I have four months of experience traveling! Crazy. Guess that means I’m a pro. Like, whatever I tell you, you have to believe and completely trust. Don’t question anything.
This is what I’ve learned.
Things you shouldn’t skimp on:
Sleep mask. Jet lag, overnight busses, Airbnb’s without blinds can (and will) happen. Instead of spending $2 on your drugstore sleep mask, shell out $20 to help you sleep. Otherwise, you’ll be cranky and grumps and won’t enjoy the day ahead!
Shoes. Whatever you’re going to walk around in, make sure it has good tread and is comfortable to your needs. Be careful! You might trip, slip, and fall and break your phone (ahem…Danielle). It doesn’t necessarily need to be an overly expensive pair, just the one that works for you.
Underwear. Cause underwear.
All day every day. People practically live out of their phones. I do. It’s like I have a timeshare. Whatever you plan to use every day, make sure it is the right equipment for you. Whether it is deodorant, a shaver, an artbook, etc. Stores in Europe have similar items you can get in the states. Similar. Not exact. Make sure you pay for what’s irreplaceable. I use a laptop daily and only spent $250 on it. Goes to show you 1.) I’m nervous of getting it lost, broken, or stolen and went with a cheaper option 2.) there is an exception to every rule.
Language you must absolutely know:
Excuse me (pardon)
I don’t speak ______
First of all, you should learn as much of a language as you can anywhere you go. It shows you’re attempting to communicate and subtly pleases almost everyone.
I’ve placed these in order of importance. “Good day” will make people happy with you even if you can’t say anything else. Be careful of “hello” as there are informal and formal ways of saying it.
If you just want to get by, then I would recommend these seven phrases. It’ll get you through your restaurants, supermarkets, and stores of any kind.
Beware, Google Translate operates the same as Brian Fantana’s philosophy:
Be Flexible with Cultural Differences
Before I traveled, I was told a LOT of things. Parisians are rude. Germans hate Americans. The Irish cuss a lot.
Nope. Not true.
But it may be true to you. Our story may be different than yours. But here are a few things you need to understand.
In our culture, we believe the customer is always right. Not so much in most of Europe. You’ll have train conductors not give you the time of day. I had someone behind a counter who didn’t speak English just shake her head and stare at me until I walked away. It happens. Don’t let it bother you.
People are more direct:
It might make them appear rude. That’s not it. They just don’t feel the need to beat around the bush. Plus, if you’re like me, you’re communicating in English. A second language for them. They’re not going to know the subtle ways to pander to our needs.
Is being an American bad?
Americans have a bad rep. I’ve been told we seem loud (but there are loud people everywhere). We can seem inconsiderate of other cultures but that just might be because we don’t know how to do anything else. We like to think we’re right (doesn’t everybody?). But for the time being, when you’re in Europe, “football” is what we like to call soccer. If you must, say “European football”, but don’t scoff and say “Soccer.” Cause that’s what a stereotypical American would say.
You see, we get just about everything in America. We get all kinds of cuisines and since the “customer is always right,” we have a culture that says “this isn’t cooked the way I like, send it back” or “I want this thing on the menu called The Meatwagon. It sounds good! Can I get it without meat?’ In some cultures, that is an insult. You have to think about the consequences of what seems like a simple request.
Go see someplace for the first time. Order something off the menu without translating it. Remember that life can surprise you. But don’t be completely unprepared. Bring the essentials and try to be respectful.
You do this and the memories will be nothing but fun!