Traveling the world is a great way to step outside of your bubble and see how other countries and cultures live. It’s eye-opening, thought-provoking, and most importantly, educational.
While we definitely do things a certain way in the United States, it’s always a good idea to remember other continents (and countries) do things differently! It’s OK to feel like a fish out of water when exploring a new place, but it helps to know the dos and don’ts before you get yourself into trouble.
From how to act in a restaurant to where to walk on the street, here’s what not to do when you visit Europe.
Don’t Make Too Much Noise
Listen, Americans are known for being loud. That’s just the way it is! But, if you want to fit in with the European locals and not draw too much attention to yourself, I would suggest keeping your voice down in public spaces. Especially when visiting tourist attractions — such as a museum or church — it’s just more respectful to speak quietly.
Don’t Wave Down the Waiter
It’s common in the United States to see people in restaurants wave down their waiter to ask for the check or more water, but I would recommend not doing this in Europe. In fact, in most European countries it is considered rude to wave down a server.
It’s also important to remember that service industry jobs in Europe are very different than they are in the United States. Unlike in the States, where servers make a majority of their money off of tips, European servers get paid a decent wage (and rarely get tipped).
Because of this, service tends to be a bit slower in European restaurants. So, if you plan to go out to dinner, just remember to have patience and plan on things taking a little longer than what you’re maybe used to.
Don’t Take Up the Bike Lanes
While cyclists bike on the road all the time in the United States, they don’t get treated with very much respect. People are always yelling at cyclists to get out of the road, or people use the bike lanes to walk their dogs.
But, if you visit Europe, it’s important to not only respect cyclists on the road but to also respect the bike lanes. People bike way more often in Europe than they do in the States because things tend to be much closer together.
Not to mention, biking is good for the environment and helps to eliminate traffic.
It’s a good reminder to say out of the bike lanes if you’re walking around the city and to make sure to stay to one side of the sidewalk. Trust me, you don’t want to cause a bike crash in a foreign country.
Don’t Automatically Say Yes to Water in a Restaurant
Believe it or not, but most European restaurants actually charge their customers for water. Yep, it’s true! In fact, when you sit down at a restaurant in Europe, the waiter will ask if you want “sparkling or still water,” which tends to come in a bottle.
To avoid the charge, ask if they have tap water, which is usually free. But, in order to dodge the water debacle altogether, bring a reusable water bottle and keep it with you at all times.
Fill it up at water fountains or at your hotel, rather than pay for expensive water every time you sit down to eat. It’s just not worth it!
Don’t Put Your Purse on the Ground
You shouldn’t put your purse on the ground at a restaurant ever, but you certainly shouldn’t do it in Europe. If you’re planning to visit a major European city, make sure to keep your bag on you at all times.
Thieves and pickpocketers constantly roam outdoor restaurants and packed city squares just looking for tourists who are being careless with their belongings.
You may think that your bag is fine under your chair or near your feet, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Having your bag stolen is a bummer in pretty much any country, but it’s especially frustrating if you’re overseas. Stay vigilant!
Don’t Always Take an Uber or Cab
OK, I’m not saying you should never take an Uber or cab in Europe, but’s nine out of 10 times it’s just not necessary.
Public transportation is very good in Europe, as most countries have underground and above-ground trains. They’re also fairly easy to navigate and cost a lot less than a cab. Most European cities also have great bus transportation that can take you to all the major tourist destinations.
In addition to convenience and cost, don’t forget the benefits of walking around! Why spend your entire vacation in a cab? Get out there and see the country the way the locals do!