Traveling to Europe is something that is on every American's bucket list. The Eastern world offers enjoyment that you just can't find here in America. Where else can you hop on a train or take a ferry and be in a new country within hours? Booking a trip across the pond involves delicate planning and budgeting, but travelers should also dig into some etiquette research.
Across the world, you'll find the mannerisms and even customary habits just aren't the same as here in the United States. So, to save you the trouble of embarrassing yourself—or making the Euros bitter—here are 10 etiquette tips that every American traveling to Europe should know.
Tipping is an instant reflex in American hospitality. Not only do servers expect a tip, but they make their living off of it. However, in Europe tipping, isn't as common, In fact, some people even consider tipping to be rude.
It depends on which country you're in, but chances are, your server and bartender aren't expecting you to pay them extra. Unlike U.S. servers, they make a liveable hourly wage. If you're not sure if an establishment accepts tips, or you want to thank someone for their superb service, all you have to do is simply ask if it's okay to leave a little something extra.
Just like our standard for tipping, Europeans have an unspoken agreement to give exact change. If you go to a restaurant and a leave a £50 note (about $62 U.S. dollars), their instinct is to keep the change. This is an informal way of tipping. Also, if you go to a one-stop shop and ask the cashier to break a note, chances are that they, and everyone waiting in line behind you, will be severely agitated.
In the U.S., servers hustle and check up on their tables as a way to ensure superior service, as well as a better tip. However, in Europe, this constant attention while out at a restaurant is considered impolite. Because of this same reason, you will need to ask for your bill directly. They won't ask when you're ready and they won't automatically bring it to you; even if you are dropping social cues.
This isn't to say that dinner is served promptly at 5:20 in the evening all across Europe. When dining in a restaurant in another country, it's common etiquette to place your silverware at the time 5:25 on your plate to signal that you're done with your meal. Again, they won't come up to you and ask if you're finished. Americans usually let their server know that they're stuffed but throwing down napkins, straws, and other table debris all on what plate. In Europe, they are a little more delicate and polite about it.
Most prominently in Italian cultures, denying food when it's offered to you is considered an insult. If you are invited to a friendly outing or any type of setting that involves food, make sure to eat lightly throughout the day. Chances are, someone's grandma is going to come up to you and offer you another plate, and you can't say no now. Accepting a host's food and hospitality is the best way to show your appreciation.
In many countries, such as Ireland, it's common to offer to buy a round for your group of friends. Each person in the group should offer to buy the next round, and another person will pick up the next. It's a friendly gesture that shows that you are amicable and considerate. Being the first to get a round of beer at the bar will earn you extra points in the eyes of your European colleagues.
Travelers may not notice this until they reach a country abroad, but Americans are quite loud. When you enter your first European social setting, watch and listen to how the locals talk. Generally, their volume level will be way below your usual decibel. Even while drinking, acting unruly and obnoxious is severely frowned upon. Being loud in Europe will earn you a reputation, and you don't want to be known as the irritating American.
It may be the norm for women to wear leggings and crop tops on an average day, but in Europe, girls get to play up their wardrobe some more. European civilians take their veneer into consideration when they stroll the streets, even if its just to hit the local bar. It's the same way for men. In fact, a guy wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops easily translates to "American" in Eastern cities.
Most world explorers are privy to this etiquette, but you shouldn't expect everyone to know English. While there are some English speaking countries, there are plenty that don't use our language in their everyday dialect. It's important to brush up on the country's native tongue. They usually applaud the fact that you are trying to learn a little bit about their culture. Even in places like the U.K. where English is the staple way of communicating, you may want to look into their slang jargon. Otherwise, if someone tells you they're "pissed" you might think that they're angry; when really, they're just saying that they're drunk.
Besides the fact that pick-pocketing is more common in European countries than it is here in America, carrying cash around looks bad. Having a bulky wallet filled with European currency looks tacky and unnecessary. In fact, using a credit card is the best way to pay for things in Europe. Not only does it decrease your chances of having your wallet stolen, but it saves you from having to convert your money. Try to pay for hotels and activities ahead of time to save you from having to use the ATM. If you want to carry cash, just bring enough with you for what you will need for that day. Plus, it's always a good idea to research which places you might visit prefer card over cash.