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15 Things You Shouldn’t Do When You Travel to Europe

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By Alessia Barranca


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With its charming cities, rich history, and mouthwatering cuisine, Europe is a dream destination for many Americans. While it’s always good to be yourself, there are certain things you should know before you travel so that you don’t make faux pas. We explore 15 things Americans should avoid doing in Europe to make the most of their vacation without upsetting anyone.

Assuming Everyone Speaks English

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English is spoken in many tourist areas in Europe, but not everyone is fluent. To show respect for local culture, you should learn a few basic phrases before you travel. To get around town more easily, think about what activities you will be doing, what you want to buy, and where you want to go. 

Packing for the Wrong Season

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Europe is a large continent with a range of climates, so the weather in Scandinavia can be vastly different from the weather in Greece. Packing for the wrong weather will make you miserable, so pack layers to adjust to different temperatures as you travel.

Being Too Loud

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Europeans are generally quieter than Americans and prefer a more reserved atmosphere in public spaces. Loud talking and boisterous laughter, as demonstrated by many Americans, can be seen as disruptive and disrespectful, especially in museums and public buildings.

Bad Line Etiquette

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Line, or “queueing” as it’s known in Europe, etiquette can be an authentic culture clash for American travelers. While Americans are used to cutting lines, Europeans like establishing order and ensuring everyone gets a fair chance. Cutting in line is considered rude and disrespectful, especially in busy museums in France and Florence. 

Tipping Blunders

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Unlike America, tipping practices vary significantly across Europe. Some countries expect tourists to tip, but others are offended by the offer. Many European restaurants include a service charge on the bill, essentially the tip. Leaving additional money on top of that can be seen as overpaying.

Having Valuables on Display

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Pickpocketing is common in European tourist areas, especially in crowded places like train stations, markets, and public transport. Having valuables like wallets, phones, or cameras on display makes you a target. It would be best to keep valuables secure at your hotel when they are unnecessary and refrain from carrying excessive cash.

Disrespecting Historical Sites

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Historical sites in Europe showcase centuries of history, culture, and heritage. Treating such sites with disrespect shows a lack of appreciation for their importance. Tourists should respect landmarks’ cultural and historical significance by not climbing monuments, touching things they’re not supposed to or littering.

Dressing Inappropriately

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Europeans tend to dress modestly compared to Americans. Revealing clothing or overly casual attire might be seen as disrespectful in specific settings. Some restaurants, particularly in more excellent areas, might have a smart casual dress code or require men to wear long trousers.  

Public Transportation Woes

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European cities often have different ticketing systems, which can confuse visitors who are used to a single fare system in their city. You should research the public transportation system in each country you visit to avoid fines and delays. 

Complaining About the Food

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American travelers might be looking for similar flavors and ingredients they’re used to at home, which can lead to disappointment with European dishes that are prepared differently. Complaining about food shows a lack of willingness to try new things and experience different culinary traditions. Try to be open-minded and research restaurants where the menus look appealing. 

Haggling Over Prices

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Unlike some parts of the world, most European shops and stores have fixed prices. Haggling can be seen as disrespectful to the established price set by the seller. There are some places, such as open air and markets, where haggling is acceptable, but you should negotiate politely.

Walking in Bicycle Lanes

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Bike culture is big in Europe, with cities like Amsterdam and Berlin being havens for cyclists. Bicycle lanes are designated for cyclists who travel at higher speeds than pedestrians, so walking in a bike lane puts you at risk of being struck. Only hire a bike if you are confident navigating the roads, as they can get swamped. 


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Jaywalking is illegal in most European countries, and pedestrians are expected to use designated crosswalks and obey traffic signals. Following traffic laws and pedestrian etiquette shows respect for the local culture and safety.

Beckoning Wait Staff

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European restaurant service tends to be more formal than in some parts of the USA. Servers are trained professionals and appreciate being addressed politely rather than waved over as you may do in the U.S.

Expecting Unlimited Drinks

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Unlike some American restaurants offering free soda refills, most European restaurants don’t offer unlimited drinks. In Europe, you typically order and pay for each drink you want, including water. Some buffet-style restaurants and fast-food chains may offer unlimited drinks, but it is different.