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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 November 17, 2019

20 Creative Ways To Say Thank You

20 Creative Ways To Say Thank You

Saying, “Thank you,” can be difficult to do. Some things just demand a little something extra because of the magnitude of the favor or the depth of appreciation involved. But what can you do to say thank you in a meaningful way? Sometimes you have to get a little more creative than just firing off an email. Here are 20 creative ways to say thank you that your friends and family will remember and cherish!

1. Make a gift bag.

A unique, homemade gift bag with a custom label or a note is a simple but heartfelt way to show your appreciation for the wonderful things your friends or family have done for you.

2. Give a toast.

Many people fear public speaking more than death, giving this particular thank-you a little extra meaning. Composing a sincere, eloquent toast and delivering it is a nice way to show appreciation that truly comes from the heart.

3. Write a poem.

“Roses are red, violets are blue…” Uh, you could write that...but why not put a little extra zing in it? Find out what their favorite kind of poetry is: haiku, free verse, iambic pentameter, and so on. (Google them if you don’t know what they are.) Then write one that expresses why they deserve your thanks…and why you’re glad to give it!

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4. Create your own labels.

There are a number of websites that offer custom gift labels. Find one that fits your personality and that of your friends and create a personalized thank-you label!

5. Give a gift card.

Sometimes choosing what to give a friend can be tough. A gift card is a good way to get around this problem. As always, be sure to include a personalized note or card thanking the recipient for their friendship and help.

6. Send a letter.

Snail-mail is a largely lost art form. Don’t worry about how long the letter is, though. What really matters here is that you took the time to put pen to paper and express your feelings sincerely and honestly!

7. Use social media to send a special message.

If someone’s done something you think the whole world should know about, why not put out a social media blast? Use your blog, your Facebook, your Google+ account, and your Twitter to spread the word about why this person’s someone your friends will want to know too!

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8. Make your own digital greeting card.

While an email isn’t always the best way to go when saying thank you, a digital greeting card that you put time and effort into creating can really brighten someone’s day! Make the card reflect the recipient’s personality and compose a short message of thanks for their generosity.

9. Make a YouTube video.

Sometimes, actually hearing someone say, “Thank you,” can make all the difference. Why not take it a step further and create a special video of thanks for your friends, family, and those special people who helped make your day so important…or who helped you through that rough time?

10. Deliver cookies or candies.

Making something yourself is a fun and delightful way to say thank you to someone. Create a sampling of baked goods or homemade candies and decorate them with a simple message, or make them so they form letters! (Think Valentine’s candies, only situationally appropriate.) Attach a thank-you note or label and surprise those special people with the gift of your time and creativity.

11. Make surprise gifts for guests.

There’s no need to wait until “later” to send a thank-you message. Why not do it at the time? Create little gift packets or bags for your guests with surprises inside. This is a great way to say thanks to the people who attended your event, and make sure they won’t want to miss the next one!

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12. Put together a flower basket.

Whether you prefer fresh or artificial flowers, assembling a flower basket with a thank-you note is an excellent way to brighten someone’s day and show you appreciate them.

13. Take a picture.

Sometimes capturing the moment is the best way to put a smile on someone’s face. Have someone take a picture of you receiving that special gift or opening that surprise package and send the giver a copy with a quick but sincere note to say thanks!

14. Repay their generosity by paying it forward.

The best gifts come from the heart, and the best way to repay a gift is to pay it forward. If your friend has a special cause they care about or something they believe in passionately, why not make a donation in their name or volunteer some of your time to the cause? This will mean more than any number of cookies, candies, or thank-you notes because you’re taking your friend’s love and spreading it around to others.

15. Do something special for them.

Take them out to dinner. (See “make a toast.”) Give them that movie they’ve been wanting forever. Cook them dinner and give them a present when they arrive. Any of these are good options for showing someone you really appreciate them and how grateful you are to have them in your life.

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16. Reciprocate their help.

Everyone needs help sometime. Whether it’s holding their hand through a particularly traumatic incident or helping them replace the alternator in their car, being there when they need it shows you remember what they did for you and how much it meant. It also shows that you’re willing to be just as good a friend to them as they were to you!

17. Be there for them.

Not every thank-you gesture has to be a grand public spectacle. Sometimes just giving them a place to come hang out when they’re lonely or showing up to offer them a sympathetic shoulder means the world to a person.

18. Listen to them.

Listening is almost as lost an art as the handwritten letter. When your friend or family member needs to talk, listen to them. Ask questions when appropriate, but just letting them know you’re there and paying attention to them to the exclusion of all else for a little while is a great way to say thank you for the times they listened to you.

19. Say it in another language…or two…

A simple thank you is great…but why not spice it up a little? Instead of just saying, “Thank you,” write or make a video of you telling them thank you in different languages. Some examples might be, “Gracias! Merci! Danke schoen! Spasibo! Mahalo!” and any other ways or languages you can think of. (The ones listed above are Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Hawaiian, in case you were wondering.) If you want to really get tricky about it, say a short phrase in each language that conveys why you’re thanking them!

20. Show them some love.

A simple touch, a hug, or helping out when they need it without being asked may be the most powerful gratitude message you can send. Offer to take the dogs for a walk, sit for the kids for a few hours, or run to the grocery store so they don’t have to. The little things are often the most important and meaningful. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still send a note, but sometimes your simple presence and willingness to help is all that really matters.

Featured photo credit: Hanny Naibaho via unsplash.com

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