10 Normal Things In Europe That Baffle Americans

Considering a trip far far away? A record number of Americans are more eager than ever before to travel abroad and see the world.

Europe Vs America

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One continent has travelers especially enamored: search #EuroSummer on Instagram right now and over 200 thousand videos of golden beach sunsets and ancient city getaways will crop up.

 Although most expect the beautiful landscapes and centuries-old buildings, learn what Americans found most surprising about their European travels this summer.

1. Free Healthcare—Yes, Even Ambulances

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Don’t be afraid of inadvertently accumulating crippling debt if you suffer an accident or an emergency illness while residing in Europe.

Most European countries offer some form of subsidized, universal healthcare for their citizens.

1. Free Healthcare—Yes, Even Ambulances

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In most cases, a visit to the ER—yes, even including an ambulance trip—will either be entirely free or require a minimal payment.

2. Nudity, In Places Where It’s Appropriate

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Visitors are often stunned to learn that many beaches along the Mediterranean coast are usually topless, especially in places like Spain, Portugal, and France.

Nudist beaches are not exactly rare either, a fact you might discover for yourself on a casual stroll down Barcelona’s city boardwalk.

3. Want to Cool Off With an Ice-Cold Beverage? Good Luck

paying at ice cream shop

When ordering a beverage in Europe, you need to ask for an entire glassful of ice. If you forget, don’t be surprised when they serve you a Coke with a singular ice cube.

3. Want to Cool Off With an Ice-Cold Beverage? Good Luck

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Iced coffee aficionados will also have to get their fix from Starbucks or specialty coffee shops—in places like Spain, coffee with ice means a hot coffee with an ice cube in a separate glass.

4. Day, Month, and Year

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Important information for Americans going abroad: the United States is the only country in the world that writes dates in the month/day/year format.

Be careful when purchasing tickets for events or booking travel and remember that, in Europe, the day always goes first.

5. Bathroom Stalls With Doors That Fully Close

public restroom

This bit of culture shock goes both ways: Europeans who traveled to the U.S. were dismayed by the public bathrooms. According to dozens of videos online, Europeans found the inch-wide gap in stall doors shocking since it leaves a person slightly visible while they use the facilities.

5. Bathroom Stalls With Doors That Fully Close

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In Europe, toilet stalls in public bathrooms are fully closed off to ensure privacy (and sometimes require payment to use).

6. Little to No Air Conditioning

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Summer 2023 was plagued by scorching hot temperatures all over the continent, with some countries enduring heatwaves of 40°C days (that’s 104°F for Americans).

6. Little To No Air Conditioning

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The main issue? Air conditioning is rare in Europe because of its historically mild summers and cold winters. Those who are already preparing for next year’s #EuroSummer should bring light, breezy fabrics, a handheld fan, and industrial-strength deodorant.

7. Leisurely Mealtimes

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In the U.S., dessert is often served with a check, an explicit encouragement to leave. Conversely, restaurants in Europe expect customers to linger over their meals—a bottle of wine, an appetizer, an entree, dessert, and a digestif.

7. Leisurely Mealtimes

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Don’t get upset if you have to flag a waiter for the bill. The European standard of good service involves leaving a customer to enjoy their meal.

8. Public Transport and Walkable Cities

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Getting around Europe is easy. Most European cities have affordable, accessible public transport systems that few U.S. cities can compare to.

Moreover, the cities themselves are extremely walkable—pedestrians take priority here, while cars are often barred from circulating in historic city centers.

9. Extended European Vacations

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No one likes to travel around Europe as much as Europeans. Because EU regulations mandate four weeks of paid vacation per year, Europeans have the time to extensively travel both at home and abroad.

9. Extended European Vacations

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Some Americans are surprised to wander around cities in the summer and find businesses closed for weeks while their owners are on holiday.

10. The European Version of “American” Food

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In the same way the U.S. has its own interpretations of international cuisines, Europe has its ideas about what constitutes American food.

Take a stroll through the American food aisle in Lidl (a German grocery store) and check out the hamburger-flavored chips and “American-style” pulled pork pizzas.

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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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