Etiquette I Observed On THE CONTINENT

Good morning! As Victoria may have mentioned, I have spent the last couple weeks on THE EUROPEAN CONTINENT, specifically the cities Paris and Amsterdam. They’re pretty great places to visit, but of course I kept my eye out for any etiquette differences or behavioral expectations. Overall, globalization has gotten the best of us. One dated guidebook told me that in Paris it was unacceptable to eat food on the street, and yet I saw the parks littered with Parisians noshing on cheese and fruit, and the streets packed with people biting straight into baguettes. That rule seems to have fallen out of favor, but there are plenty that still exist.

  • In every restaurant I went to, the English speakers were always the loudest, whether they were Americans, Brits or Australians. I have no idea why we can’t just keep it down, but do your best to lower your voice when dining out. People will stare.
  • Speaking of speaking, make an effort to learn some basic words in the language of the country you’re visiting. I haven’t practiced French since high school, and I never learned Dutch, but I brushed up on hello/goodbye, thank you, and excuse me. Paris has the stereotype of being cold to Americans, but that’s definitely not the case anymore. Everyone was pleasant when they realized we spoke English, and seemed to appreciate the effort. What wasn’t appreciated was anyone who marched into a store and immediately spoke English.
  • Do not shoot back your genever in Amsterdam. Sip it slowly and savor.
  • Do not ask for butter to spread on your croissant in Paris. You probably won’t need it anyway. They are pretty much all butter.
  • Look everyone in the eye when you cheers your drinks.
  • In Paris at least, dinner is still expected to be a few courses–at least a separate first and second course, and usually dessert or coffee. You may get some confusion if you only order a main dish at some of the more local places, so just let yourself indulge.
  • Do not lean over the gates in Notre Dam to tape an entire mass on your iPad. Seriously, people are actually participating and you look ridiculous and disrespectful.
  • Maybe also don’t take photos of every single painting in any given museum. Look at the painting. Enjoy it. Think about it. You can always Google it later.
  • Shower before you get on a plane. Your seatmates will thank you.

Also, a small thing I noticed from traveling with my husband, who’s arm was in a sling the whole time from a broken collarbone–pay attention to when people have casts/slings/other injuries! So many people would just push on subways or through crowds and knock into his shoulder, which was still healing from surgery. You’d think the giant sling would be pretty obvious, but apparently not, so just make sure if you’re pushing through a crowd it’s all people whose shoulders are not broken.

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