So you’re about to take your first trip to Europe. You’re dressed in khakis and sneakers with your American flag t-shirt, ready to hit the streets with jam-packed agenda in hand.
Please don’t even board the plane until you read this article first.
You see, there are some things American tourists do that drive Europeans crazy.
And since many well-meaning Americans simply don’t know the rules on “what not to do” while overseas, we’re here to help ya out.
The goal when you travel is to experience another culture to the fullest…
… not seek to irritate every person you come in contact with and give Americans a bad name.
All it takes is one obnoxious jerk (or well-meaning, but clueless person) to reinforce the stereotype.
So when traveling overseas, be sure to keep the following things in mind so you don’t become “that guy.”
Dressing Like A Slob
You like to dress comfortable.
We get it.
But if you’re rocking a baseball cap (especially backwards) with your athletic gear– you’ll stand out and everyone will know you are a tourist.
Same thing goes if you actually tour Europe in sweatpants (and I wouldn’t even be mentioning this if people didn’t actually do it).
And if you top off your outfit with running shoes or sneakers, you’re basically screaming, “Hey, I’m an awkward rich American tourist, please come rob me and take all my money!”
Which means you need to leave the American flag shorts at home too.
I know, you love the American flag. So do we.
But going overseas in your American flag shorts and college sweatshirt?
Probably not the best idea.
America’s great – but I gotta give it to the Europeans – they know how to dress.
Refusing To Sample New Food
When you’re overseas, one of the best parts about traveling is sampling the local grub!
So if you venture outside of Europe to places like India and order a burger and fries, they’ll probably stare at you a little funny. Not to mention the fact that the cow is sacred and it’s illegal to slaughter cows most places in India.
That whole “When in Rome” definitely applies to eating overseas!
Check out the local favorites of the city you are staying in.
Live a little!
If you don’t have an adventurous palette, you can still stick to something local that isn’t too crazy.
Some places in Europe are a bit out there and serve things like boiled pig brains, but other places serve classic fare like fish and chips or dumplings – so you don’t have to eat the most extreme thing out there (but bonus points if you do)!
And in Europe, you’ll get a different kind of service – it’s not rushed and “efficient” like it is here in America – and Europeans find it rude to clear your plate away until everyone is finished eating.
So chill out and give the waitress some slack.
Oh and pro-tip – if you like to slurp down bottomless cups of soda, the refills aren’t free like here in the States.
Not Knowing The Language
Think about how annoyed you get when you’re in America and people don’t speak English.
Well guess what… foreigners feel the same way when you’re in their country and don’t speak their language.
It makes them even more ticked off when you assume everyone speaks English.
While many Europeans do in fact speak English as a second language, not all of them do.
Learn a few phrases before you go. Buy a phrase book. Use Google translate.
Whatever you need to do.
But at least learn a few basic words to help you get around the city.
Even learning “hello” and “thank you” goes a long way.
It shows respect for the country you’re in – and you’ll be able to get around better.
When we eat. When we walk. When we take the bus or subway.
But in Europe, they talk quietly.
You won’t see people screaming and laughing across the table at dinner (some people don’t even talk at dinner).
Be mindful and watch the volume level of your conversation.
Taking Too Much Stuff
If you’re in Europe for 10 days, or even 14 – you don’t need three gigantic suitcases.
Everything should fit into a carry-on suitcase and backpack.
(I spent 33 days in El Salvador with a carry-on suitcase and backpack, so 10-days is easily doable).
If you show up at the airport and walk around lugging multiple bags of stuff, you’ll fit the stereotype of the typical American with too much stuff… or the traveler who doesn’t know how to pack.
Neither are good.
Plus, it’s more stuff to keep track off (or get stolen).
Leave Your Stress At Home
We Americans are known for having a stressed-out culture.
Our schedules are packed. We do “work lunches” and even listen to “work podcasts” while we’re at the gym.
And to Europeans, we look nuts.
In places like Greece and Spain, lunch breaks last up to 3 hours.
Yes, a 3-hour lunch break in the middle of the day to eat lunch, take a nap, or whatever.
That’s how they roll.
Most people in America are lucky to get an hour lunch (the average is about 30 minutes).
So enjoy the laid-back culture!
You’re on vacation. Relax. Tear up the agenda. Take the time to enjoy and savor your food.
If you run around stressed out and insisting to stick to a schedule, you’ll stand out (plus you’ll make the rest of us Americans look bad).
Be You (But Refined)
Listen, I’m not saying you need to change who you are just to tour Europe.
But if you walk around wearing an American flag t-shirt and sneakers, only speak English, and demand a burger and free refills of Coca-Cola with a frazzled look in your eye – they’ll probably make a meme about you.
But hey – let’s face it…
…we get annoyed about the weird stuff Europeans do too.
So stay tuned for Part 2 on all the weird stuff Europeans do that drive us nuts.
In the meantime, this article is about us – not them.
So when traveling overseas, try and avoid these annoying habits and you’ll up your travel-pro status in no time!
(h/t Proud American Traveler)