• Nicole Lawrence

Most Common Fears Surrounding Travel To Europe

If I had a dollar for every time a client has asked me if people in Paris really hate Americans, stated that they might be interested in seeing Europe, but they are afraid they won't be able to get around since they only speak English, or are fearful of the Euro, or think too many people smoke, or worry that they won't be able to find any food that they like, etc. By now, I would be long retired in an oceanfront villa on Maui, sipping virgin Mai Tais and having fun in the sun.

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 become very impressed by the intricate and on-time subway and train infrastructure in most large European cities. Or find yourself joining in the evening "passeggiata," a stroll through the streets of an Italian village before bedtime to visit with your neighbors, catch up on what's happening, and maybe share a gelato. So RELAX and let yourself celebrate the differences….you might just learn something about yourself in the process!

My goal is to teach my clients to travel to Europe to discover how the Europeans live, work, love, and eat without trying to force our American ways and comforts onto their culture.

Here are some of the most common fears about traveling 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, maybe with a few charade gestures thrown in for good measure. It's a little embarrassing that most European citizens speak at least 3 or 4 languages fluently, and we sometimes struggle with English.

Most restaurants have menus with English translations, and the transportation maps and signs are usually printed in the local language and English. However, this 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.

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, and I bet it will have fewer preservatives and more flavor and be prepared by someone who actually cares about the food.

Some travelers often picnic in Europe by picking up sandwiches or cheese, fruit, bread, and wine and sit outside near some amazing view to enjoy their meal. There are fresh fruit & vegetable stands on every corner, and even the local food trucks usually offer incredible bites. Strawberries actually taste like strawberries are supposed to taste. DO NOT waste your time and money at McDonald's! I will haunt you!

Eat locally and try some new things. You will thank me later!

3. I've heard that service in Europe is slow and rude.

In Europe, a meal is a time for enjoying great food and wine and each other's company. Dinner is the entertainment for the evening. You won't see many Parisians eating quickly, so they can run to make their movie on time. They settle in for the night.

European waiters are paid well and not anxious to "turn" their tables like here in the states. When you sit at a table in a café or restaurant, it is yours for the night. There is no hurry. 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 when you are ready to leave, remember to politely ask for the check. It is considered very rude for a waitperson 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?

4. I've heard that things are super expensive over there.

Some hotels, restaurants, and tourist-trap souvenir stores can certainly seem overpriced. Spending more money at these places builds a thicker wall between you and what you traveled so far to see.

A tight budget might force you to simply enjoy the local-style alternatives to the expensive 5-star hotels and restaurants. My favorite places to stay are locally-owned, centrally located, clean, and well-run – usually by local families. Sure, there are Marriotts and Hiltons in Europe, but you will get more charm and local culture (plus save some serious Euros) by passing them over for at least part of your visit. Stay away from obvious tourist traps. Connect with the local people, and you will have tons more fun. Picnic or eat where the locals are lined up, not in a restaurant with a neon sign flashing "WE SPEAK ENGLISH" outside.

So RELAX and GO! Thoughtful travel engages us with the world. In these challenging political and economic times, it can remind us of what is truly important. By broadening our perspectives, travel can teach us new ways to measure the quality of our life.

Among your most prized souvenirs from your trip will be the memories of that amazing chocolate crepe or the old gentleman who challenged you to a game of chess in the town square. Then there is that incredible wine bar 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 and great adult conversation in the outdoor café? Join In!

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