There are certain questions clients seem to always ask me when they are considering a trip to Europe, such as: do the French really dislike Americans, do they speak English in Europe, do I really have to use the Euro, will I be able to find American food? It is my intention to teach my clients to travel to Europe with the purpose of embracing and enjoying the European culture and discovering how they live, work, love and eat. You might find that you rather enjoy the things Europeans do that are so different from us such as lingering for a few hours over dinner with wine and friends or joining in on the evening “passagiata” or stroll through the streets of an Italian village before bedtime to visit and share a gelato. So relax and let yourself appreciate the differences between their culture/traditions and ours.
Here are some of the most common fears about travel to Europe:
1. I’m afraid I won’t be able to communicate with anyone because I only speak English - In all except for the most remote villages in Europe, most everyone speaks at least enough English to be able to communicate with you. You may need to throw in a few charade gestures but that makes it fun and a memory!! In fact, most Europeans speak 3 or 4 languages very fluently. Most restaurants have menus with English translations and the transportation maps and signs are usually printed in both the local language and in English. This, however, should not stop you from learning at least a few words of their words like “Please”, “Thank You”, “Hello”, “Good Bye”, “how much does it cost?” and “where is the bathroom?” Remember…you are in their country. You can ask “Do you speak English?” but don’t yell it at them and always ask with a smile.
2. I’m worried I won’t be able to find anything I like to eat - This is, by far, the worst possible excuse for not going to Europe. Even the pickiest eaters can find plenty to suit their fancy. As a matter of fact, their food usually has fewer preservatives, is fresher and has more flavor. And they have some amazing views to look at while you eat!! There are lots of fresh fruit & vegetable stands everywhere and they have livestock and seafood just as we do. Try not to waste your time and money at McDonald’s, Burger King or other American fast food places that have set up shop in Europe. Try some new and different foods. You will thank me later!
3. I’ve heard that service in Europe is slow and they can be rude – First of all, you have to understand that in Europe, a meal is the time for enjoying great food/wine and most of all, enjoying each other’s company. Dinner is their entertainment for the evening. You won’t see many Europeans eating quickly so they can get somewhere on time. They settle in and truly enjoy both the meal and the people they are dining with. European waiters are paid well and are not anxious to “turn” their tables like they are here in the states. When you sit at a table in a café or restaurant, it is yours for the night if you want it. There is no hurry. If water and bread do not appear on your table soon after you sit down, relax! It will come in time. In Europe, slow service is GOOD service and the servers will not rush you. And please remember…when you are ready to leave, you must politely ask for the check. It is considered rude for a waiter to present you with your check before you ask for it…because they don’t want to look like they are rushing you.
4. I’ve heard that things are expensive in Europe - this actually depends on the value of the US dollar vs the value of the Euro but some hotels, restaurants and tourist- trap souvenir stores can certainly be overpriced. My favorite places to stay are locally-owned, centrally located, clean and well-run – usually by local families. Sure, there are Holiday Inns and Hiltons in Europe, but you will have more charm and enjoy the local culture (plus save some Euros) by passing them by. Stay away from obvious tourist traps and try to connect with the local people and you will have more fun. Try to eat where the locals are lined up to get in….not in a restaurant that has a neon sign flashing “WE SPEAK ENGLISH” outside.
So just relax and enjoy! Travel engages us with the world. By broadening our perspectives, travel can teach us new ways to measure the quality of our lives. The most prized souvenirs from your trip will be the memories - maybe of that amazing chocolate crepe you ate, the flavorful wine, the old gentleman who challenged you to a game of chess in the town square, or watching the local children play happily in the piazza. I truly believe that travel changes lives, builds understanding and truly makes our world a better place. Let me help you give it a try!