Notes On Europe: What it is, and what it is not.

After debating for much time as to what I should write my final in-trip blog about, I finally decided upon a topic about the congenial nature of the European community toward tourists. I would like to first and foremost say that Londoners and Parisians are NOT rude toward tourists, contrary to popular belief. From my personal viewpoint, I have frequently heard horror stories of the European community hating Americans, especially the French with their upturned noses and well-groomed mustaches. However, after two weeks spent in England, and a little time in Paris, I have never once encountered this hatred.

To even take it one step further, I feel Europeans have actually been quite kind and polite toward myself and my twenty-six travel companions. I know it is very difficult to wear a friendly face while encountering large tourist groups. For me, the moment I see those fanny packs and white sneakers step off a coach bus, my blood pressure steadily rises. I see large groups as a macrophaging amoeba of swine flu, engulfing innocent locals and taking up too much darn space. I see them, and I take off in a dead sprint in opposite direction.

From my personal feelings, I fully expected the same reaction from those Europeans who entertained our group. If they were the least bit flustered though, it was not outwardly noticeable. Everyone thus far has welcomed us with patience and kindness, and I could not be more grateful for that. From needing assistance with my Tube pass, to asking for directions as I wandered aimlessly around Bath, to speaking, err attempting to speak, solely French during my time in Paris, European citizens have made my time less stressful for sure!

With that said, I’d like to offer some tips for those Americans traveling abroad.

1. Don’t be loud with an egocentric attitude. Granted, being American is a pretty sweet deal. We are back-to-back World War champs. However, Just as you wouldn’t fondly look upon someone acting superior because of their nationality, Europeans don’t appreciate it either. You are guests in their country, so act like a gracious one. Lose the selfish outlook and the American flag backpack.

2. It’s completely fine to ask for help. Need directions or advice on a good restaurant? Just ask. You don’t have to hide in a foxhole while traveling abroad because as I mentioned, most all Europeans do not outwardly hate Americans. They’ll help you out, especially if you ask in a humble manner. A lot of times, I’d start with, “I’m sorry, I’m American and helplessly lost.” A little humor and humility goes a long way, believe me.

3. Make friends with the locals. It doesn’t hurt to small talk, and you never know the wealth of information they could share with you. One thing I have learned from Europeans is that they are more open to speak with strangers than Americans are with one another (sad, I know). Our new Italian friends we met at our hotel thought it was weird how we don’t talk to random people. One of the boys told us a story of how he needed directions once while in London, so he asked a window washer. The window washing man ended up taking him to his destination, all why telling him about his life. “Yea, he hates his wife a lot,” he said. I think that is such a cool custom to fellowship with someone completely new and unexpected. So, why not make friends with the locals? If you don’t like them, hey, you can go back home soon enough!

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of our new Italian friends: Cereal without honey is like a sky without stars. (said with an Italian accent of course) Amen to that, my friend. Amen.

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