Categories: Travel

10 Cultural Differences To Be Aware Of Before Visiting Europe

Experiencing a new continent is amazing! However, it is always nice to be considerate of some of the cultural differences. That is why we have narrowed down 10 cultural differences to be aware of before visiting Europe! These points will help you get accustomed to the culture and environment so you can avoid those embarrassing stories!

1. Lack Of Personal Space

Europeans are an incredibly touchy bunch who value personal touch when engaging in conversation with someone. Unlike in the United States, this lack of personal space means that they are in fact listening to you while respecting you. This is one of the biggest cultural differences that you must be conscious of because it is the first thing that shocks many travelers who have never visited Europe before.

However, this practice varies from country to country within the continent of Europe. For example, the northern Europeans can be more aware of this practice in comparison to those affectionate southern Europeans. So, if your next destination is Italy or Spain, make sure to embrace the large doses of affection and lack of personal space!

2. Lack Of Friendliness From Strangers

You might find yourself smiling at strangers on the street to demonstrate politeness…that is, in your eyes. That’s right, in Europe it is not ingrained in their culture to smile or engage in small talk, especially with people they do not know. Say that you are at the checkout line at the local supermarket, do not expect the cashier to engage in a small conversation with you. Do not take this personally, it’s just the custom.

In a way, these forms of cultural differences are great because it saves you a lot of time if you are in a rush to get somewhere. So get your bread and dash!

3. Relaxed Dining Culture

“Dinner should take about an hour”, a statement that should be avoided in Europe at all costs! In Europe, they value their time with family and friends, especially around the table. That is why when you go out, expect to enjoy your food while holding a pleasant conversation with those around you. In the United States, we are all about efficiency and try to cut the dining time in half in order to have the remaining time to spend on other activities. However, for many Europeans, enjoying the exquisite food, while conversing is a pass time that is extremely common and can last for hours!

4. Public Transportation

The United States harbors a car culture due to its vast expanse, therefore it is natural for Americans to own cars that will allow them to traverse this distance. However, in Europe, it is more common to take public transportation. With this exceptional public transit system, you are exposed to buses, trains, and bicycles that are fun to utilize in order to explore the new country at an affordable price!

Since many locals take public transportation in Europe, the government has strived to make it so it is an attractive mode of transportation and price for everyone. Many Americans look down on public transportation, deeming it as unsanitary and confusing. However, cultural differences regarding modes of transportation in Europe should be embraced and explored. What is better than getting lost by bus in a new city for an affordable price!

5. Conserving Energy

Humans waste energy; some more than others… Europeans are extremely energy conscious and will even go out of their way to remind you to conserve energy.  For example, most of the electricity in European public facilities is motion sensing. Whether you walk into a public restroom or walk through a hallway, the light will sense your motion and will switch on accordingly. So, do not expect to find a light switch along the wall, because it is automatic! In comparison to the United States where you will find the light to be switched on almost all day, and even at night.

Now, these practices on energy conservation are cultural differences that we should learn from and should be practiced in the States!

6. Dress To Impress

Cultural differences regarding wardrobe are highly discussed amongst many Americans when hopping over to Europe for the first time. Yes, it is true! Europeans will dress to impress even if it means going to grab bread from your local boulangerie. Now, this does not mean that they wear expensive brands on a daily basis, however, this also does not mean that they wear sweatpants out in the city. The most important thing to consider with your wardrobe is that you look put together and have placed enough effort into your physical appearance.

In Europe, this is a way to show you have respect for yourself as well as for those around you. So, get out that beautiful dress that you have not worn just yet!

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7. Social Kissing

In many, but not all European countries, social kissing is a form of greeting. This is a common practice in most southern European countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and it emphasizes familiarity. This greeting is normally done with two kisses, one on each cheek, however, there can be up to three kisses! Now, this is something that we do not consider to be a part of the culture in the United States. In other words, we commonly stick to hugs and waves, while the kissing is done by our European friends.

If someone goes in for that form of greeting, let them guide you, it is an easy and more intimate way to get to know someone!

8. Smaller Portion Sizes

In many European countries, you will find the food portion sizes to be significantly smaller. In the United States, we are all about getting the bang for our buck and thus receiving larger food portions. However, in Europe, it is completely normal to receive a smaller portion size because food is treated as a delicacy. Although, do not fret because now an increasing amount of European restaurants are sizing up their portions!

9. Food

You will find the food in Europe to have an exquisite taste! Almost everyone has commented on the fact that the food just tastes and feels different, which is one of the biggest cultural differences between Europe and the United States. In the United States, we care about mass production and rarely put enough effort into the taste of the food that is served. It is all about efficiency and rarely about the presentation. However, in Europe, if you go to a restaurant you will find that the chefs are always in the right and that their food is made to make your mouth water, craving you to come back for more. So, if that dish is taking a little too long, just remember that something life-changing is cooking!

10.Yes, They Like Americans

Some cultural differences to know before going to Europe is that they do not hate Americans. There has been a stigma that Europeans despise their American neighbors and that they are not welcomed into Europe. However, you will find that to be incorrect and instead pleasing to hear that they enjoy people from all over the world, even us Americans. So, go have fun in Europe and be yourself!

Which one of these cultural differences surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below!

Sophie Guerrero

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