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10 Common Mistakes That Travelers Make While Visiting Europe

10 Common Mistakes That Travelers Make While Visiting Europe

When you travel to a new place, there is always the risk that you may embarrass or humiliate yourself because you have not done your homework. Europe has a complicated and fascinating history that you have probably learned about partially before, but it is well worth doing a little bit of extra preparation beforehand.

Here are ten common mistakes that travelers make when visiting Europe.

1. They plan on doing too much

Some travelers insist on doing the whole continent in a week. That is your choice, but you will never be able to savor the sights, smells, and tastes of places if you are dashing from one capital to another. It is also exhausting, and many Europeans throw up their hands in horror at such an exhausting itinerary. It indicates superficiality and a lack of cultural awareness, which they will never understand.

Why not relax and plan to make another visit some time soon? You could do Paris in a few days instead of a few hours. Use your time to get to know the places, culture, and the people. Slowing down will make for unforgettable experiences which beat the night train to Barcelona any time.

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2. They do not realize the value of small coins

Depending on your currency, you may well assume that all coins in the Euro zone are just pocket change. If you are liberally tipping and bestowing these coins, then think again.

At the present rate of exchange, a one-Euro coin is worth slightly more than an American dollar. The very small-value coins in the Euro zone are almost extinct, although they are still favored by supermarkets for psychological pricing (€9.99 always seems cheaper than €10.00). Finland and the Netherlands round cash payments to the nearest five cents. Being aware of the value of the currency can help you save on your holiday bills.

3. They tend to overtip

In most European countries, restaurants will add a service charge which should, in theory, cover the tip. However, it is still common practice to leave about 10 per cent of the total as a tip for the wait staff. Tourists are often unaware of this and tend to overtip, going beyond 20 per cent. It is just not necessary. As for taxis, it is normal to round up the figure to the nearest euro. Getting to know the tipping rules can also help you cut costs.

4. They wear socks and sandals

Many Europeans have a quiet snigger when they see tourists wearing socks and sandals (except in Germany). The normal etiquette is that you either go without socks when wearing sandals, or you put on a pair of sneakers and nobody cares whether there is some fabric next to your feet or not. They just think it is very strange and a bit ridiculous, so better to go with the trend, especially if you are invited to dinner on a summer evening.

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5. They book a flight to a small airport

Many low-cost airlines operate their flights from airports which are often at a considerable distance from the actual destination city. Tourists, when booking these so-called bargains, are often unaware of this. They find that they have to wait up to an hour for an uncomfortable and expensive bus ride to the city center. It is always wise to investigate fully before booking that “bargain.”

6. They are unaware that size matters

When space is limited on metro trains, buses, airport lounges, and so on, people will frown at your oversized luggage. Traveling light is a much better idea. Everything in Europe is smaller and more compact. When I returned to Italy after a holiday in the USA, I was astounded at how small and neat everyone and everything looked on my arrival. It took me quite a while to adjust. The best thing to do is to cut back on clothes, buy a smaller suitcase, and make arrangements for washing. Here are some useful tips if you don’t know where to start.

7. They dress too casually

Europeans generally have great fashion sense, so appearing too casual may lead to embarrassment. If you are in doubt, don’t wear your college t-shirt or turn up as if you are going to a baseball game. Jammies are not recommended for shopping or doing errands. If you are not sure what to wear when you are invited out or want to eat out, always go up one notch on your formal scale. That usually does the trick.

Everyone is getting more casual these day, and even European style may change eventually. But for the moment, it is better to err on the side of caution. I have much sympathy for what Oscar Wilde said about fashion:

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“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every 6 months.” — Oscar Wilde

8. They are unaware of attitudes towards drunkenness

In the UK and the USA, drunkenness is tolerated and even expected. It is merely regarded as slightly over-the-top behavior and nothing else. In Europe, however, attitudes to drinking are a little different. Alcohol is usually consumed together with food and drinking sessions are not so common. Many tourists are mistaken when they assume that the locals are drinking to get drunk.

Again, things are rapidly changing and there are now worrying trends in Italy, where young people are getting drunk and alcoholism is now a problem. Today, there are 54,000 alcoholics receiving treatment in Italy compared to 19,000 in 1996. There is an excellent breakdown of how attitudes to alcoholism are changing in Europe, but the stigma attached to getting drunk is still strong among the older generation.

9. They hire a car for too long

Lots of tourists just assume that they are going to need a hired car from the very beginning of their trip. They forget that if they are going to stay in one or two cities for any length of time, a rented car is just a nuisance and serves no useful purpose whatsoever. They pay extra money in rental and parking fees which they could use for going on organized tours and using public transport, which are often the best ways to see a city.

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10. They expect too many smiles

What is wrong with smiling? Well, nothing really, except that many Europeans do not smile a lot. Try living in Siberia where, if you smile for no particular reason, people regard you as an idiot. In Russia, you only smile when really good things happen. Tourists in Europe can tend to demand smiles from everyone. They get upset when the wait staff fails to smile. They expect enthusiastic comments and excessive positivity. Europeans are just wired differently. Time to get over the cravings for positivity.

When it comes down to it, you need to know something about the countries you are visiting in order to avoid making crazy stereotypical remarks. You need to know that the Dutch do not live in Germany and that Ireland and Northern Ireland are not the same thing. Also, Michelle Obama needs to know that while cooking pasta in the pressure cooker is a great energy and water saver, we Europeans have not jumped on board just yet!

Featured photo credit: Paris, neighborhood bistro/La Citta Vita via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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