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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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