You’re about to embark on your first trip to Europe and have your “must-see” attractions all planned out.
And instead of bringing multiple bags, you’ve followed our advice and strategically packed all your belongings into a single carry-on (nice work).
But even the most well-prepared travelers can still fall prey to making common rookie mistakes when traveling to Europe.
And since we like you, we want you to avoid wasting your money and time wishing you knew ahead of time what you were about to walk into.
To start, if you read our article about the 6 Annoying Things Americans Do That Drive Europeans Nuts, you’re already ahead of the game.
But even though you might’ve learned to keep your college sweatshirt at home and are ready to sample the local food, there’s still more to know.
You see, while there’s things Americans do when in Europe that drive Europeans nuts, on the flip side, there are things about Europe that make us crazy too.
Like their bathrooms.
Seriously… their bathrooms.
And get ready to carry around a whole lot of coins.
But still, the good definitely outweighs the bad in Europe.
There are many beautiful countries and places to see – hey, our goal isn’t to stop you from visiting Europe, quite the opposite!
We just want to prepare you so you don’t end up surprised and annoyed.
So before you embark on that trip to Europe, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Say Goodbye To Free Refills
Here in America, we can order a soda at a restaurant and when we finish (or even before we finish) our server brings us a refill – for free.
Not so in Europe.
You pay each time, which can get expensive if you like to pound them back.
And don’t expect complimentary chips and salsa or bread before your meal – they charge for everything.
If you’re not careful, these little expenses can seriously add up fast.
Those Bathrooms, Though
You see in Europe, there really is no logic to their bathrooms.
Sometimes you get a toilet seat, sometimes you don’t. And you might even have to actually pay a small fee to use the bathroom.
And what your children thought was a kid’s sink is actually a bidet, which is a watery mess.
We love Europe for sure, but have never been more thankful for American bathrooms.
We like our paper money. And our plastic credit cards.
Yeah, not so much.
They are heavy, bulky, and take up a lot of space.
Not to mention there really is never a good place to store and carry them.
But in Europe, they are all about the coins. One cent coins. Two cent coins. They even have some coins worth two euros.
We recommend having some cash in Europe, although with the right credit card, you can hopefully avoid carrying around a pocket full of coins.
Curb Your Appetite
After a long day of sightseeing, you’re bound to work up a serious appetite.
So you order a large pizza – and are shocked when they bring what looks like a kid’s meal!
Here’s the thing, the portion sizes in Europe are much smaller than in America.
Our “small” is often considered their large.
Yeah, we like to eat a lot in America and are used to generous portion sizes.
But in Europe that’s just not how they roll.
If you’re starving, you might need to order more than one meal or a few extra sides.
Sure the server might look at you like your nuts, but hey you’re hungry, no judgement from us.
You’re Not In Kansas Anymore
Overall, American cities are pretty friendly.
People are often seen talking on the streets or on the subway.
And generally speaking, we can expect to get a decent level of customer service when shopping or dining out.
But in Europe, the overall culture is much more standoffish.
Not that they are mean (although some people are, but that is everywhere you go), it’s just that in Europe, it’s considered rude to keep coming up to a table in a restaurant or bothering someone while they’re shopping.
And people are a bit more reserved and don’t walk around with smiles.Sound depressing?
Nah, it’s just different.
Of course, depending where you go in Europe you can expect different things.
I’ve been to Ireland and the locals are more than willing to drink a pint with you and listen to your accent.
But in Germany, they might not be as friendly.
So don’t get offended if people aren’t smiling and don’t want to talk to you, it’s not you – it’s them.
Pack Your Patience
With that said, when you’re done eating your lunch, you’ll have to practically tackle down your server just to get your check.
In Europe, no one is in a hurry to go anywhere.
And in places like Spain, it’s even more intense. Folks are either unemployed or granted the luxury of taking 3-hour lunch breaks, so people are happy to sit and eat and talk for hours…
…and while you’re happy for them and their life of luxury (not really), you have places to go and things to see!
You didn’t pay thousands of dollars to fly to Europe and stare at your dirty dishes for hours, desperately trying to flag down your waiter.
To get your check, you may need to be assertive and ask for it multiple times – unless you want to sit there until the place closes down (and trust us, they’ll let you).
Of course you want to sample the local cuisine and culture and relax over a delicious lunch. But you also want to see stuff. Sometimes these goals can conflict.
The solution? Block extra time in your itinerary for meals, enjoy the down time — and remember these words: “La cuenta!”
Enjoy Every Moment
Europe is beautiful.
Whether you’re soaking in the wonder of the “Forty Shades of Green” in Ireland or viewing the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the first time, savor every moment.
Sure there are things bound to drive you crazy, but now at least you know what to expect.
Have you ever visited Europe before?
If so, what do you wish you would’ve known ahead of time before you went?
Tell us in the comments below and be sure to share this article with all your friends!