apt to make you feel like a slob when it comes to street clothes. Below, let me illustrate 29 things I have discovered in my travels about Europeans.
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At a restaurant
1) No tipping in restaurants
You can round up with pocket change
2) Different opening hours
Spain is 1-4 and 8-12!
3) No "doggy bags"
i.e., don't ask to take your leftovers home with you. Faux pas!
4) You must ask for the check
...otherwise, it will never come. They let you do this so that you can linger.
5) The credit card machine comes to you
Don't hand anyone your card or wave it in the air. When you ask for the check, tell them you are paying with a credit card and they will bring you the machine. Otherwise, they may assume cash and you'll be waiting a bit.
6) People don’t split meals
7) If ordering liquor, the bottle comes to you at the table
Order a Gin & Tonic and you'll get a goblet of ice. The server will bring a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic on the tray as well. White glove service right here - as they pour the gin, you wait for them to stop or they wait for you to say "when", whichever comes first!
8) Pre-fixe menus or menus of the day are standard and include alcohol
9) Food and drinks are cheap
10) They go to dine, not to get fed
11) They never laugh or raise their voices too loudly
In your hotel
12) AC isn’t common or guaranteed
When booking a hotel, select this as a filter for searching. You don't necessarily need AC, but I'd rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.
13) Prepare to take the stairs
Europe is full of old buildings. Don't expect there to be an elevator. Make sure you can carry your bags up several flights of stairs.
14) When you leave a hotel, you typically leave your key and passport at the front desk.
The keys can be giant heavy brass things, mainly to encourage you not to take it with you to dinner, or make yourself a set at the hardware store around the corner. It's probably safer for you anyway, you won't lose them!
15) Ice is not a common commodity. If you ask for the ice machine, prepare for some funny looks.
16) Post pandemic produce shopping 101: grab a plastic glove before touching.
Otherwise, store workers will yell at you in a foreign tongue and you will cry.
17) Bring your own bag or pay for one
This is common at places like Aldi. Or Oregon. In Europe it's everywhere. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Bring your own tote.
18) Pay a coin for a cart
Not sure why this is. Maybe they want to ward off bums or reward you for being Johnny good boy and returning your cart. Either way, if you don't want to carry everything around the store, you need to have a euro coin on hand for shopping carts.
19) Weigh your own produce
I've seen this in a few places - weigh your produce and tag it right there in the vegetable aisle. If you don't do it, they might send you back at the cash register.
20) Learn the metric system
Seriously, you don't want to be that guy that orders 4 kilos of meat for a family of 4. Learn your stuff. You need this for bag sizes at the airport, for measuring out food weights in a market, etc. Here's the ones you really need to know:
1 kilo = 2.2 lbs
1 inch = 2.54 cm
1km = 0.6 miles
From there, figure it out. Half a kilo equal 1.1 pounds. A 22in roll-on bag equals about 56 cm. 100km/hr is 60mph.
While we're at it, brush up on your Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions too. I still don't really have this one down, but generally just remember "22 is 72" and that will get you in the ballpark, at least for setting your non-existent AC unit.
Edit: My husband's Spanish mother gave me this trick - take the Celsius number, multiply by 2 and add 30. For instance, 10 degrees C is (10x2)+30=20+30=50 degrees F. Gets you pretty darn close! I can never do the 9/5 conversion in my head for the legit math formula, so this is a good one!
21) Rolling shopping bags are common everywhere.
Not just for your grandma, everyone uses the rolling shopping bag. It is a convenient way to carry your stuff up and down your apartment stairs and around town, since most of Europe is walkable. Be sure to leave your shopping bag at the front of a store or lock it up by the lockers - they frown on you bringing it with you around the store.
Out and About
22) There isn't always TP in bathrooms
Is anyone listening yet? Always pack tissues.
23) Trains are king.
24) They Don’t smile at strangers/passersby
Apparently we Americans are a bunch of freaks for flashing friendly smiles to strangers as we pass them on a sidewalk. I say, keep doing it. Spread the love.
25) Wear dark colors
Want to fit in anywhere in Europe? Ditch the logo tees, neon and generally happy palleted clothing options.
26) High heels
Carrie Bradshaw has the right idea. Cobblestone streets be damned, this is the only footwear option if you really want to look European.
27) Jean jackets are in
28) Always dress nice.
No workout clothes. No sweats. No baggy outfits. Look respectable.
29) Men almost never wear shorts or ball caps.
In the summer, the more popular look is a brimmed hat or cabbie hat. You can wear shorts if you don't care about looking like a tourist.
And with that, you now are a more aware traveler. Buen viaje!