As an American “Daytripping” in Europe, I have tried really hard to act like a local. At first, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But over the months, I have observed American tourists passing through and picked up on some surefire ways to spot a fellow Yankee. The best way to travel is by immersing yourself fully in the culture. AKA: not being a tourist. Read on for my take on ways to spot an American in Europe.
1. Casual attire
Europeans have a knack for fashion. 90% of the time, I feel completely undressed just walking out my door. That being being said, try to avoid the sneakers, flip-flops, cargo shorts, and baseball hats. These are all foolproof ways to spot an American tourist. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to leave all comfort behind and dress in your finest suit. However, opting out of those New Balances for something a little less casual will help you avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.
2. Wearing University/sports team logos
Another easy way to spot an American abroad? Proudly displaying your favorite university/sports tee. Nothing screams “USA” more than a Miami Dolphins t-shirt. Skip the logo and opt for a sleek, monochrome tee instead.
As a proud tipper in America, I still have an internal struggle with this one every time I’m in a restaurant. (You mean I shouldn’t tip at least 15%?) Although tipping is less prevalent in Europe, it varies from country to country. One rule of thumb is to always make sure you look up the tipping etiquette for the country you’re visiting. If service isn’t included in the bill, a 5-10% tip is the standard amount for restaurant service. Anything more than that is unnecessary. You can check out our previous blog post for a more in-depth look on tipping customs in Europe.
4. “Can I have a glass of water please?”
I’d like to start out by saying that I’m obsessed with ice. I even brought back large ice cube trays the last time I visited the U.S. However, ice doesn’t really seem to be a “thing” in Europe. Yes, you can usually get ice with your drink, but only if you specifically ask for it. 90% of the time, your beverage won’t come “on the rocks”.
Another difference is the water scenario in restaurants. If you ask for a glass of water, the server will most likely ask if you want that “with or without gas”. Be prepared to receive a bottle of mineral water unless specified otherwise. It really depends on the establishment, but they’re usually willing to give you a glass of tap water on the house (if you ask nicely). They’ll also know 100% that you’re American.
5. Say Cheese!
Americans are perceived as friendly and outgoing, sometimes overly so. More than once, I’ve received strange looks on the street while rocking a huge smile. Some Europeans equate constant smiling with insincerity, thus maintaining a look of indifference. It’s not that they’re unfriendly (quite the opposite, actually). Europeans typically just take a bit more time to warm up than the stereotypical American. This doesn’t mean that one cultural norm is better than the other; it simply means we’re different.
6. LOUD NOISES!
Let’s be honest, Americans are known to make some noise. I can spot a group of fellow Americans a mile away due to their booming voices. Europeans on the other hand, tend to be a bit more demure in public. Being loud isn’t necessarily a bad thing (like I haven’t been told to shut up a time or two). But if you want to blend in with the locals, try to keep your voice within a one-mile radius 😉
7. Cover your eyes!
Nudity is trivial in Europe. You can spot a pair of breasts on the TV just flipping through the regular channels. And nude beaches? Don’t get me started! I remember lying on the beach in Barcelona trying not to make eye contact with the half naked beach-goers. Nakedness is such a taboo in America and it can be a shock to see it up close. But once the initial shock wears off, you realize it’s not such a big deal. Europeans are generally more open with their bodies than what we’re accustomed to. But if you stay in Europe long enough, you won’t even bat an eye at those bare breasts on the beach.
How do you spot an American tourist in Europe? Is there anything you avoid doing in order to “act more like a local”? Let us know in the comments!