Having travelled extensively throughout Europe and lived in different countries I have learnt lots of travel lessons by now. The most important lesson overall is probably that once you are used to how ‘things are done’ in one country, do not expect the next country to work the same way. Europe is such a culturally diverse continent with different habits, customs, languages, currencies, food.. you get the point. Below are a few of my favourite ‘strange’ things in Europe!
Waiting to be seated… or not!
In Germany it’s perfectly normal to walk into a cafe or restaurant and just take a seat at a table of your choice. If you do that in London the waiter will come running after you and allocate you to a table of HIS or HER choice. If you are unsure what’s normal in the country that you are currently in, just enter the restaurant and give the waiter a moment. If it’s expected for you to wait until you are seated, the waiter will usually already spot you while you are entering and greet you at the door.
Ordering tab water..
Most normal thing in the world in the UK and a no-go in Germany. It is also not that common in lots of other countries in Europe. Easy way to find out though: Either the waiter asked you whether you would like some tab water to start with.. or not. If tab water is not offered to you, it is generally not common to be served.
If Uber is available, take it!
Taxis can be super expensive in Europe, especially in the Nordic countries. So if you can use your Uber app, make use of it. It will save you loads of money!
You might have travelled happily through countless developing countries without having had anything stolen. But then you are in Barcelona, Paris, Rome or London and ta-dah your phone or wallet goes missing! This happened to me: I was writing on my laptop in a pretty cafe in London. I had a great seat next to the window, super yummy cappuccino and the day was perfect. Until these two idiots came in. They walked over to where I was sitting, put a postcard on my table and started smiling at me. I said I don’t want their postcard and they took it away again. So far so good. Just that they had put the stupid postcard on my phone and once they took the card away again, they also took my phone. Awesome.
To wear or not to wear your bikini..
In any other part of Europe you DO WEAR your bikini or bathing clothes when you go to the sauna or steam room. But don’t, DON’T do that in Germany or Austria. Ever.
The other guests will likely not look at you when you are naked but will 100% look at you (and they will not give you the nice looks!) if you enter the sauna wearing anything else except a towel. Also don’t walk into the sauna naked and without any towel. Another no-go. Your skin is not supposed to touch anything, so don’t sit down there on your naked butt! Safe way to know whether to go nude or not: If they speak German, take the clothes off :)
So if you are skiing in Austria or German-speaking Switzerland, feel like relaxing in the sauna, and don’t want to show the pure and natural you, do it my way: I usually have three towels with me. Two for covering the seat and one as my bikini substitute that I will NOT remove!
Europe is home to various hard-working countries where everything goes by the rule yet also home to countries where rules can be bend and not everyone takes pride in whatever sort of efficiency. Efficiency in Europe often goes hand in hand with the weather: The warmer the country is, the less likely things are getting done quickly. So just be aware that a few things, may it ordering in a cafe or essentially any other daily activities just take a bit longer in Southern Italy, for instance, than in Germany or England.
Whilst things in Germany might be more efficient and reliable, ze Germans tend to take things sometimes way too seriously. In Germany it’s quite natural to follow the rules without questioning them and this is also expected from people travelling in the country. So don’t take anything personal… you might get a mean look from someone in Germany but get a friendly face in Spain, Italy or Greece for the same thing. It’s just the beauty of different cultures :)
Happy faces and friendly people
Whether you find someone friendly or rude is entirely up to what you are used to. When I came (from Germany) to England I was amazed to see so many friendly people and almost started to think that the Germans were a bit rude. Then I spoke with an Australian friend of mine who thought the English were rather rude when she arrived. Now, who is right?
In the end I believe that there is not necessary one country with nicer people than another. Whilst come cultures are just less reserved and more welcoming and friendly, other countries have a reputation for opening up not that easily. In the end it all comes down to the individual. If you are putting in effort to get to know some locals, they will welcome you with open arms, no matter in which country you are. It just sometimes takes a bit longer in one country than in another. In the end everyone has a good heart somewhere, right?
Personal space is another aspect I found highly correlated to the weather of a country. The normal distance between two random people speaking with each other in a Southern European country almost equals the distance that only close friends in a Nordic country would choose. So don’t scare away if a Spanish person you have never met before comes close to tell you a story. They are not trying to make out with you (normally at least..). It’s just their comfy personal space. Same thing holds for travelling in the Nordic countries. Just because someone doesn’t come that close to you doesn’t mean you are a weirdo and nobody likes you :)
And last but not least..
Europe has it all: nature, animals, amazing beaches and cultural heritage
If you think of Europe of just capital hopping, you couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t forget that we have incredibly beautiful beaches, e.g. in Greece and Croatia, stunning mountains, e.g. in Austria, Switzerland or Italy, millions of sheep and happy animals in Scotland and incredibly beautiful architecture often dating back hundreds of years in pretty much all places in Europe.
Can you relate? What are your stories when travelling through Europe? To read more about the places I have been to in Europe, click here.
This post is in collaboration with GoEuro. To read more travel lessons for Europe, head over to their website and check out other posts in their #travellessons campaign.