Oh, Europe, the Old Country, the continent of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, The Louvre, The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Acropolis & Parthenon to name a few. Every country is rich in culture, history, art, cuisine, and architecture. In the pre-COVID days, roughly 700 million inbound tourists visited Europe. And a big chunk of those tourists were Americans. Many of the American tourists to their surprise experience culture shock, the lifestyle in many European countries is nothing close to what you find in the states. Let’s take a Euro-trip and check out some of the most shocking testimonies Americans have given about their time in Europe.
1. It’s Just Smaller
The standard of living in the majority of the countries in Europe is not that different from what it is in the US. As a matter of fact, some of the countries have it better.
But one thing that surprises many US tourists is that everything is just tiny. Well if you compare it to the good ol' US of A. The cars are small, grocery stores are smaller and there is no giant Double Gulp!
Speaking of giant Double Gulp, remember getting a Fanta in one of those? And as soon as you take a sip of it you find out that it tastes like cold artificial orange chemical liquid.
Well, the Fanta in Europe tastes like...Oranges! The giant soda company, Coca-Cola, uses a different recipe for Fanta in Europe. For some reason, they concluded that Europeans will like the taste of real oranges and not artificial flavouring.
Lisbon, the beautiful, romantic, and breathtaking capital of Portugal. People are friendly, the food is great, fresh Atlantic Ocean air. What can be better? The locals love their dinners late with a glass of Port wine.
"There we were, feeling like the locals, entering the main dining neighborhood with all of the restaurants dead empty. By the time we were done eating at 10 p.m, all of those restaurants were packed like there is a fiesta going on."
4. Poseidon Is Real
"We were standing on a pier looking at the breathtaking Rio-Antirio bridge that leads to the mainland. It was our first time in the eastern Peloponnese in Greece. Next to us, there were a bunch of fishermen setting up their rods."
"Next thing we know, out of nowhere one fisherman casually runs up to the edge of the pier and throws an actual trident into the water! In the same second, he ecstatically screams something in Greek and dives off the pier. Once he got out of the water he still had the octopus on the trident."
"Together with a friend, we went to watch a soccer match in Italy. When we were buying the tickets the cashier needed to know what team we were rooting for to determine where to give us seats. We laughed and told her that we are not fans of neither.''
"She gave us the tickets with a funny expression and told us not to say that in the stadium. We saw five fights, trash thrown at the pitch during the game, and things were set on fire."
"During my gap year together with a high school buddy, we went backpacking in Europe. We felt like we were discovering the world and ourselves. But what we really wanted was to party. Germany was just the right place for that."
"We ended up sharing an apartment with some German kids who would always laugh at us when we drank the tap water as a “cure” to our hangovers. To us, it felt like the cleanest best tasting water, to them it was toilet water."
Sunday is worship day for many people in America. But capitalism is king and almost everything is still open. In Europe, they take their Sundays seriously and this couple from Florida learned it firsthand.
“We were staying in an Airbnb apartment and had our own kitchen. My husband went to the grocery store to get some food for breakfast. He came back with nothing half an hour later, it turns out even the grocery stores are closed.”
8. Fish and Chips
American movies for some weird reason always portray British food as bad, boring, just boiled, overcooked. As if fish and chips is the best they have out there. Let’s not forget that the UK has people from all over the world.
All of these people brought their amazing cuisine with them. When visiting the UK you definitely will be amazed at the variety of food. From many different chicken tikka flavors to masala kabab food there is pure joy.
9. Beer Republic
Czech Republic, the country is beautiful, the people are great and the beer they make is just as good. The country has an amazing brewing history that started all the way back in the 6th century. And these college kids had a taste of that history.
"On a visit to Prague, a bunch of us went to a restaurant to try out some local food and of course the famous Pilsner Urquell beer. When we got the bill we noticed that the beer cost less than the bottled water!"
While we are on the subject of beer. Remember the last time you got a cold one in a McDonald's in the states? No right? That’s because they don’t serve it there.
Well, that is not the case in France. You can be 16 and buy beer at a McDonald's! Back in the US, you would have to make a fake ID and not shave for a week to pass off for a 21-year-old.
“Growing up in Germany was a great experience. I got to experience a different culture, make great friends, learn a language and so much more. But when I was 13 we moved back home to Boston.”
"It’s back in Boston that I realized that Germany is good at recycling. Like really good, there is a group of trash cans on every street corner. With each one of them for a specific type of waste."
Beautiful weather, romantic language, rich culture, friendly people, sangria, paella, Café Con Leche, bread, and olive oil with each meal. For all of those reasons, Spain is truly an amazing country.
The thing about the Spaniards, they love their bread. They have the traditional pan basico, the rustic pan rustico, the small ochios, the crusty pan gallego and so many more. It’s as if everyone eats a loaf a day. But the amazing part there are not a lot of overweight people.
Most Americans know Sweden because of IKEA, ABBA, Swedish meatballs, Volvo, and lately Spotify. But something that Sweden is not famous for and should, is the hospitality and politeness of its people. Just like this couple experienced.
“We stayed at an amazing historical hotel and went to check out the restaurant that was part of our vacation package. The restaurant was beautiful, the food was great but we were the only people there. We asked why it was so empty and the waitress explained that it was a holiday and they were open specially for us!”
Grabbing a beer in McDonald's is great but having that beer with your Big Mac meal is even better. You will also realize that the taste of fast food in Europe is much better from what it is in the states.
The reason for that is because the quality of the food is just so much better! This goes to every fast-food chain that America is known for. Ironically KFC actually tastes better in Liverpool than in Kentucky.
“When I backpacked across Europe I met a lot of different people. The conversations I had with these people were some of the most interesting conversations I ever experienced in my life.”
“It’s during these conversations I noticed the somewhat negative attitude towards Americans many people had. It was more or less the same in every country. But something that really surprised me was that people would treat me nicer if I told them I was...Canadian!”
"Being a typical silly tourist I was posing next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The pose I struck? You guessed it. As if I am leaning against the tower to support it."
"An extra two seconds of my friend figuring out the angle and the wet ground caused me to slip and fall on my wrist. Two doctor visits, two x-rays, and a nurse treatment later I paid 25 euros. Back in the states, the vet would charge me 10 times more for "
"We had a sudden desire to travel. My wife who just read a book about the Danish concept of hygge decided that Denmark is going to be the place we go to.
"We traveled the country for two weeks and in every town we visited we would have conversations with random people that were always in this weird state of contentment. We never had to talk about what we do for a living or school. It would always just be pleasant conversations about life."
Unless you are Mr.Pink from Reservoir Dogs, in the US you automatically tip the waiter. The waiters in the US can’t support themselves just from the salary they get. They work long, hard hours and still end up paying taxes from their tips.
In Europe, that is not the case. Being a waiter is almost considered a profession there and the waiters get paid a living wage. Tipping is of course nice and welcoming but they don’t need to rely on tips to survive.
Since we spoke about paying taxes from your tips let’s discuss taxes just a bit more. The whole world has probably heard by now about the complexity of the tax system in the US.
Europe makes things easier. Sure they still have crazy taxes as well but when something costs 10 euros, it’s exactly that. They include the tax in the price for you. You don't need to add up the taxes when you get a bill or look up the price of something.
The French love their butter and you would too. It’s nothing like the butter you get in the US. It might have the same name but it’s like a whole different dairy product.
It’s just so creamy and when you bite that baguette spread with butter, life is beautiful. The French dairies do magic with their butter, the slow churn of the cream makes a type of “double butter” giving it the amazing rich taste and smooth texture.
21. Big Birds
"During a road trip in Spain, we noticed huge bird nests on the highway poles and sometimes in the electric towers. We never saw anything close to that back at home. At one point we noticed that there were giant birds in them!"
"We stopped near one of those poles and like little kids started taking pictures of those birds with long beaks. Later we found out that those were storks! In Europe they don’t have the smaller wood storks, they have a different type that is at least twice the size."
22. The Irish
The Irish are famous for a few things, having a drink or two, their pubs, their fighting spirit, and Saint Patrick's Day. All of this caused these backpackers from New York to think they would be just fine getting drunk and hitting the street of Dublin.
"Me and my friend were goofing around on the streets of Dublin after having more than one delicious Guinness. The next thing we knew, we were fined for public intoxication."
Coming back from any vacation trip is always a weird feeling. You feel sad it’s over, you feel tired and don’t really want to resume your everyday life. This tourist experienced a different feeling when he came back home to the States from Europe.
"Everything felt like it’s a downgrade. Everything was much bigger, but it was not better. The billboards seemed to be full of crappy advertisements, the food was just like the advertisements."
A lot of things in Europe are old. But they still work and are integrated into everyday life. There are restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that have been operating for a few centuries.
Some houses have the same family living in them for hundreds of years and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s always just amazing to see the blend of old architecture with modern technologies installed in them.
"When we visited Milan we ordered some real Bolognese pasta. When the waiter served us the food we felt cheated. The portion was at least half the size of what you get in any New York Pasta place."
"We didn’t feel like complaining or being labeled as those “American tourists”. So we decided we will order another one. The pasta was so rich in flavor and quality was off the charts! We felt stuffed and the second pasta we ordered was packed to go."
26. Finnish Mindfulness
"I was an exchange student in Finland and for the first week there I felt that people are super unfriendly. You smile at them and say “good morning, how are you?” they give you a “good morning” back and that’s it."
"It took me a month to realize that they are actually super nice people. They don’t engage in conversations much not because they are rude but because they are mindful. They are just ok with silence, keeping distance, and respecting your private space."
"Last year I went on a vacation to Holland, Belgium, and France. I haven't been this happy in a while and wanted to make the most out of my 15-day vacation. After all, I waited two years to get those 15 days."
"On my vacation, I met someone who, just like me, is a manager in an IT company. The guy was on a 25 day paid vacation. Unlike me, he didn’t have insurance from his company. But he didn’t need one because he had public healthcare!"
"I was on a business trip to London and had a few days to myself to enjoy the city. On the third day, I decided to catch a train to Dover to check out some castles."
"After visiting a castle, a lighthouse, a tower, and a museum something struck me. All of these places had something in common. They were all built some 400 years ago, but what boggled me is that it’s 157 years older than the United States itself."
29. Public Transportation
"On that same business trip, it baffled me how easy it was getting around Central London. All you have to do is just take one glance at the well-designed, easy-to-use map of the subway, they call it Tube."
"Everything was just organized and clean. Coming from New York and using the subway all my life this seemed like an upgrade. Prior to this, I thought that public transport can’t really be any better or more organized."
So Europe has a lot of great things. But it’s not all that good, there are downsides as well. Many tourist places have lots of scammers hanging around targeting the tourists.
Either in public squares or around historical monuments, there will always be someone who will approach you. They will try to sell you a “gold” watch or a “gold” opportunity. Sometimes it will just be Gypsy kids that will want to bump a buck from you.
31. The NHS
"We sent our son to a summer camp in Manchester, UK. Part of the camp's curriculum was soccer classes! During a game, one kid accidentally collided with our son and broke his leg. The staff quickly helped our son, took him to the hospital where he got all of the medical attention needed."
"We were sure the medical bill will cost us as much as the camp program if not more since our son was not insured. Trunks out the UK National Health Service, to a degree, covers non-citizens as well!"
32. Fun City Of Barcelona
The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, is a beautiful and really fun city. The fun part is especially at night. Everyone goes out drinking, singing and amazing finger food is in every bar.
When you are heading back home after a night like that, the streets are filled with garbage from all the drunk people. But by eight in the morning all of it is gone. A brigade of vacuum mobiles, street scrubbers, and municipal workers with water hoses make the city spotless.
"It was our 10 year wedding anniversary and we decided to go on a trip to the Mediterranean. The most romantic option was an ocean liner that departed from New York. After almost five days of crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we approached the Straits of Gibraltar."
'We stood on the deck and the view was breathtaking, Europe emerged on the left, and on the right, we saw North Africa. We felt like we were passing through part of history, both of our grandparents sailed to America from Italy through this passage."
Everyone loves dogs. But in Europe they really love them. There are tons of drinking bowls in public places that are attached to the walls and have hooks so you can leash your dog. But if you don’t feel like it, that’s fine.
Most indoor places allow you to go in with your dog, it doesn't matter if it’s a service dog or not. The good behavior is what allows for this to happen, good behavior of dog owners of course.
"Together with a friend we went to Amsterdam and had a blast. We visited just about every coffee place they have there and they have many. When we were walking around the city we noticed that everyone was cycling. It didn’t matter if it was cold, windy, or raining."
"But what really amazed us were the couple of hundred parked bicycles outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station. We just could understand how one can know which one is his after you parked it there."
Siesta is not a myth. Most people joke around when they talk about siesta. What responsible adult goes and casually takes a nap in the middle of the day? Well, the Spaniards do and so do the Greeks.
After lunch, everything literally shuts down for a few hours in the middle of the day. Even the busiest tourist places that are filled with different kinds of shops and other small business.
37. Parental Advisory
In America everything is “Parental Advisory”. You don’t see newsstands selling pornographic magazines in the open. You don’t have public statues that are exposed and no one is sunbathing topless casually on a regular beach.
Europeans are more in touch with their inner self. There is nothing wrong with blatant nudity, it’s only natural. When you are in Europe you realize how absurd it is that a big part of the US society is very prudish.
"It was 2015 and we went on a family trip to Germany, Austria, and Hungary. We didn’t want to carry cash with us and didn’t mind the fees of using our credit cards abroad."
"We would always get a confused look from every cashier that we handed a credit card to be swiped. At this point, Europe has adopted the contactless credit card system for a good few years and no one was swiping their credit cards."
39. On Point
Everything is on point and on time and there is no nonsense involved. If your train is at 8:30 you don’t need to show up half an hour early to make it. The security check will not take you forever.
It’s a quick organized process that will take a few minutes and is just as good as it is in the states. If you show up 30 minutes earlier you can just grab a drink and wait on the platform.
"Germans are famous for having some wild drinking parties. But how wild? How about 2 days in a row? During an exchange semester in Munich, that’s all we did for half a year."
"Sure we studied and did our papers but when it was 9 p.m. it meant it’s beer o'clock and the locals made sure we tagged along. When it was Friday we didn’t stop until it’s Sunday and we don’t have any recollection of the entire month of October."