I just came back from Germany for the second time and I've noticed a lot of minor things that make travel less enjoyable and some things that make traveling there better than home (for us Americans). I wrote a post about Rome when I went there a little over a year ago and I've been to France since then, so I'm basing this post on a mixture of European, but mostly German experiences. So I apologize if some of what I mention doesn't apply to most of Europe. Anyway, in case you haven't been there, here's some advice nobody tells you (but that you should know), before you go to Europe…
Pack the following things
- International Electric Adapter: Their plugs are way different than ours and without an adapter, you won't be able to plug in anything electric that you take over from here.
- Shampoo and Bar Soap: Europeans like this all-purpose hand & body soap/shampoo in dispensers which is good for the environment but not that great on your hair, (and you don't get extra travel sized containers to take with you)
- Travel Iron: hotel rooms don't each have irons and boards, you have to borrow one from the front desk and that can only happen in the morning when housekeeping is in
- Alarm Clock: Whether you use a travel alarm clock, your phone, or your watch, keep one handy because many European hotels don't have alarm clocks, although sometimes they're built in to the TV.
- Euros: many places don't take credit cards, so use an ATM to get Euros out whenever you can.
At a minimum, learn how to say these phrases in the native language(s)
- Hello and goodbye
- Good morning, good day, good evening
- I would like… please… thank you
- Where is… and more specifically, Where is the bathroom?
- The numbers
- Can I please have the check: the Europeans wait staff are rarely in a hurry
- How to ask if a menu item has something you don't like or won't eat
- Ground floor is floor "0", the U.S. second floor is "1"
- Many escalators don't start moving until you approach them, (motion sensor)
- Stuff is just plain expensive, especially clothes. Even some European things are sometimes cheaper to buy in the U.S.
- You can't get a glass of tap water anywhere, have to buy a bottled water, with or without "gas" (carbonation)
- If you rent a car, most of them have manual transmissions because that's what 95% of Europeans drive
- The switch to the bathroom light is often outside of the bathroom which makes one highly vulnerable to pranks
- They play a lot of American music on some of their radio stations
- You need Euro change to use some public bathrooms
- The hotels there do not have gyms, so with all the good food, beer, and wine, walk a lot or expect to gain some weight.
- The food just tastes more wholesome (and probably is)
- Breakfast buffets are amazing
- You usually don't have to bus your table at a cafeteria style place
- Coffee is way better, especially in Italy
- Beer and wine are generally better
- The bread and cheese are better
- Sweets are not over-sweetened like in the U.S. and they probably don't use corn syrup
- You don't have to tip nearly as much, not sure how much though
- They really like soccer
- More variety of cars to look at
- You get to drive fast on the highways
- Most people usually know at least a bit of English
- They sell cooler toys
- People are thinner
- People take time out to eat and don't work while eating
- On the business side, customers treat you like guests will usually buy you lunch, coffee, water