10 Things Americans Should Avoid Doing When Traveling to Europe

By Krystal Brown

A European vacation is a dream for many Americans, but it’s important to be aware of the cultural differences before you go. Here are a few things to avoid doing to ensure a wonderful vacation experience.

Don’t Think That All Europeans Are the Same

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The first thing that an American must avoid when traveling to Europe is that they should not assume that all Europeans are the same. Generalizing Europe is a mistake as each of the forty countries celebrates different cultures and customs, with many differing greatly. For example, in Germany, you would never attempt to jaywalk but it is more acceptable in The Netherlands (watch out for the bicycles though!). If you are traveling to multiple European countries it is best to read up on their specific customs beforehand. 

Keep Your Personal Belongings Close

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Pickpocketing can be a huge problem in some European cities, such as Paris, Milan, and Madrid. It is always best practice to keep your belongings in sight at all times and wear a bag that can stay close to your body for protection. This is, however, common sense and you should not let the thought of having your money stolen ruin your day as the instances are small in the grand scheme of things. 

Don’t Eat at American Chain Restaurants

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The last thing that you want to eat when you are in Europe is a meal that you can get at home, so fast-food chains are out. There is an abundance of amazing food to be eaten in Europe from fresh pasta in Italy to Coq au Vin in France to tickle your tastebuds. If you do venture to an American food chain in Europe you may be surprised by the quality as Europe has more structured food regulations so the quality of the meat is superior. 

Don’t Get Your Money Changed in a Tourist Area

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There are currency exchanges aplenty in every European city but it is advisable to avoid the ones on major city center streets. The prime tourist areas in Europe, such as Leicester Square in London and Las Ramblas in Barcelona take high commission rates which means that you are out of pocket. It is better to use your debit or credit card rather than change to cash as they are accepted almost everywhere these days. 

Don’t Get Too Close

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In some European cultures, including Finland and Denmark, it is not acceptable to get too close to people. Talking to strangers is considered rude in many countries so you should wait to be invited to talk. However, this is not the case as other countries such as Italy, Greece, and Spain are super friendly, especially with children, and they would welcome you to lean in for a chat. 

Don’t Compare Dollars Out Loud

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While it is great that you can buy things in Europe much cheaper than you would in America, it is not cool to shout out about it. As well as encouraging some sellers to up their prices it may be insulting for people around you who are struggling to afford items at the grocery store. If groceries are cheaper wages are likely less than in the U.S. so it is all relative. 

Don’t Plan Too Much

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There are many places to explore in Europe outside of the major cities and some of them will take you by surprise. It is great to have an idea of the places that you would like to visit but leave room for taking in the city at a slower pace to soak up the great things off the beaten track. Work out a list of must-sees and fill the rest of the time being spontaneous or accepting recommendations from locals. 

Don’t Be Too Loud

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Some Americans can be very loud and while some Europeans don’t mind the noise others would prefer a more civilized affair. You may not realize that you are being loud but when you get to Europe you will notice a difference when comparing yourself to others. Nobody is telling you to stop having fun, just try to tone it down a little. 

Eat Away From Tourist Traps

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Some restaurants and bars in the main tourist areas of a city will charge over the odds for their food and drink as they believe tourists will think that is the usual price locals pay. You can expect to pay over 30 euros for gelato near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, for example, when a few streets away the same gelato will cost 5 euros.

Don’t Forget to Explore Smaller Cities

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As we have mentioned, it is good to explore some of the less touristy areas of Europe outside of the major cities. Some of the capital cities in Europe, such as Rome and Berlin, are amazing but they do get very crowded and can be expensive. You will get a better feel for a country by mixing with locals in some of the less popular cities and towns.

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