Exploring Europe can be exciting, overwhelming, and memorable all at once, but all travelers agree that it’s critical to avoid specific pitfalls throughout a trip. Traveling is as much about knowing what not to do as what to do! Recently, experienced adventurers met in an online discussion to reveal everything a new traveler should avoid to maximize their European experience.
1. Rushing Through Meals
Things move much slower in Europe than in the United States, and it’s never more apparent than during meals. Do yourself a favor, and take your time with meals, whether at home or restaurants. Dinners are typically hours long; you wouldn’t want to accidentally insult your host or restaurant staff by hurriedly eating and leaving without fully embracing the atmosphere, would you?
2. Agreeing To Split Taxis With Strangers
A great rule of thumb is to get into cars with people you know. Multiple European travelers report men lurking at airports offering to “split cabs” with people just arriving, especially targeting solo females. Getting into a taxi with a stranger immediately upon arriving in Europe could spell disaster; don’t worry, there will be plenty of opportunities to socialize more traditionally!
3. Ignoring Personal Space
When traveling, it’s all about courtesy and respecting other’s boundaries. Always keep a respectful distance from others when you can. “Never sit right next to a stranger unless the bus is super cramped or something like that,” expresses one woman. “Otherwise, you’ll be regarded as a creep. Also, don’t walk or stand too close to people if there is space.”
4. Taking Unbehaved Children to Restaurants
Nothing can damper a delicious meal quicker than a child’s screaming or crying in a packed restaurant. If you are traveling with your kids and they aren’t in a great mood, consider switching your reservation to a day that works better for them. On behalf of all diners worldwide, I sincerely thank you for your courtesy in this manner!
5. Forgetting To Greet People
No American wants to come off as a pompous jerk, so take the time to exchange pleasantries whenever you initiate conversations with strangers. “Avoid speaking without exchanging greetings first (especially in a country like France) and not responding in kind when someone greets you,” advises one woman. “In other words, exchange’ bon jours’ before you ask where the toilet is.”
6. Getting Guilt-Tripped Into Dining in a Restaurant
You should never give in to peer pressure, especially in Europe! Many restaurants of subpar quality use a heavy-handed approach to obtaining customers. “Avoid any restaurant that tries to strong-arm you into entering,” advises one man. “You’ll hear, ‘Come come, sit down,’ as they shove a menu in your face, usually offering a free drink or dessert — trying to get you to feel bad about turning them down.”
7. Ignoring Local Customs
Remember, you’re not in your home country, and not familiarizing yourself with local customs and traditions can paint you in a highly negative light. It comes down to respect: If you respect where you travel, you’ll receive consideration from the locals. A trip to Europe isn’t a free-for-all; it should be an illuminating experience based on respect.
8. Eating at Chain Restaurants
If you eat American food while on a European vacation, you must ask yourself: Are you taking full advantage of the experience? Many travelers think not! “You flew 5,000 miles across an ocean; don’t waste your time eating American food you could have gotten in Ohio,” explains one woman. “Don’t just try the ‘local’ stuff; go out of your way to find small mom-and-pop restaurants that the residents prefer.”
9. Dressing Lavishly
It’s foolish to garner unwanted attention in an unfamiliar place; Europe is no exception. Sadly, pickpocketers exist in most countries overseas, targeting people wearing flashy jewelry and expensive clothing. I’m sure your high-end handbags and necklaces look great on you, but they might as well be targets for thieves! Protect yourself by dressing more demurely than you usually would back home.
10. Leaving Things in a Rental Car
There are countless stories of unsuspecting travelers having their passports, wallets, and luggage stolen out of their rental cars. European rental car companies are notoriously difficult to work with, so save yourself the potential headache and never leave anything valuable in your rental car! Keep essential things in your hotel room or on you at all times.
11. Not Learning a Little of a New Language
If you don’t learn a few keywords and phrases ahead of your European trip, you’re only making it harder on yourself. Luckily, learning parts of a foreign language is easier than ever in 2023. “I’d avoid social media and watching TV in the month before your trip and spend that time on Duolingo instead,” reveals one woman. “Even if you’re unsure where exactly you’re going in Europe, it’ll help you to know a few phrases in some languages.”
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