An American Guide to Visiting Europe

Tower of Pisa (Shainee Fernando)

When we hear Europe being mentioned, it often brings with it thoughts of quirky images, such as selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower or the hilarious photos of people pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We all know there is, of course, far more to this ancient continent than the tourist traps, similarly with any place in the world you choose to visit.

Sadly we, as a nation, have been tarred with the brush of being unpleasant visitors to other countries. But this perception predominantly comes from pop culture. We also spend a lot of time targeting ourselves with this notion. Let’s face it, anyone can be friendly or brash, no matter where they’re from. But tourism is a great source of income for any country and we are perfectly capable of being pleasant guests.

Europe’s rich and incredibly diverse history has influenced North American nations since their birth. American-European cultures are prolific and the pride that comes with these heritages is flaunted by many. Visiting the homelands of our European ancestors or exploring neighboring countries is highly recommended, especially if you have a focus on the historical side. Our quick guide will give you some tips for when and where you choose to visit.

Will I need a travel visa?

Before you start day-planning, you’ll want to consider if you’ll need official documentation to visit Europe. As of right now, if you’re staying for less than 90 days in the European Union (remember, the UK is no longer part of the EU) you won’t need anything in the form of travel visas. However, if you’re planning to visit one of the 26 Schengen Zone countries after the end of 2022, you’ll need to apply for ETIAS authorization.

Travel insurance

Especially today, the risks of being abroad without proper medical travel insurance can be devastating. Paying out of pocket for medical treatment, especially emergency treatment, could set you back substantially. We recommend searching around for a plan that’s right for you, preferably one which covers any cancellations due to Covid-19 too.

Cultural Customs

When visiting another country, it’s worth researching the customs of the area you’re traveling to. For example, a common hurdle for Americans in Europe is tipping your waiters. It’s rare for any server in Western Europe to expect a large tip. Staff are more or less paid a much fairer wage than service staff in the US. A tip in Europe is generally more seen as polite recognition of the service you’ve received.

Start to learn the language or some basic phrases

Locals love to see tourists making an effort with their language. Rather than speaking slowly and raising your voice (a very large portion of Europe speaks or at least understands English), put a bit of effort into learning words like please, thank you, and hello. You could push the boat out a bit more and learn some common phrases. Don’t be shy though, whilst you may induce a wry smile with some poor pronunciation, you’ll instantly see a change in attitude towards you for making the effort.

Accept European Lifestyles

European cultures are adapted to the ‘smaller’ way of life. Compared to the USA, many countries across Europe are quite small. Some are even tinier than our smallest states! Unless you’re planning to travel across Europe itself or visit every corner of one particular country, you won’t even need to rent a car. Public transport is more than sufficient and is far more eco-friendly, which the EU has become synonymous with in recent years.

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About the Author: Brian Novak