Maybe you should just stay home… (Did I just say that?)
I know (from personal experience) how daunting travel to Europe may seem. One of my goals is to train my clients to travel to throughout the world with the intention of discovering how others live, work, love, and eat…and not trying to force their own American ways and comforts into a culture where they don’t belong. You just might find that you really enjoy lingering for hours over dinner with wine and friends and not scarfing down a burger and rushing off to the movies.
Or find yourself joining in the evening “passagiata” or stroll through the streets of an Italian village before bedtime to visit with your neighbors, catch up on the gossip, and maybe share a gelato. So RELAX and let yourself celebrate the differences….you might just learn something about yourself in the process!
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. Worst comes to worst, you play a good game of charades with each other :) Not only that, most Europeans have been taught to speak in at least 2-3 other languages including English. 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 the local language to make an effort to fit in. “Please”, “Thank You”, “Hello”, “Good Bye”, “how much does it cost?” and “where is the bathroom?" are always helpful. And remember… you are in their country. Learning these few phrases is the least thing you can do to show some respect and humility. It's so easy nowadays to pick up a few phrases with all the free and low cost apps on the marketplace, too!
2. I’m worried I won’t be able to find anything to eat that I like. This is, by far, the worst possible excuse for staying home. Even the pickiest eaters can find plenty to fill them up in Europe (land of delicious breads, pastas, meats, and potatoes)…and not only that, but it will also have fewer preservatives and more flavor. We use so many chemicals and such to protect the produce here in the States, that it is quite a delightful experience to taste things differently when you are overseas in Europe (or Africa). I will never forget the different in taste with something so simple as a cucumber. And remember, getting yourself out of your comfort zone is one of the reasons why we travel. Try some of the local delicacies when you're able to.
3. I’ve heard that service in Europe is slow and rude. This one is half true. In Europe, a meal is a time for enjoying great food and wine, and each other’s company. You won’t see many Parisians eating quickly, so they can run go make their movie on time. They settle in for the night. European waiters are paid well and the lifestyle is all about enjoying the evening. If water and bread do not appear on your table within 30 seconds of sitting down, relax! They will come. 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 very 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. Get the picture?
So RELAX and just GO! Thoughtful travel engages us with the world. Among your most prized souvenirs from your trip will be the memories of that amazing chocolate crepe, the incredible wine bar that you stumbled upon complete with hundreds of bras hanging from the ceiling, or watching the local children play happily in the piazza while their parents enjoy dinner with wine in the outdoor café. Join In!
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