7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe

Perhaps its because I haven’t been to the USA. Or its just me and it seems perfectly logical to everyone else. But there are quite a few things about Americans in Europe that I just don’t get. These 7 are the ones that puzzle me the most.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    I agree, tap water is not the same everywhere. Even in some European countries (like Ukraine) tap water is not safe to drink. But Americans buy bottled water even in the Netherlands, where tap water is the purest, safest, tastiest in the world. Somehow, they seem to think its “not done” to order tap water in a European restaurant, and some of them are fixed on the idea Europeans don’t drink tap water.
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Americans see Europe as some Caribbean resort, that only opens when tourists are there. Therefore, half of them avoids Europe outside that imaginary “low season” because they think Europe is “closed”, and the other half only goes in the so-called “low season” because Europe is supposedly “packed” in the high season. Europe is full of Europeans, and they keep Europe busy even when the Americans are not around. November to March is “low season”? Don’t forget the Christmas and Spring vacations and the skiing resorts are filled to the rim.

  3. Why do they use money belts?
    To the average American, Europe is a thief’s paradise. Scared of pickpockets, Americans in Europe resort to using those silly money belts. As a result, every time an American has to pay, every pickpocket knows exactly where the said American stores all his money. If they’d just use ATM’s, they wouldn’t have to carry all their money around and be such a tempting target, but…
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Why are Americans changing money? Don’t they have ATM’s in America? Why would anyone want to carry a stack of $$ all the way to Europe instead of just using a plastic card to draw money out of any ATM machine? They must think they’re going to Somalia or something. Some Americans are actually using traveller’s cheques. You gotta be kidding me! That’s, like, so 19th century!
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The average American in Europe, whether on an organized tour that promises a European “experience” or travelling independently, is in a horrible rush. Their schedule includes on average 3-4 hours a day on a bus or train, not including boarding and disembarking. Add to that an hour for checking in and out of the hotel every day (since they’re in a new town every evening) and there is very little time left for “experiencing” anything but lack of time. I know Americans have limited leave days, but why not use your vacation as it is intended – for relaxing?
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    No, I don’t expect them to know everything about their destinations. But you’d think a minimal level of knowledge is not too much? At least try to browse through a couple of Wikitravel pages before going somewhere, why don’t you? Nowhere is this lack of clue more severely shown than in Amsterdam. I understand and know from personal experience that reading about the Red Light District and the coffee shops is one thing, and seeing them “live” is another.  But being surprised they even exist? That’s just too weird.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    I admit, I haven’t been there myself, so it might be I am wrong. I’ll do my best to check it out ASAP. But I honestly can’t imagine what can be so damn wonderful about Paris that every American dreams of going there and once they’ve been there, goes on and on about how great it is. Do they have a “Paris admiration class” in high school or something?

Of course, the above does not apply to Americans only. A lot of Australians in Europe have the same issues. More seriously – of course, I know it does not apply to all Americans. But many Americans visiting Europe travel like they’re trying to relive the Eurotrip movie or at least as if the said movie is their only source of information about this diverse continent. And that is what I understand least of all.


Filed under Europe, Travel

49 responses to “7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe

  1. You state that you don’t understand why Americans rush their time in Europe but then give the exact reason: limited vacation time. Sure I could sit around in cafés or parks lounging and relaxing but how is that any better than moving at a fast pace to see as many sights and museums as possible? I can relax at home but I might not make it back across the pond for another few years. I’d much rather spend my precious time “rushing.” Your comments come across as extremely ignorant considering you’ve never been to America and the same types of generalizations could be used for all tourists.

    • Because seeing a lot leads to experiencing nothing. It all becomes a blur. Vacations as I see them are intended for relaxation. And having limited vacation time is a lifestyle choice. Your fellow Americans posting in other comments support my point of view. And how is not being to America prevents me from having an opinion about Americans in Europe? I haven’t been to the Moon either, but I can have an opinion about it, can’t I?

      • We clearly have different opinions about what a vacation is supposed to be like, and not all vacations are for the same purpose. You’re right, having 10 days of vacation is a lifestyle choice- one I’m not complaining about- I just chose to make the most of that time the way I saw fit. You can have opinions about anything you’d like, it doesn’t make them not ignorant.

      • Thank you for your kind comment.

      • Jeff-F

        I agree, I would rather see some and enjoy it than see all and be stressed. When we went to Beijing this year, we saw some of the main items, but not most. Going to restaurants, relaxing with friends, and experiencing real life was better than taking a picture of every painting in a museum (which a book or the net will have anyway). It’s better to get the feel and style than stress yourself.

    • I don’t drink bottled water; however, the bottled water industry—led by Coke and Pepsi—have sold it to America as the “safest”, when it’s often no safer than what comes out of the local taps. Remember, restaurants don’t profit from tap water!
      Once again, America has been dumbed-down. Where I live, we call it Flor-i-DUH. As it turns out, they go to Europe, mostly in August, when all of the locals are on vacation. Perhaps that’s the New York Influence: wait until all of the other New Yawkahs are there!
      I carry neither a wallet nor a money belt—which are targets, as suggested. My necessary ID and credit card is in a small case in my front pants pocket.
      Little-by-little, people are realizing that traveler’s checks are hardly used anymore. And it’s only been recently that our banks have begun issuing credit cards with the CHIP. Maybe someday they will learn that they will get better ForEx conversion rates through their credit cards, as compared to banks, processing mostly small amounts.
      The RUSH that they are always in is because they don’t do their homework—stay longer, if need be, or go back again. They try to see the Louvre or Winchester Cathedral in a whirlwind walk-thru. And hey, get a selfie with the Mona Lisa, perhaps the world’s smallest “popular” painting, having walked past wonderful ones, both by masters and unknowns..
      Mentioned in #5, above.
      Americans want to one-up their friends when they return. Sure, I’ve seen that! And even in Paris, there are some wonderful things that most people never heard of, such as: Muse d’Orsay or the small chapel in La Petite Palais, as compared to touristy Notre Dame. Or, how about any pub in London—or anywhere else—and meet or just watch the the locals.

      Keep in mind that most Americans have very little knowledge of other languages—wherever you drive in North America, except Mexico, they speak English, well sort of. In Europe, drive a few hundred miles and you pass into different countries, languages, cultures, etc. Perhaps that why most Americans stsy in the well-known capitals where they can find English-speakiers.

      • Thank you for sharing your insights. I know not ALL Americans are the cliche tourists, but I just couldn’t resist making a little fun of the ones that are.

        I myself have had a few interactions with the “classic” American tourists in Europe, and I found them the friendliest, most honest, decent and joyful tourists I’ve met. Sure, they have their awkward sides, but don’t we all?

        That said, I intend to make a bit more fun of them in 2016 as well, so stay tuned 😉

      • My fellow countrymen surely deserve every bit of humor that is derived from their behavior. Likewise, I get a kick out of Brits, Canucks and Aussies who cannot learn how to spell. Putting a “U” into so many words.

  2. As an American who has traveled to Europe a few times:
    1) I don’t understand the avoidance of tap water either. Maybe it’s because we’re next to Mexico and are warned “don’t drink the water.”
    2) The “low season” refers to the number of tourists. Specifically, how long do you have to stand in line to see the sites? During low season there’s a better chance of cheaper hotel rates and other discounts. As a tourist, visiting, for example, London in March is easier than during the summer.
    3 & 4) Money belts are stupid. My wife and I use ATMs.
    5) In part because few Americans know how to relax. In general, we have limited vacation time; traveling to Europe is expensive and we want to see as much as possible on limited time. There is a sacrifice of quality in exchange for more quantity. My wife and I learned to stay in one location and explore it.
    6) People who don’t research their destination are not good travelers.
    7) I don’t know if I can explain Paris if you haven’t been there. I don’t think I would want to live in Paris, but as a tourist, I love Paris. I love walking the streets. There’s so much history, culture and beauty. And pain au chocolat.

    • Thank you for your comment, especially appreciate point 5, in view of a previous comment 🙂

      The low season thing is pretty relative in Europe though. In some places (mostly islands like Iceland or Ibiza) they just shut down for the winter (some as early as September), so arriving in the low season means there are fewer hotels open, if any. And my experience is, that the popular sites (Madame Tussaud etc.) are crowded in any season, while places a bit off the beaten track are accessible anytime.

  3. It is worse than that… most Americans think of Europe as Disneyland… a not so big place made up of different little kingdoms each with their own cute costumes and building style and castles, and you can ride around it on a little train and watch people reenact quaint rituals.

    • Yes, its a typical American comment after having been to Europe – “Europe is a great country, shame it’s so small”. I’ve recently read a post by an American student on exchange in the Netherlands. She was genuinly surprised the Dutch actually use their own language and complimented them on cherishing it.

  4. It is fun to hear your perspective. i recently did a post called 6 Reasons I am Proud to Be an American when I travel overseas. http://planetbell.me/2014/01/06/6-reasons-i-am-proud-to-be-an-american-when-i-travel-overseas/

    I can offer some insight into the money belt question: In America, we usually drive in cars and don’t walk much or use public transport. Pickpocketing is extremely rare in America but more common in Europe. I was on a walking tour in Rome and 5 of the 9 people had been pick-pocketed!

    I just put money in my front pocket and leave the money belt at home.

    • I’ve read that post. Interesting, although I have my reservations there.

      The public transport might be part of the explanation, yes. Taking a walking tour in Rome does make you Target Number One for pickpockets. I have to say that I haven’t seen the statistics about the pick-pocketing, but I’ve never been a victim of it so far. So I think that the Americans are over-cautious about it – some think Europe (all of Europe) is one big thieves paradise.

  5. brusselsandbeyond

    Hi Michael, I’ve noticed a lot of the same things as you since living in Europe for three years. But some of them can be explained, I think.

    I grew up drinking tap water (amazing water in upstate NY) but got to Belgium and found the tap water really bad when unfiltered. They also don’t serve it in cafes/restaurants in Belgium at all. Same with some other cities like Paris. But it’s silly to think all of Europe is like that. I’ve had amazing tap water in London, Norway, etc. I’m sure it’s likely just to their own experiences being denied tap water and then think only bottled water is normal.

    Money belts are ridiculously silly although I can see their usefulness for some travel destinations. I’ve lived in major cities in the US and never ever experienced the shadow of pickpockets like I did in Europe. Pickpocketing certainly exists across the globe but is pronounced in Europe due to social problems. In Brussels, I learned to be extremely careful VERY quickly as there are hundreds of professional pickpockets on the streets everyday. I’ve had friends (even Belgians) being attacked in Brussels. Same in France. Europe IS a thieve’s paradise :-p

    It’s really a shame we get such limited vacation time in the US. I know there is a huge difference between how Americans/Europeans view holidays but this is very much personal preference on travel style. Even when I took holidays in Europe, I really like adventure-style travel and prefer that to lounging around at a beach. But to each his own. And I would hold off on judging Americans for the fast-paced style – 99% of them won’t even come over to Europe for not having enough time so, support the ones that do! For how expensive it is to get to Europe (and the poor currency ratio for USD-EUR), I think it’s natural to want to see as much as you can.

    Hahaha. It’s true. Every girl and her best friend wants to see Paris. Paris is incredible but it’s also a dirty, angry city with tons of social problems. Americans have no idea of what France is actually like these days. Still – you have to get to Paris. There is something really special about visiting the city 🙂

    • They will give you tap water in Belgium if you insist, but grudgingly. Most Belgians also consider it a sign of cheapness to ask for tap water in a restaurant.

      I can’t agree with you that pickpocketing “is pronounced in Europe due to social problems”. The social problems in Detroit or New Delhi to name a couple are not less but worse than in almost any European city. I think that the presence of many people with money in a crowded city is a major part of the problem, so that pickpocketing is actually a wealth-driven problem. And the scamming and robbing that is common in many Asian and South-American countries is almost abscent in Western Europe. So I still think its at least partly an American perception of Europe.

      I think I need to devote a separate post to the fast-paced vacation style as it seems to generate the biggest response. I would judge the American visitors, but they are out of reach before I can pass judgement 😉

      I understand the limited vacation time, but there are ways to use it and I don’t understand why many Americans insist on quantity of destinatons instead of quality, like the one I referred to who visited 4 countries in 10 days. It takes a day to transfer, so its actually 7 days for 4 destinations, that is barely 2 days per city. Skipping any of the destinations would have made it so much more relaxed, with only 2 days in transfer, and 3 full days for each city. Would make it much cheaper, too, with less currency exchange and transfer costs.

      As to Paris – perhaps Hemingway is to blame. Or Humphry Bogart.

      • Jeff-F

        As an American, I think I can answer the money belt somewhat.

        1) Most Americans have limited sense of style and limited self respect in regards to clothing. Look at the webpage “people of walmart.” Being unkempt and wearing dirty sweat pants in public are very common in the US. So the money belt looks like a good thing from a utility perspective…

        2) Detroit has problems, most cities in the US do, but Americans don’t venture to the problem areas of our cities. Detroit has nice spots (Cranbrook, Henry Ford Museum, etc.), as do most cities in the US, but these are insulated from the problems. Police and security keep muggers and pickpockets out of sight. Practically this is good. Metaphysically? It depends on your perspective.

      • Crime is more about perception than anything else. I think Americans abroad are simply more aware of the (remote) possibility of getting robbed. Its like the gun laws – the average gun owner has a 20 times higher probability of shooting a family member accidentally than an actual burglar. But its not driven by logic and thinking of the possibilities and probabilities.

        As to the style – that might explain why so many Americans who visit Europe seem to be surprised by the European “superb” clothing style, which is nothing but “smart casual” at best. I mean – wearing running leggings for breakfast? Yoga pants as casual clothing? That’s screaming “Hey, I’m an American!”. But since (American) tourists rarely venture outside European city centres, they don’t get to experience the shabby neighbourhoods, where loads of people do wear dirty sweat pants.

  6. Some of your points are valid (drinking tap water, low season), but in regards to Americans rushing, well…that’s the American culture – everything is of utmost importance and we cannot relax until a task is done. We have the same mindset on vacations (or I do at least). Yes, I’ll sit down and enjoy a long dinner and hang out at a cafe to savor a great up of coffee, but there is so much to explore within Europe and time is limited. It’s the opportunity cost of a situation – how do you prefer to spend your time?

    I understand the fear of being pick-pocketed (Rome is particularly bad with that!), but there is no excuse for money-belts. I haven’t seen many wearing them while on my travels.

    Also, ATMs are dependent on the bank accounts Americans have. With my old bank, I used ATMs on my travels because I wasn’t charged for foreign withdrawals, so I used my debit card for most purchases and took out money when necessary. With my current bank, I was charged an additional ~$8 every time I used a foreign ATM (the ATM’s own fee for using it + 4% of the transaction fee + $4 for using an ATM that doesn’t belong to my bank). So, that adds up and it was a lot more beneficial for me to just exchange my money ahead of time.

    Also, in regards to Paris – you need to go there to experience it. It’s like New York where you can turn in any direction and find a completely different neighborhood and it is all just charming. You have art, history, a very rich (in money and depth) culture, love, and incredible food. I’m not doing it justice – you just have to go there to experience it.

    Hope I helped you understand Americans a little better!

    • Also, flying to Europe is incredibly expensive. Yes, we choose to fly during high-travel times, but parents have to work around children’s summer vacation schedules. So, a two week vacation may consist of seeing 3-4 countries because you’re going to pay another $!000+ just to get there. Traveling within Europe is incredibly cheap, so we like taking advantage of that.

    • That adds another bit of understanding, thank you. In my most recent post I’ve discussed the rushing issue – to me it is going for the quantity instead of quality. I think that “consuming” vast amounts of attractions on vacation is not a vacation – its not relaxing and you’re not getting to learn or experience anything really. The reference to American culture has been made by others – to me, how you talk about “tasks” in the context of vacationing already says volumes.

      With ATM’s – my bank also charges me (1% + 2 Euro per withdrawal). The 4% is a lot in comparison (I understand there are debit cards that charge much less), but its still way cheaper, safer and convenient than exchanging cash.

      As to Paris – same is true with every other major European capital. I think it is because of American (and world-wide) Paris fetish that people assume Paris has more to offer than other places. So yes, I know there is a Paris fetish, I just don’t share it. But then again, perhaps that is because I haven’t been there yet.

      There’s nothing wrong with visiting 3-4 countries in 2 weeks. Trying to cover every corner of them – that’s where it becomes difficult. In Europe, country borders are quite close and the differences between cultures are noticeable even in closely related countries. It seems to me many people (not just Americans, but Europeans themselves as well) don’t realize that.

      • Also, the idea that Americans go to Europe to relax is paradoxical. Flying to Caribbean and staying at an all-inclusive is a much cheaper and easier way to relax. There is just too much culture within Europe to consider traveling there a “relaxing” vacation. Again, it’s a matter of preference.

        Exchanging cash is actually very convenient in America. Banks don’t charge convenience fees and just exchange the money at the given exchange rate – contrast to an ATM where you’ll get hit with fees. It’s a matter of preference.

        I don’t see these as things Americans do “wrong.” We have a different culture and a different preferences. I know it’s easy to judge based off your understandings of vacations, but just keep an open-mind about these things.

      • Thank you for the constructive dialogue, your comments are very interesting.

        For me this discussion raises the bigger question – why do Americans (I mean the ones that I see as “rushed”) go to Europe? Is it to maximize the amount of cultural expressions “consumed”? Visit as many museums as possible? Surely that is means to an end. What I mean is that when culture is “experienced” in fast-food style, it is not experienced at all – one’s left with shallow impressions that fade away as soon as one’s back home.

        “Relaxed” for me is not laying on the beach and not leaving your resort. Its the lack of stress.

        Exchanging cash in (Western) Europe is virtually extinct except for dubious stalls. So yes, there are different cultures and perspectives, but I do have the feeling many American visitors to overseas (not just Europe) are expecting the world to be confirming to them, and are surprised to find out it does not.

  7. I will be in parts of Italy in November this year where I have been informed by the tourist office that all tourism operators will have finished for the season and many of the restaurants will be closed. I don’t mind that but there is definitely a high and a low season there.
    Anyone that is travelling to countries they don’t know are going to be floundering a bit, and look all wrong and make mistakes. We are all learning. And doing the best we can.
    Oh, and Paris, it is amazing. When you go, in the evening, sit on the grass in the park under the Eiffel tower, and on the hour, watch its light show, in wonder. It will blow your mind.

    • Sure, some regions that live off summer tourism, like Ibiza or Italian coastal villages, slow down for the winter. That, however, is more an exception than the rule. Here in the Netherlands, for example, many restaurants are actually closed for several weeks in the summer. Everyone is on vacation, and business is slow, so the owners go on vacation, too. In the winter time, opera’s, museums, ski resorts, Christmas markets are all at their peak. My point was that “Europe” has no high and low season – Europe is not a giant tourist resort but a continent where real people live, and that is something some visitors seem not to realize.

      I’m sure Paris is quite nice. At the same time, I am pretty sure its not “the most amazingly mind blowing place on Earth” that many Americans think it is. But then maybe it is. I am still to visit Paris.

  8. Haha the moneybelt thing made me laugh!!

  9. Ashleigh Bugg

    Okay, maybe I can explain the Paris thing…. From the time we are children, people from the U.S. are inundated with images, films and songs in popular culture telling us about the beauty and magic of Paris. People decorate their homes in Parisian themes with little Eiffel Towers and the Arc de Triomphe or have Parisian themed birthday parties for their kids. We watch movies like Funny Face, Passport to Paris, Moulin Rouge, Amélie, Ratatouille, Inception, etc. that show us how much we need to visit Paris. For most people, (only 30% of people in the U.S. have a passport) this is a dream trip that they’ll never actually take. So when they finally get there, it’s a big deal.

    But really it is a great city. I just spent 10 days staying with friends who’ve lived there their entire lives, and they’re still not tired of it. One friend actually worked at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, and every day when she came to work she said still felt awed. So there’s definitely something magical about Paris.

    Anyway great post! But when you say Americans are you referring to people from the United States or everyone from the American continent? Because Argentinians and Costa Ricans are Americans, too. 🙂

    • Thank you for the compliment. When I say “Americans” I mean people from the USA. But only because they say that about themselves. I also sometimes include “honorary” Americans – Canadians and Australians who share some features with USA Americans.

      • Ashleigh Bugg

        You’re very welcome. You’re right about that. Most people from the U.S. call themselves Americans, almost monopolizing the term. However, technically an American could be anyone from the American continent including Canada all the way to Chile. But in school, we generally break up the continent into North, South and Central America and call ourselves “America.” It wasn’t until I studied outside the U.S. that I learned much of the world sees America as just one continent, and Costa Ricans for example call themselves Americans, too.

        Do you include Australians because they were also a British colony or?

      • No, because they come from a big overseas country, don’t speak anything but English, think all Europe is one single “country” and like organized tours.

      • Ashleigh Bugg

        Do they really? How horrible… Organized tours?? My God… to generalize all of Europe like that…

        Though I have heard Canadians sometimes learn French. Maybe that’s why they’re only honorary Americans. 😉

      • Fortunately, I never generalize myself, not even as a joke. 😂

  10. Peter

    There’s something else I wonder about, why don’t visitors buy a ticket in advance to the Anne Frank house or the Van Gogh museum? Instead of standing in line for hours! They plan everything in advance except museums or other cultural events. BTW go to the Rijksmuseum after 4 PM that way you’ll miss the rush of all those other foreign visitors.

  11. Sayak

    I know this post is about Americans but as a solo backpacker from India (I’m a rare breed, most of my countrymen/women when abroad prefer to travel with organized tour companies), I have some insights to offer. Recently I spent more than 2 months traversing the length and breadth of W. & E. Europe and during my entire trip (and this wasn’t really my first European odyssey), it was my encounters with Americans that made me smile the most, every American I met seemed like an amazing, awesome person. The best part is they aren’t really afraid of showing their vulnerable side, or was it only me that felt this way?

    What I like about Americans is their positive, optimistic, sunny outlook toward life, a “can do” attitude. I think on any scale, you’ll find that most other nationalities are far more gloomy and depressed compared to your average Yank. Even an American undergoing psychiatric treatment must be a 1000 times more cheerful compared to other nationalities, just saying. Maybe we should do some kind of survey. Now you do find positive people everywhere but no-one is capable of making overt displays of their inner happiness the way Americans are. But really, if you’re traveling solo, spend time with an American and your day will pass like breeze. I cherish all the wonderful friends I made from the land of 50 states. Their smiles, positivism and happy-go-lucky outlook to life is so damn infectious.

    Most Europeans nations, on the other hand, are full of surly, sarcastic, down-on-their-luck, humorless, reserved and angry people. After a while, you DON’T feel good in their company because of their tendency to drink COPIOUS amounts of alcohol, need to smoke every 5 minutes and general air of negativity. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve interacted with plenty of GLOOMY and SAD people from Germany, Poland, Slovakia, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Ukraine. After you spend time with them, you feel as if ALL your energy was drained out of you. Like some sort of vampire. I wouldn’t say everyone is that way – I’ve definitely met my fair share of Germans, Poles and Irish who don’t drink a drop of alcohol and have an otherwise cheery, upbeat disposition. May their numbers multiply.

    Yes, most Americans are kinda clueless tourists but that’s really not a bad thing if you look at me from what I experienced. It always led to spontaneous laughter and some silly situations, and trouble on occasions. Some of my encounters with Americans in Europe:

    1. Outside the Eiffel Tower in Paris, an American girl approached me for directions to the Champs-Élysées Metro station. I was kinda feeling European that evening (translation = RUDE & MEAN), I started laughing at her lack of navigation skills and said something along these lines:

    “Wow, it can’t get more cliched than this. You’re standing near one of the most iconic monuments in the world and you can’t find your bearings to the nearest Metro station. Look at me, I mean back home I must have seen Paris so many times on television that I didn’t even need maps to come down here. You should win some kinda Darwin award for being a clueless American tourist.”

    By the time I finished my sentence, I realized that I was being a total DICK. The girl stared at me with a sad, pitiful expression, “Good bye Sir, have a nice day”. That’s all she said. I mean just a moment back, she was beaming with excitement for which I had to reciprocate with condescending crappola just because I needed the satisfaction of picking on someone.

    Since I’m not really that much of an asshole, I sincerely apologized to her and she immediately smiled back at me. We chatted for a while and she said the only reason she asked me for directions was because she had read in a LONELY PLANET book series that the “French are incredibly rude to American tourists”. I was like, “WTF? Just because you read it in a book that the French are rude. OMG, couldn’t have made this one up.” I had to tell her it’s really not true. I’m yet to meet a rude French person. They are actually very conversationalist and friendly if you make a little effort.

    Basically she was an American tourist with just ONE week to explore all of Europe. Her itinerary was Paris today, Brussels the next day, Amsterdam the day after….and she wanted to check out the Louvre museum too. I told her that even for such a short itinerary, her homework was not done properly. No museums would remain open in the evening. If she has to carry on toward Brussels, she has to kiss Mona Lisa good bye.

    As they say Paris is a romantic city and one thing did lead to another in my case (I didn’t exactly look at her as some kinda romantic interest as I’m not good at flirting, but we struck off rather well as friends). We were soon in a Parisian cafe on the way to the Arc de Triomphe, did the “Da Vinci Code” circuit – Jardin des Tuileries, Bastille, all the way to Bois de Boulogne, took a cruise along the Seine all in the dead of the night. It’s really remarkable HOW FAST you can journey around a city if you’re capable of walking and really want to (of course we used the amazing Paris Metro to zig zag).

    The French girls are definitely good but it was an American girl that made my Parisian evening something worth remembering!

    2. Moving on to the male variety of Americans, lots of them that I met in Europe were pleasantly surprised that the quality of beers in Europe are so good, that you can “open carry” them (an American expression which actually refers to laws relating to gun ownership in public). I mean their happiness knew no bounds in knowing that they could drink as much vodka as they wanted to, and act like drunken douchebags without any consequence. Every time I went to a local European bar with a Yank, fully aware that he will stack up a huge tab, I would order my drinks separately I was really being tight with my money because seriously, I had to stretch for a much longer time than everyone else and I’m not rich. Also I’d drink slowly compared to the Americans. By the time they were on their third round, I would still be happily sipping my first drink.

    One of them did suspect my tactics, “why are you drinking so slowly?” I gave him a bullshit line on “European etiquette” and he really bought it.

    3. Now let’s move on to the WELL-INFORMED, EUROPEANIZED version of highly experienced American backpackers. I tagged along with three of them on a shared cab ride from Brno in Czech Republic to Bratislava, Slovakia along with a Czech girl . The cab did stop for food and toilets and since we were all CHEAP BASTARDS, initially it was difficult to get anyone to spend anything on this ride. We were all simultaneously watching our wallets and belongings.

    I was the one to break the ice with “So which one of you is gonna rob me by the time we get to Bratislava?” One of them said, “Excuse me?” Another: “I’d be more worried about you than him, shady Mr. Brown”. The third one kept quiet.

    Normally after such a conversation, the air is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Not in this case though. We just looked each other in the eyes and spontaneously burst out laughing. The ice-breaker had its intended effect, and all of us quickly became very chatty, started smoking Windsors and the Czech girl who was being a bit icy just a minute ago (saying she didn’t speak English much) joined us for a conversation. For the rest of our car ride, we did talk a lot. It was a matter of coincidence that the Americans were headed to the same hostel I was. Later on, I’d hang out with them experimenting with absinthe at the bars and did a lot of nasty shit together.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write such an extensive comment. I must say I disagree with your generalizations about both Americans and Europeans alike. I don’t think you can draw such far-reaching and frankly, quite insulting conclusions based on a few random travel encounters.

      Perhaps I am misreading your tale, but it seems to me a bit contradictory. First, you complain about how Europeans smoke and drink so much, then you go on to tell about how the Americans are so happy to drink all the vodka they can get and finish off with a story of you smoking yourself. What was your point again?

      Also, concerning “doing your homework properly” – you say that “No museums would remain open in the evening”. If you’d pass being a douchebag for a bit, and look it up, for example, in the Lonely Planet guide, you would see that the Louvre is open until 9:45 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, so who’s the clueless tourist here?

      Personally, I’ve met plenty of cheerful people all over Europe, alongside gloomy people, too. And I’ve met Americans who just wouldn’t stop talking about how American beers are the best in the world. But I’d be cautious jumping into conclusions based on a few people I’ve met.

      I hope you enjoyed your time in Europe, and, again, I appreciate your effort in sharing your experiences.

      • Sayak

        Perhaps I am misreading your tale, but it seems to me a bit contradictory. First, you complain about how Europeans smoke and drink so much, then you go on to tell about how the Americans are so happy to drink all the vodka they can get and finish off with a story of you smoking yourself.

        Sugar, when people are on vacation in a far-off place, normal rules don’t apply to them. I don’t smoke AT ALL as a matter of fact. And drink very rarely.

        I was referring to the shitloads of gloomy, sad Europeans I had the misfortune to run into. Read my comment again, wasn’t trying to say that all of you are like that. I did meet my fair share of cool Europeans too, some of them are lifelong friends now.

        Also, concerning “doing your homework properly” – you say that “No museums would remain open in the evening”. If you’d pass being a douchebag for a bit, and look it up, for example, in the Lonely Planet guide, you would see that the Louvre is open until 9:45 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, so who’s the clueless tourist here?

        Thanks for that bit of information. I’m not really a museum guy but I have been to Louvre on another occasion. It’s a riveting, culturally enriching place.

        Personally, I’ve met plenty of cheerful people all over Europe, alongside gloomy people, too.

        Yea, I was trying to offer a balanced view myself. It’s just that negative people leave a bigger imprint on your mind than the rare positive ones.

        And I’ve met Americans who just wouldn’t stop talking about how American beers are the best in the world.

        All Americans that I met told me that American beers suck. We all love Europe for this very fact alone, amazing variety and high quality of local beers you find in every damn province of Europe.

        One of my favorite beers was at a bar called Brovaria in Poznan, Poland. For arounnd 10 zloty bucks, it was a rare treat.

      • “Sugar”? What are you, Priscilla, Queen of the desert?

        Thank you for your comment, glad you liked my blog.

  12. Sayak

    By the way, you have an amazing blog.

  13. Sayak

    I went through other blog posts and you are truly a handy resource guide for any backpacker. Cheers, please continue the good work. BTW, I haven’t been to anywhere near southern Europe so far – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Monaco, San Marino. I’m saving that entire region for another trip.

    In defense of my previous posts, I would like to state top 7 POSITIVE things about Europe.

    1. Excellent Public transportation: From the well-laid U-bahn and S-bahn networks of Berlin to the self-sufficient tram-lines in smaller cities and bicycle tracks everywhere, almost every city in Europe is well-connected keeping the COMMON MAN in mind. In Antwerp, for instance, the public transportation fare is only 10 Euros for 3 days!

    It’s not just the poor but people from all walks of life using public transportation. Even in some Eastern European countries that are relatively poor, the public transportation is excellent. Motorists yielding to pedestrians and I don’t recall witnessing road rage anywhere in Europe.

    I haven’t been to the States but based on accounts from friends I have over there, public transportation is not that good except in big cities like NYC or LA. In most parts of the world including my home country, motorists have a legal right to kill you and walking is FROWNED ON.

    I love walking and riding a bike. That’s one thing I definitely find in common with most Europeans – a concern for health, being frugal and a general disdain for gas-guzzlers/SUVs. I really loved the fact that most Europeans given a chance would prefer to drive a hybrid/fuel-efficient compact car.

    2. Beers: Already mentioned before. The sheer variety of beers found in different European regions and cities is an experience in itself. One could easily plan a beer hopping journey from one end of Europe to another.

    In Belgium, I loved the Carapils beer. It was the cheapest at only 50 cents but tasted amazing. No compromise on quality.

    3. Nightclubs: Where to even begin? In my part of the world (and I’m sure in many other places too), a night out at a club would empty your bank balance before you could take a selfie. That is if the bouncer decides to let you in in the first place. If you’re not rich, arrogant jerk and well-heeled, stay away from nightclubs, that’s what we tell our kids here.

    it’s far more easier to gain entrance in a club in Europe. All you have to do is behave nicely and dress appropriately. I was rarely turned down at any of the clubs in Europe. And the first time it happened was when I went to Berghaim, Berlin 2 years ago. I was my most arrogant self and naturally they didn’t let me in. After taking a few pointers from other backpackers, I would go on improving my behavior and never had a problem in future.

    Oh yes, clubs in Europe stay awake till the wee hours of morning. There’s no 2 AM-3 AM curfew.

    4. Amsterdam – One word says it all. I simply LOVE it over there although it’s by far the most expensive city for me (and I once got robbed there but nothing will prevent me from visiting there again. Hates it when Amsterdam hostel-owners increase their rates by 3 to 4 times during the weekends, a pure dick move.

    5. Which other continent would allow you to freely cross over from one country to another in 1 day alone. I successfully criss-crossed 3 nations in one day – Germany, Austria and Switzerland- just to prove to myself that it can indeed be done. Munich-Garmische Partenkirchen-Innsbruck-Riezlern-Munich. It was the busiest 24 hours in my life but wow, I really had a blast.

    6. Traveling on the high speed ICE and Maglev trains – Although expensive, this is an experience one should not miss out on.

    7. Architecture – I do have a thing for Europe’s cobblestone streets, medieval buildings and castles. I don’t remember half their names but really, it’s an experience you won’t find elsewhere.

    Krakow in Poland feels REAL MEDIEVAL.

  14. Wow

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen on the internet. Please don’t procreate.

  15. Wow

    I mean seriously… should I make assumptions on tourists that come to America?

    “All Europeans smell like shit”

    “Why don’t you know what a line is?”

    “Why do you wear clothes 3 sizes too small?”

    “Why would you spend thousands of dollars to go visit somewhere and NOT try to see a lot? Hey I blew 2k on airfare and hotels but I’d like to sit in a restaurant for 4 hours.”

  16. LJ

    I’m an American traveler, and I don’t understand any of the above mentioned instances; nor have I seen them. I can only say they must be older tourists. I hope your elderly are as odd as ours are. After a long day on a group tour in Germany (sweating), I had the audacity to order a flat water with ice. I was made fun of by the server. I couldn’t do another gas water. But we tip, so he’s welcome. So much for a piece of ice in some sink water. Just charge me for it if it’s such a big deal. I’ll pay.

    • I can assure you these are not limited to older tourists. Also, I don’t pretend to have done a statistically valid research, but these things seem much more common among American tourists. You are right about Germans and tap water – they do have an irrational aversion of it, and don’t seem to grasp the concept of drinking water that does not come out of a bottle. Which is particularly odd, since in neighbouring Switzerland there are more public drinking fountains than inhabitants.

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