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Posted by on 11th November, 2008

6 tips from Europe….

6 tips from Europe….

For our 10 year wedding anniversary, I decided to take my wife to the places I grew up in and maybe try to explain some of my behaviors she has never quite understood.

We visited Holland, France, Italy and Spain seeing friends and family and covered quite a bit in two weeks.

We just got back today and here are a few thing I learned from this trip that you might find useful:

  • Don’t rent a car unless you are very familiar with the driving style and the roads. Unlike in the US, the lanes are narrower, drivers are more aggressive, the streets are not organized by cardinal points (N,E,S,W) and are mostly named and not numbered. Prepare to use all your reflexes avoiding cars, scooters, bicccles and pedestrians in poorly marked and/or respected lanes. Also, gas is incredibly expensive and the likelihood that you’ll spend much time of your vacation stressed, either finding your way around or simply finding a parking spot is high. Instead travel by public transportation. The rail system in most of Western Europe is highly evolved and you can get to pretty much everywhere, if you know how to connect.
  • Don’t eat at the main tourist attractions. The food and drinks might be appealing, but if you walk a few blocks away, into the backstreets, you will find food that is much more authentic in flavor and price. You will also find friendlier people, unless, of course, you walked into the wrong back alley.
  • Don’t measure the hotel star system by the same rule as in the US. It seems to me that a two star hotel in Europe is much more likely to be cleaner and adhere to a higher standard than a two star hotel in the US.
  • Make an effort to communicate. Educated in Europe and at 15 years of age, I already spoke 4 languages, but a large percentage of people educated in the US, only speak English. The instinct is to speak in English anywhere, assuming everyone else does too. This may be perceived as arrogance by a local and you'll get a much friendlier reaction if you start out by making any, I mean any, attempt in the local language. After they realize you are destroying the grammar of their beloved language they'll usually switch themselves and be friendlier and more helpful to your requests.
  • For long flights, check seatguru for power ports. Most airlines now offer power ports in Economy class every other row. Make sure you reserve a seat in a row with a power socket, just in case.
  • Last, try the local stuff. Don't order food or drinks that you can get in your home country. Experiment and ask the waiter to surprise you with his favourite dish or drink. You'll be amazed how many free drinks or samplers you can get with this approach…