16 Things I Wish I’d Known About Europe Before Going

Last month I went on a two week tour of Europe (Italy, Switzerland, France and London) with my parents. I am 25, an only child and my parents need me to have fun (#TheFrancisThree know how to have a good time). The first 6 nights were spent in Italy, then we stayed two nights each in Switzerland, France and London. We had never been out of the country and we didn’t know what to expect. We did it all: the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, the Swiss Alps, the Moulin Rouge, the Eiffel tower and Big Ben. That said, here are a few things that might have been helpful to know prior to traveling, just so I could have mentally prepared.



Europeans aren’t concerned with privacy. Be prepared for a glass sliding door as the only barrier between your private bathroom time and your parents (in my case) sitting right outside the door in the closet sized hotel room. (Read: they will hear everything, you will hear everything, you might gag, find the bathroom in the lobby).



Don’t even try to understand why the showers in most hotels have only half a glass door. Shower curtains and shower liners have not made it over the big pond yet it seems.



Since the showers only have half a glass door, don’t worry about the insane amount of water that you cannot control getting from the shower onto the bathroom floor. Just worry about not breaking your neck getting out of the shower.



Oh your hotel room is hot and muggy like the temperature outside? Sorry, Europeans don’t care if they sleep in their sweat apparently so now you can’t either. The front desk controls the AC in most hotels, if the hotels have AC, and they don’t care that you (spoiled Americans) like to sleep in a chilly room so just accept the inevitable boob sweat and deal.



Hope your thigh muscles are rock solid because toilet seats are nonexistent in Europe so those muscles will be put to good use ( #SquatTimeAllTheTime). Have to go #2 while out in public? Bless your heart…



If you were hoping to use public restrooms like you would at Target in the U.S. of A, I am sorry my dear friends, you aren’t. Be ready for extremely long lines leading to one very gross bathroom that men and women most likely share, without a toilet seat (don’t forget).



Oh and the bathrooms cost money. You can either: buy a cappuccino and use the dirty ass bathroom, you can be honest and just hand over a few coins for use of the facilities or you can have your mother distract the café owner while you 007-style try to sneak into the bathroom.



Really you just need to come to terms with the fact that you will be dehydrated the entire trip for fear of the bathroom situation in Europe. Don’t drink water. Stick to wine and pee once a day.



In most places in Europe, the tips are included in the bill and if they aren’t, an appropriate tip is 5 to 10 percent, so put away that euro for 5 bucks that you were going to leave as a tip, P. Diddy. Once you see the bill amount in American dollars, you will need it to wipe away your tears.



Leave your love of super-sized, bottomless cups of coffee in America my friend, it ain’t happening over there. Europeans drink mini coffees large enough for a sip or two. No matter how many times you make the LARGE signal with your hands, you’re not getting one.



Everything is expensive. The number 38 is not universal. If something is 38 euros you need to add on the conversion rate, say .30 cent per dollar and understand you are paying almost 50 American dollars (the U.S. dollar isn’t worth shit) and then add on a few more bucks because your bank will charge a transaction fee. You will come back broke, filled with memories, bread and wine, but poor as hell.


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Make sure you pack your patient pants, people, there is a wait for everything. And I say wait instead of line because there are no lines. People just kind of crowd around the cashier and make it happen. You want a café Americano? Get those elbows up and get in there, fight for that coffee! You want to get into the Vatican? Bring a lawn chair, the line is 5 hours long.



The crowds are absolutely unreal in the hot spots in Europe. You will be shoved, you will be pushed and you will most like have a panic attack and possibly curl up in a ball and cry. There is no such thing as southern hospitality so just don’t even expect it and  get used to being herded around like cattle, crowd control is nonexistent.



If someone is driving you around refrain from looking out the window, you will almost die at least 30 times in a two week period. If you plan on driving yourself around, just don’t go because you will probably die.



Oh, did you want a nice ice cold Coke? Well you aren’t getting it darling, ice apparently doesn’t exist in Europe. Did you want a straw also, my friend? Well too bad, no straws either.



Did you want some wine? Well great! There is so much wine you won’t know what to do with yourself. Wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hopefully you get buzzed enough to not care about sitting on the dirty toilet rim.



I assume it goes without saying that all of these hilarious little tidbits about Europe are nothing (repeat: not even on the radar) compared to how absolutely amazing it is. Europe is the most beautiful place I have ever been. It is truly magnificent in every sense of the word. Each country is so rich in history that you often feel you are in a time machine, standing in sacred places in this world. The food is so fresh and flavorful, the languages are gorgeous, the sunsets are unmatched and the cities are something out of a fairy tale. It is the type of place that almost cannot be described, the culture and history must be experienced, there are no words that do Europe’s beauty justice. So deal with a warm coke, wash the stranger pee off the back of your thighs and go to Europe!

View Comments (5)
  • As a European woman, I must say that I am deeply shocked by all the comments made here, because I find them incredibly stupid and totally false. Your very short and limited experience of Europe does NOT make you an expert on this continent.
    And I am appalled that you found a place to express your opinions and leave a trace on the Internet.

    You may have had a problem finding clean public toilets in some capital cities, it happens, and that is true everywhere in big cities (try finding clean public toilets in NYC!). Yet, believe it or not, the seat-free toilets are a minority. Most toilets are free, except in Paris or capital cities, but once again, that is true in every country.
    The same goes for lines ! Visit a few of the major American cities in summertime and compare the queueing experience with your European experiences, and you will see no difference !

    Your experience of a few showers does not mean that you know how showers are in Europe. For starters, the habits and building restrictions are different in each European country. And the choice of curtains, glass walls, closed cubicles, etc are individual and up to the owner of the hotel or chain ! Don’t make it sound as if we lived in prehistoric times !
    As for the A/C, do I really need to remind you that we don’t get summers quite as hot as the ones in southern Virginia ? Here it is nothing but a gadget that has a terrible impact on the environment, and we’d rather live without it that subject our bodies to the huge temperature changes that you seem to be accostumed to have in the “U.S.of A.” And we are aware that the environment needs to be protected and not abused, as you certainly are, given the degree for which you chose to study.

    If you absolutely want to order a “large” coffee, or a drink with ice-cubes and straws, and feel that you cannot be happy without them, then learn in the words in the local language !!!!! THAT’s what you should have learnt about before travelling !
    The mini coffees you are describing are called espressos, trying learning the basic skills of life before travelling again, it could save you some embarassment. The watered-down long coffee that you can get at cafés is actually called an “American coffee” in France, didn’t you notice ? You can also get all the lattes, cappucinos, etc that you’d like, but no refills, because you were certainly not at a diner, darling !

    And finally, if you have actually met someone who drank wine for breakfast, well then I have news for you: they are alcoholics !

    You may ask me to chill out, and that it was all written in good fun, but I want, because you are voluntarily perpetuating old stereotypes that are incredibly wrong and because fed up of the blind patriotism that I can hear from every American mouth I meet. Recognize the brainwashing, take off your pink goggles and look at your country as it really is: one amongst many, not the best place in the world, and certainly not the country in which everyone would like to live.

    • Hi Jessica! While I am sorry that my article made you so unnecessarily upset, I will not apologize for anything written within the article, because as you predicted I would say, it was all in good fun. It was meant to be funny, to make readers smile, as I think is very evident in the article. I won’t spend time defending my words or responding to every comment you made (I know what an expresso is, thank you, and I am fluent in French and partially in Italian- just to clear those items up) but I would like to ask you reread the last paragraph of the article in which I state that Europe is the most spectacular place I have ever been, beautiful in every sense of the word. But you are right about one thing- I do believe America is the BEST place to live, I love my country! Thanks for the comment darling.

  • Congratulations, you went on a 2-week trip with mommy and daddy. As Jessica said, this does not an expert in Europe make. Your broad, sweeping statements are based on limited experience in some of the most busy, expensive and touristy cities in the world – do you really think everything is expensive in Hungary or Croatia? Because they’re in Europe too. Hell, get outside of Paris to the French countryside and prices drop immediately. And some statements are just untrue – I’ve sat on a lot of toilet seats and used a lot of showers in Europe and never noticed a difference, and the crowd control/queuing in London is probably the most organized thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

    I’ve been lucky enough to live as an American expat in Europe (among other places), and if I were to write a column with the same title, it would focus on one piece of advice: EMBRACE the differences. Open your mind. Don’t expect for everything to be like it is in the US, or complain when it isn’t. Try an espresso instead of whining about how you can’t get your typical huge coffee (it’s much better btw). And for goodness sake, if Europe was that difficult and inconvenient for you, don’t ever go to a developing country in Asia or Africa.

  • I’ve travelled the world including Europe (most of it actually) and I have to say the place I hated the most out of my travels was the United States of America. I find it sad that people don’t have free health care, people live separated by skin color, people carry guns and there is so much violence. The food is terrible and most people only speak 1 language. I even learned that most women don’t even have maternity leave! That’s crazy, were I live mothers get a whole year off paid.

    I liked Vermont though.

  • Randomly stumbled upon this blog and I was negatively shocked. Is this a parody of some sort? Most of this is simply not true. Without going too personal, it seems like you spent the half of the trip in hotels and toilets?

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