Americans reveal the things they find strangest about traveling in Europe

Joshua Earle/UnsplashEurope can be confusing to American tourists.

  • American tourists are bewildered by some aspects of culture in Europe.
  • Dining out takes much longer and goes much later into the night.
  • One visitor to Italy didn’t realize how seriously locals take soccer.
  • Beer can be cheaper than water in some countries.

Travelers from other countries who visit the US are mystified by many things — the ridiculously large portion sizes, squirrels, and the gap between toilet stall doors, to name a few. (You can read the full list here.)

But American tourists are just as bewildered by some aspects of life in European countries.

A Reddit thread asked Americans to share their most confounding moments while abroad in Europe. Here are 10 of our favorite answers.

Apparently, exchanging pleasantries isn’t always appreciated in Germany — but asking actual questions usually is.

Reddit user efshoemaker noted that villagers of a certain age in Germany didn’t have much patience for pleasantries, but did love opening up to tourists.

“[…] the older people in [the] village seemed super grumpy and mean and would never smile or respond if you said hello or good morning. BUT if you asked them a substantive question, like how to get to the museum, they would spend 15 minutes telling you the fastest way to get there, the scenic way to get there, everything interesting you should do on the way there, why that museum isn’t actually that good and you should go to this other museum instead, all the different ways to get to the better museum, and where their grandmother used to live before the war.”

Italy takes soccer very seriously.

While visiting Italy, groovychick found that soccer games are serious business.

“When buying a ticket, they needed to know which team I was rooting for to determine where I could sit,” they wrote. “Then, during the game, people were setting things on fire.”

Everything is closed on Sundays.

norwaykiwi‘s most confounding Europe moment was realizing that nothing was open on a Sunday.

“When you realize that everything is closed on Sunday, because Sunday is sacred,” they wrote. “Not in a religious way necessarily, but in a ‘our free time is sacred [way].’ Took a train through the German countryside on a Sunday and the fields were just full of people doing stereotypical free time activities: afternoon strolls, kites and model airplanes, fishing, etc.”

Beer can be cheaper than water in Prague.

Photo: iStock

IAmA_Mr_BS was amused to find that “water cost two crowns and beer cost one” on a visit to Prague.

Ancient ruins are everywhere.

Redditor NoahsArcade84 was surprised to see “2,000 year old Roman columns sitting half sunken in a dude’s yard, and he was just mowing around it like it was an old stump.”

Dining out in Paris can last a few hours.

Hrekires was unprepared for how long meals in Paris take.

“I loved the culture and I’m all about eating a relaxing meal, but sometimes it was just like ‘wtf’ when we were on a schedule and had to meet up with a tour group or had reservations for something,” they wrote.

Locals in Portugal eat late.

western_style_hj didn’t realize that Lisbon locals are night owls.

“Feeling proud of myself for eating late, like a local, at 21:00 in Lisbon only to walk in to a empty restaurant,” they wrote. “By the time I’d finished eating at 22:00 the place was full.”

England appears to be free of insects.

Dmillz34 couldn’t believe that windows in England didn’t have screens — but no bugs got in.

“For me it was a lack of insects in England,” they wrote. “Not that they don’t exist, but I’m from Michigan with lots of swampy land around me. When I showed up at my dorm and saw there was no screen on my window I was just thinking about all of the bugs that are gonna get in my room. I got one fly the entire month stay there.”

Driving in Italy is a free-for-all.

PullTheOtherOne discovered that driving etiquette is a bit different in Italy.

“In Italy there is virtually no threshold for how much distance should be left between a speeding car and any obstacles (including pedestrians) it is zooming past. A bus driver will rush down a narrow cobblestone street with about a centimeter to spare between the sides of the bus and any parked cars, walls, ancient monuments, or playing children.”

Spain seems to be overrun by storks.


Redditor notwearingwords was shocked by how enormous and numerous storks were in Spain — and how nonchalant everyone seemed to be about it.

“We were driving through Spain, and to the side of one of the roads, we noticed these MASSIVE bird nests in the high power electrical towers. They were at least twice the size of eagle’s nests that I had seen. And there were so many of them!

Then we saw these giant birds in them! We stopped by the side of the road and tried to take some pictures (didn’t have a great zoom lens, sadly). But no one else was stopping. It was so odd. We are accustomed to at least a few people stopping to watch the osprey, eagles, or other birds where I’m from.

So a few days later, we are chatting with a German tourist, and we bring up the birds… I think she thought we were joking until we pulled out the pictures. Then she started laughing.

Storks. Those are storks. Of course, don’t you know that? They are everywhere and such a nuisance. Don’t you have storks in America?


Then she looked confused. Well, if you don’t have storks, who brings the babies in kids stories?


Um…how does that work?

And that was when we realized that the story of the storks makes a whole lot more sense when storks are nesting on every chimney, tree, or tall place….”

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