How to turn your European holiday into a nightmare in 10 simple steps

Summer is upon us and as always, Europe will be filled with tourists, young and old, spending their well-earned currencies around the old continent. Many of those are fresh graduates, from high school, college or graduate school, eager to make a journey of a lifetime. Sadly, quite a few visitors are bent on making their European holiday unique and memorable, missing the golden opportunity to march along the obvious tourist traps, fast-forward between the places where everyone else is going, and to do what everyone else is doing, as if their life is not subject to the tyranny of the bucket list. For those poor souls who think they can avoid making the common mistakes, I have compiled a simple and efficient instruction on how to turn your European holiday into a nightmare in just 10 simple steps.

  1. Don’t stay anywhere longer than 2 days. Berlin? 2 days is more than enough! Amsterdam? Can do in 1 day, no sweat, it’s a small city.
    The common advice is to spend at least 3 nights in one place. Longer is better. Trust me, you won’t get bored – plenty of opportunities for day trips out of your “base camp”.
  2. Don’t go to Eastern Europe. Raggedy commy ruins, nothing interesting ever happens there. Nobody speaks English, too.
    It is true that the most visited cities are in the West of Europe. Places like Budapest, Tallinn or Zagreb are rather Westernized nowadays, but the American (and European) travelling crowd still has what the Germans call “Mauer im Kopf” (a wall in the head). 25 years after the fall of Communism its time to ditch that East-West labelling once and for all. Weather is better in the East, too.
  3. Forget about currency exchange. All of Europe uses the Euro, right?
    About half of the European countries uses the Euro. This means the other half doesn’t! There are dozens of different currencies in use, and key countires like the UK, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Sweden stick to their own coins. No need to avoid leaving the Euro zone but keep in mind that it is expensive and inconvenient to get used to other currencies.
  4. Nevermind the climate. You’re going in the summer, what are the odds it will rain?
    Especially in Western Europe summers can be quite rainy. But also in parts of Spain, Italy and the Balkans, weather can be much of a spell-breaker. Don’t forget the rain gear, no matter where in Europe you’re going.
    Average annual precipitation in Europe (Britannica)
  5. Plan your entire trip in advance. With all the information available on the internet, no way you’d miss something and want to change your plans.
    Especially on a longer trip (anything more than a couple of weeks) you are bound to find out things are not as you expected them to be. Some places turn out to be a disappointment, others you’ll love and want to stay longer. Or the weather is nasty where you are and its great just around the corner (see previous point). Having pre-booked hotels and transportation robs you of the opportunity to exploit an opportunity.
  6. Never stray off the beaten track. If all those other places in Europe would be interesting, they’d be full of tourists, too.
    By all means visit some of the highlights, they are famous for a reason. But at least try to discover places not tramped by millions of tourists every year. Europe is so much more than the obvious Paris-Berlin-Venice-Rome tour. And even in these famous places, there are plenty of hidden spots you can brag to your friends about finding. There are even websites that help you discover them – like www.spottedbylocals.com or Hidden Europe magazine. Or even this blog.
  7. Stay in the cities. Europe is a crowded place, there’s no nature left outside the cities anyway.
    European cities are rightfully a tourist magnet. Paris, Berlin, Venice, Rome – the list can become infinite. Outside the cities though there is a splendid country side, huge mountain chains and endless sandy beaches that are all yours, if only you follow point number 6.

    Ridin' the hills

    The French countryside in Burgundy

  8. Stick to the old stuff. Its called “the old continent” for a reason, and you’ve come to see the old masters.
    First of all, the best of the old masters are in museum in North America and private collections in the Persian Gulf. Secondly, Europe did invent impressionism, Art Deco, Bauhaus, cubism, modernism and so on and on. Old stuff is cool. However, European art did not stop in 1800. Do dare to check out some of the less-old stuff, too.
  9. Ignore distances. Europe is the smallest continent, getting around is fast and easy.
    Europe is relatively small. Its still roughly the size of USA or Australia. But besides the size, most time traveling  is lost on waiting. Even getting from Amsterdam to Brussels, just 100 miles apart and 2 hours by train, will take half a day if you consider packing your stuff, checking in and out of hotels and transfers to and from the train stations. A longer distance easily eats a whole day of travel. See point number 1, too.
  10. Avoid hostels at all costs. These are bed-bug infested places, only poor people go there. A hostel is no place for a family.
    For sure, some hostels suck. But there are plenty of other hostels who are just what they say they are – a budget-minded, clean, basic alternative. Many are extremely family-friendly, and I’ve met people of all ages and groups of all compositions who had a great time staying in hostels. Don’t let silly movies put you off hostels.

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People Who Live in Small Places #5: The Netherlands

Michael:

Mayotte, Gibraltar, a Small French Village, the Seychelles – and now – also a Small European Country! I’ve been asked to write a guest post for the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, telling about what its like to live in a small place, like a small European country. Here’s the result.

Originally posted on :

When I started this series, I wasn’t sure what I would end up with. I started with Mayotte, simply because I had never heard of it so thought it would be interesting to hear about life there from someone who actually lived there. But while in the process of putting together those first set of questions, I kept coming back to my own experience of living in a “small place” and how similar life must be in Mayotte as it was for me in St Lucia – despite being half a world apart. So the concept of People Who Live in Small Places was born. Since then, I have branched out to include a small rock (Gibraltar), a small village (in France) and a small series of islands (the Seychelles). And then when I spotted a blog called Small European Country I knew I had to ask the owner to…

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Will Brexit become just Exit?

If the British vote to leave the EU, instead of Brexit (British exit) it might boil down to just an Exit (English exit), with the other members of the United Kingdom deciding to stay in the EU after all, as independent states. This way, Europe will be one big country poorer but four small European countries richer.

With the dust settling on Britain after the dramatic elections, the question on everyone’s lips is “what about Brexit”? That is, will there be a referendum about the United Kingdom leaving the EU, and what will be the outcome? To be honest, I don’t really care whether the UK will be a member of the EU or not. I don’t think most Europeans care much either. I do feel the British public is not fully aware of the impact of such a decision and I think their politicians and media are doing a poor job informing the public. 

Now that Nigel Farage, (former) head of UKIP, has left the political scene, it seems the referendum issue will lose some momentum. But it is unlikely that David Cameron will dare back off his promise to hold one. And if he will back off, there are plenty of people who will remind him of his promise. However, without Farage, who was the main force in the pro-Brexit camp, there is an opportunity for the British to engage in a meaningful discussion on the aftermath of leaving the EU.

What is it really about? The Brits are concerned about immigrants taking their jobs and straining the social services. They say the EU is costing a lot and is providing little in return. What they forget is that without the EU they would have to take back millions of Britons who retired to Spain. How’s that for strain on healthcare? It’s not like it would not be possible to retire or get a job in EU, it just would be much more difficult. Jobs in the UK, too, would be at risk, as exports to EU will suffer. And London, that lives on its banking system, will perhaps not be cut off all together, but will be left out of much of European decision making, and banking across the channel will be pricier. I’m pretty sure people in Frankfurt and Zurich would be more than willing to fill the gap.

Not that leaving the EU will stop the illegal immigration. The illegals are not EU citizens anyway, so they come regardless the UK membership. Leaving the EU is not going to address immigration from Commonwealth countries like Nigeria and Pakistan. I also don’t see how the UK will remove the millions of Germans, French, Poles and Romanians who live in the country for years or even decades. And who will do the plumbing? Are German doctors, French bankers and Dutch engineers also to leave? Sure, some immigrants are not model citizens. But leaving the EU because of them is a bit drastic, isn’t it?

What about Scotland? Surely, if the Brexit referendum will decide for leaving the EU, Scotland will want to hold a new referendum about leaving the UK? Having narrowly lost the previous referendum, Scottish nationalists stand a good chance of winning the next one, especially if the choice is between the UK and the EU. Scottish independence might reignite the flames in Northern Ireland and maybe even Wales will decide to split. And so, instead of Brexit (British exit) it might boil down to just an Exit (English exit), with the other members of the United Kingdom deciding to stay in the EU after all, as independent states. This way, Europe will be one big country poorer and four small European countries richer.

These are mere possible scenarios. I’m not claiming knowing the future or even that these are likely scenarios. I do think it is absolutely necessary for the British public, politics and media to be able to discuss the possible consequences of Brexit, without the rhetoric, in a polite, responsible fashion. If the BritishU do decide to leave the EU, its their legitimate choice. It would be a shame if they leave for the wrong reasons and under false assumptions. Whatever happens, Britain will remain a European country. They can vote whatever which way they want, but they can’t ship the whole bloody island to Australia. They can’t, right?

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