5 Important Travel Tips for Americans Traveling to Europe
Learn basic foreign phrases
Although it’s easy enough to travel through Europe speaking only English, it’s important to acknowledge the significance of multiple languages in Europe. Americans traveling to Europe should learn the local words and phrases of the countries they will be visiting because it will provide them with a richer experience and understanding of the local culture.
Don’t be embarrassed to sound like a non-native speaker. Locals will appreciate the effort and may be more helpful as a result. In fact, they may even respond in English, making life a lot easier. However, tourists won’t always be able to speak English with the locals.
Although English is becoming a popular second language across Europe, don’t expect everyone to speak English, especially not the older generation. It is common to experience communication difficulties. Don’t be afraid to use hand gestures, facial expressions, and pointing to convey a message. Non-verbal communication enhances understanding. Learning how to communicate using a combination of local words and phrases and non-verbal cues is one of the most valuable travel tips for Europe.
Dress and Act Like Locals
Americans traveling to Europe have most likely heard travel horror stories. Therefore, many people fear being the next victim of theft or pickpocketing. However, there are several ways to decrease the chances of being a target.
First, don’t dress like a tourist. Wearing a fanny pack, a backpack, or clothing that references America, are prime examples of what not to wear while traveling in Europe. To not stand out as a tourist, wear what the locals wear— neutral colors, scarves, and layers.
Second, tourists should look like they know where they’re going even if they don’t. Standing on the street, looking confused, and staring at a map easily identifies people as tourists. Don’t make this mistake; instead, head somewhere with free Wi-Fi, such as a coffee shop or a pub, and look up directions. Fortunately, Auto Europe offers a free portable GPS with all car rentals, so you can know exactly which way to go before heading out again.
Lastly, know the customs. If people’s behaviors are not culturally appropriate, then they will look like tourists. For example, in most of Europe it is against proper etiquette to eat food while walking down the street. Americans are used to a fast-paced lifestyle that requires eating on the go, so many Americans traveling to Europe make this mistake.
Be On Your Best Behavior
American tourists tend to have a negative stereotype in Europe, so it is important for Americans traveling to Europe to remember that they represent America while abroad.
Rather than being the stereotypical loud, entitled, judgmental American tourist, embrace Europe with an open mind. Try new experiences and foods without comparing them to “better” things in America. Know that customer service is less interactive than in America; people don’t greet customers with, “Hello. Do you need help finding anything?” right when someone enters a shop, and store employees aren’t going to say, “Have a nice day,” as a customer exits. Don’t feel entitled to friendly cashiers and waiters while in Europe because that is not typical of European culture. Lastly, speak in a low voice. Americans tend to tell stories with great enthusiasm, talking with their hands and speaking very loudly. In Europe, where adults tend to speak softly, especially in cafes and on public transit, loudness is considered to be impolite.
Remember these important travel tips for Europe because representing America positively is the responsibility of every American tourist.
Be Open to the European Lifestyle
Everything is bigger in America, but don’t bring that mentality over to Europe, where rooms and appliances are smaller than most Americans are used to. Americans traveling to Europe should embrace the differences and appreciate Europeans’ eco-friendly lifestyle. For example, in the winter, don’t expect to crank up the central heating and in the summer, there may not be air conditioning. Drying clothes might take a little longer without a dryer, but these are all appliances that many Europeans are happy to live without.
Europeans are also eco-friendly in the sense that they walk everywhere. Many Europeans, especially in cities, don’t own a car. To an American, who is used to hopping in the car to drive around the corner, this is a big change. However, one of the best travel tips for Europe is to join in on the walking because many tourists who do will find that walking is actually quite pleasant. Plus, it’s a great way to stay in shape while traveling. This makes the warmer months one of the best times to visit Europe, when being outside and exploring by foot is comfortable and pleasurable!
Stop at the Little Towns
Many guidebooks focus on major European cities, but one of the most underrated travel tips for Europe is to visit the countryside. Being in smaller towns and villages shows tourists the true culture and character of a country. Head to a pub in Ireland around midday and have a chat with the old men who have been drinking there since their retirement. Or, explore the medieval streets and buildings of quaint French villages. The entire continent is full of history, so any small town will be packed full of surprises. Americans traveling to Europe should not only enjoy seeing the big cities, but also the tiny towns that are full of history and proud locals.