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First, let me begin by saying I am not an expert guru or an authority on all things CULTURE in Europe. These culture tips are a tongue-in-cheek list I have compiled after living in Europe for over eight years. Traveling hundreds of days a year throughout the continent and beyond, I have teacher tendencies, so give me grace. Teaching respect for culture, traditions and celebrations are kind of at the core of who I am. Please don’t be offended these are just my observations, recommendations and things that you might not have known before moving or traveling to Europe.
Shhhh!! quiet down
If you haven’t been shushed yet, don’t worry you will be – we tend to be the loudest group in the room at restaurants or on the train, or in the mall. I have heard conversations regarding the croissant they didn’t like to night time escapades. THE WHOLE “icky” STORY on volume 10! Seriously, eew. When dining out, Europeans talk in hushed tones to each other to keep the conversation personal and intimate. Yes, sometimes they get a bit rowdy at the end of a meal and a few beers or glasses of wine. But generally speaking, not really. Take a look next time when you are dining out, you’ll see. If you exercise personal and situational awareness you’ll see this immediately.
2. Business is good ~ so customers are NOT King!
If you live here in Stuttgart like me you’ll recognize that we, the customer, is not KING or always right, like it is in America. The businesses here don’t really seem to care if you give them a bad Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor rating or be in a hurry to get your tires changed or anything in between. They’ll get to it when they get to it. Some businesses are exceptional and definitely go the extra mile but I’ve discovered most are not motivated by getting another €uro but by scheduling their day as to not stress out. Hmmmm~
3. Who me? Can I help you? Why are you staring at me?
You will be stared at – you just will. Not sure how else to put that. But… there is this staring thing, for some reason, I know we don’t look the same or sound the same, even with Level B2 German. Think about when we have other nationalities visiting us in America. I can tell you, when I was giving tours in Alabama I was intrigued by having foreign visitors. It is commonplace here to be starred at – it just happens, sometimes I have fun with it!. I just look back and say “Kann Ich helfen.” (Can I help you?) It usually stops, usually.
4. Forget May in Germany – just forget it
Every year we experience the depression of May. You would think that this spring, a lively month would be welcomed with joy and excitement for impending wonderful weather. However, May is a HUGE spiritual month in Germany and A LOT of days are closed for HOLIDAY – Ferien. Some fall on weekends, some in the middle of the week. Every year it is always disruptive because most German stores and malls are closed. However, restaurants are open so I tend to plan a hike and hit a Waldheim(forest hut) during off days.
5. No Air in Europe in the Summer
For the most part, if you are traveling through Europe during the summer months, EUROPE does NOT have air-conditioning units. If this is important to you, make sure you have it on your filters when searching for accommodations. SOME a/c units are window units or room units and DO NOT cool entire flats or apartments. Europe has such a small seasonal window to use them, you don’t see them much anymore. NOW, if you stay in a hotel, most will have units, BUT you will still want to verify before going. Since I live here, I travel with 2 tall oscillating tower fans. I got them at OBI for €40.
6. Take the train
Taking the train in Europe is only daunting until you try it. The worst thing that could happen is you hop off a train in the wrong direction. Most people will be happy to use English they have learned in grade school to help you out. However, if you are nervous about taking the train, I will have an EBOOK available before too long.
When we first got here, we boarded a train to Schwabstraße in Stuttgart and stayed on it… little did we know that is where the train dock is and where they put the trains up for the night. We got a stern “GET OFF NOW” and followed the rules. Don’t take Schwabstraße to the end – there that’s tip #1. HA!
7. Don’t break the rules ~ well, not all of them
As my German friends tell me don’t break the rules, well, I have learned they also know which rules to break and which ones are more strict. For instance, you will be shocked at the “FREE” parking when a festival is going on. It may be in a farm field or along a town street. Alles gut, (all is good) when a festival is going on. However, DO NOT think of parking in those places when it is a normal business day, you will get a hefty ticket. Police tend to look the other way when there is a celebration.
Our first year in Stuttgart in 2014 – Germany won the World Soccer Cup – people were driving in the streets with open container beer and setting off fireworks till 2 a.m. this was a little bit of a culture shock for me. But for Germany ~ alles normal! They won ~
8. Go to Fest!
Every year, Stuttgart has two BIG Beer Fests, FrühlingsFest in April-May and CanstatterFest in September – October. Whether you decide to don the dirndl and lederhosen or go in street clothes, “going to Fest” is one of the BIG highlights of living here in Stuttgart. To me, Fest is a mix of carnival/celebration/beer fun/great music/good food with lots of memories. Whether you drink or not there is a lot to do at FEST.
9. Take a walk or hike in the woods
On any given day you will see your host nation friends out walking and hiking the paths around their town, in the Black Forest or Bavaria, just about anywhere. Europeans walk a lot. I have really embraced this part of the culture. My favorite is the Black Forest maybe because I grew up in the Adirondacks with fresh mountain lakes but for some reason, I feel at home there. Pretty much every month I plan a DAY TRIP to visit the Blueberry Pancake Hut in the Black Forest, it’s a good hike, 4 miles each way but you feel exhilarated at the end and have a belly filled with pancakes.
For more information on hiking around Stuttgart – download my Ebook on more hikes ~ HERE!
10. Enjoy and embrace – family, friends and time
One of the biggest cultural differences I have noticed since arriving is the value of family, friends and time. They work hard and yet play and relax too. I notice quite frequently cell phones are put away at restaurants and people focus on each other, even the young ones do a phone stack.
My friend Dorothea and her family have a small vineyard here in Germany they work together with twelve other vintners in wine co-op. She told me once they were not interested in having a big wine production, exporting lots of wine to other countries. They sold all their wine here in Stuttgart to restaurants and businesses they know. If they were bigger then that would mean more time working, more stress and more commitment to business instead of family. Her simple testimony seemed commonplace for her and an “of course” but it really made me think, I still have a lot to learn and share.
I hope you have enjoyed my little list and found some of these culture tips helpful. Traveling responsibly is one of my goals and if I can share some tips along the way to help people out great! How about you, what are some tips you would like to share? Comment below if you’d like ~
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