As the European Summer draws nearer, millions of travelers from around the globe are preparing to take on Western Europe – a place of many unique and tightly-packed nations full of culture, food and history. Touring Europe is an age-old pasttime made famous by the English aristocracy. And if you’re lucky enough to do it, it will provide you with a lifetime of fun, knowledge and unforgettable memories. If you’re not a local, there’s just a few things you’ll need to know before you pack your bags and fly away:
1. You can get by speaking English everywhere
There are twenty eight countries in the European Union alone. Each one has its own unique customs and yep – language. But luckily for many travelers, every nation is united by the common language of English. It never hurts to learn “hello” and “thank you” or even “do you speak English” (Sprecken ze Englisch? in German). But it’s quite common for Europeans to speak beautiful English, and you’ll never need to worry about getting into trouble. In our experience, even in France – a country seemingly notorious for non-English speakers – almost everyone was easy to converse with. Of course, as you drift into tiny villages and Eastward towards Russia, you may have a few misunderstandings, but that’s all part of the fun. And besides, sometimes being an English-speaker in a foreign country has some funny perks. Check out these photos Sam snapped in Austria and France!
2. Drink beer anywhere and any time
Here’s one to get our heads around! It’s perfectly legal in most European countries to drink alcohol anywhere, and you might be surprised to see businessmen in Germany sitting in a cafe sipping beers at 9am. But you’d better get used to it. This is great news if you want to spend a wild night partying – you can pick up drinks from any corner store and drink as you walk to the nightclubs, or even while waiting in line. One thing that is essential is to enjoy a beachside beer or wine and watch the sunset in Spain, France or Italy.
3. Expect to walk everywhere
These cities are MADE for walking! Literally – many of the old cities of Europe came about long before the invention of the automobile. And while cars populate the roads these days, walking is still the best way to get around. Buy a good pair of shoes before you leave, and you will be so thankful you did. Get exploring!
4. Things are going to go wrong
Rail strikes in France or Greece or Belgium, train cancellations, and getting lost in sprawling cities were all things that happened to me on a weekly basis in Europe. There were even nights I was forced to sleep in airports (for fear of train cancellations the following day) and train stations. The only advice I have is to plan ahead, be flexible, and keep calm when things go wrong. Because they will. Do these things, and your misfortune will quickly become a funny story.
5. Locals may not always act friendly
Don’t take it personally – it’s not your fault. Europe isn’t full of the fake politeness or empty greetings that we experience every time we enter a supermarket or corner store. Many Europeans save their smiles and warm greetings for their closest friends, and they may only have a handful in their lives. Tourists are served with basic kindness, but strangers are strangers after all. I’m not saying Europeans aren’t friendly, because they are. Just don’t expect a “how’s your day?” at the supermarket, because they don’t care and quite honestly, neither do you.
6. You’ll see some amazing things
From the beautiful mountains of Switzerland to the golden beaches of the Mediterranean, you’re going to see some incredible sights. These are lands that have seen thousands of years of human civilization, and there are telltale signs everywhere from days gone by. You’re going to see buildings constructed by the Romans, the Ottomans, the Vikings, even remnants from the horrific scenes of World War II and the Nazi regime. One thing is certain – Europe will blow your mind.