Curious Customs: Europe Dos and Don’ts

While a European holiday is on the top of many bucket lists, experiencing different cultures can be a bit daunting. What is considered rude in one country may be a completely acceptable everyday practice in another. Learning the local ways shouldn’t be stressful, though – it’s just another enriching part of touring Europe. To offer some guidance and insight into what to expect while abroad, here are our top Europe dos and don’ts. You’ll be blending right in with ease (until you say something and people hear your accent!).

Germany

Hofbrauhaus, Munich Germany - courtesy of Tahnee Smith

Do talk like a local

  • Say Prost! (cheers!) while looking your drinking buddy in the eye before taking a sip of your beer.
  • Address people with the formal 'you' (Sie). If the familiar 'you' (du) is acceptable, they will tell you.
  • Feel free to discuss politics and philosophy in social settings – this is preferred over small talk.


Don’t make a bad impression

  • Be punctual and don’t show up late.
  • Public drunkenness is frowned upon, so take it easy on the ale.
  • Asking for tap water in a restaurant is viewed as cheap.


Ireland

Galway pub, Ireland

Do prepare to make friends

  • Ireland is famous for its friendly culture, so always smile and say hello to passers-by.
  • If you sit or stand at the bar, other customers may see it as an invitation to start a conversation with you.
  • Buy a round when it’s your turn. The fastest way to lose new friends in Ireland is to be a penny pincher at the pub.


Don’t be too sensitive

  • Locals may start gently making fun of you, but don’t be insulted. "Slagging" is almost an Irish pastime – the more a local likes you, the more jests you should expect!
  • Cursing in Ireland is common. It is not just used as an insult or as an expression of anger – locals use it in everyday conversation.
  • Don’t be uncomfortable if a stranger touches your arm or hugs you during or after conversation – Ireland has a very physical culture.


Italy

Vatican City and St. Peter's - courtesy of Stephen York

Do take note of your appearance

  • The locals take pride in their appearance. To fit in, dress nicely in smart casual attire.
  • Dress appropriately for the churches, covering your knees, shoulders and midriff.
  • Short shorts are generally considered inappropriate in public, so it’s best to avoid these.


Don’t rush things

  • Some restaurants, cafés and businesses will close for an hour or two around 1pm-4pm to go home for lunch. Use this time to relax with a long lunch yourself!
  • Most restaurants and shops will not open until around 10am or so, and streets may be empty until then. Beat the crowds and enjoy a peaceful stroll.
  • Don’t leave the table during dinner. This is considered rude.


France

Cafe Brousse Le Chateautarn Gorge, France

Do have an open mind

  • In the country of love, it is common for an attractive woman to be blatantly ogled. Try not to let this make you uncomfortable, and embrace the romantic atmosphere.
  • No matter how rusty your French is, always begin a conversation with a local in the native tongue.
  • Try new things and avoid only ordering foods and beverages you are familiar with.


Don’t forget your restaurant etiquette

  • Ordering just one dish in a restaurant is considered strange – order several and enjoy the experience.
  • Asking for a doggy bag for your leftovers is viewed as cheap.
  • Requesting alterations to menu items (e.g. asking for onion soup without cheese) is considered rude.


Scotland

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Do make a good impression

  • Keep your napkin on your lap, not on the table. Don’t use it to sneeze or spit into.
  • Stand in line if there is a queue. Jumping line is considered rude.
  • Open doors for other people. Men and women open the door for each other, depending on who goes through the door first.


Don’t insult the locals

  • Don’t say you dislike something or make a face implying dislike.
  • It is considered rude to leave something on your plate or to decline a meal.
  • Do not call someone by their first name unless asked to. Call them by their appropriate title (Mr, Mrs, Miss, etc.) and last name.

 

To truly immerse yourself in the diverse cultures of Europe and make fast friends with the locals, these Europe dos and don'ts will come in handy. When you tour with Albatross, you’ll also enjoy travelling with a small group of Aussies and Kiwis who are all experiencing these curious customs at the same time as you. Get in touch to reserve your spot on one of our escorted European tours.