10 Etiquette Rules to Know Before Visiting Europe
As the majority of Americans are the descendants of European immigrants, you’d think there would be more cultural similarities between the two. But thanks to a few centuries of separation, there are certain differences that have cropped up that are always getting American tourists into trouble, as well as ruining our reputation abroad. Bone up on your European etiquette by following these 10 tips.
In General | Don’t Tip Like an American
Tipping culture in America is out of control. Put simply, we’re entrenching ourselves in a custom that shortchanges (pun intended) everyone. In contrast, most countries in Europe operate without tipping, so while staff are aware that Americans are prone to tipping, they’re neither expecting it nor depending on it. Instead, use tipping the way we say it works here at home, by which we mean throw a bartender or waiter a few extra euro only when the service is truly exceptional.
In General | Don’t Rush Your Meal
On a related note, since waitstaff isn’t working for tips, they’re not focused on turnover and won’t check in on your meal as often as someone might in America. That creates a certain amount of dissonance between the paces of American and European meals. We don’t mean to insult American waitstaff, but the emphasis on tips also emphasizes turnover, which can rush diners. European staff is more focused on doing a good job than a fast one, so relax and enjoy your meal.
In General | Dress Yourself Up a Bit
To the untrained eye, it might seem like most Europeans are on their way to some kind of meeting, with most people in pants that aren’t jeans and shirts that aren’t T. If you’re abroad in Europe, it’s best to take a cue from this and pack clothes that fit the setting. Button-downs, nicer pants and more formal footwear are a good idea. In fact, on that last point, Americans take a lot of flak overseas for our proclivity for sneakers. Unless you’re doing a lot of outdoorsy walking or playing a lot of sports, you might be best served leaving the Nikes at home.
Continental Europe | End Your Meal at 5:25
Apparently there’s an American dining style, which, for all the jokes we hear about Golden Corral and cheeseburgers, we think might just be Europeans making fun of us again. Instead, we think it’s safer to go with the Continental style. When you’ve finished your meal, place your utensils at the 5:25 position on your plate. Traditionally, the fork’s tines would be facing down, but modern dining etiquette allows them to be left up as well. That will show your server you’ve eaten everything you want to and they can come to clear your place, all without interrupting the flow of your evening.