20 Annoying Things Americans Do Abroad That Europeans Hate

Europe is rich in history and culture; from stunning natural landscapes to exquisite dining experiences and beautiful cities, traveling on this continent is an experience like no other. To make the most of your travels, you’ll want to fit in as best you can with the locals, so avoid these 20 things on your next trip.

Speaking Loudly in Public Places

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In general, Americans are known for speaking at higher volumes, which contrasts with the more reserved volumes of Europeans. Speaking loudly can be perceived as intrusive or inconsiderate, especially in quiet or solemn settings like churches or museums, as it can disrupt the atmosphere for others.

Expecting Everyone to Speak English

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While English is taught from a young age in many European countries, the expectation that everyone speaks it fluently is often seen as rude and disregards the diversity of languages and cultures across the continent. Tourists who don’t attempt to use the local language can come off as arrogant and show a lack of respect for the locals.

Tipping Excessively

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According to Euro Change, “Unlike the almost obligatory tipping culture in the U.S., European attitudes towards tipping are typically more relaxed, viewing it less as an expectation and more as a gratuity for exceptional service, but this varies widely from country to country.” Over-tipping can create awkward situations and may even be seen as flaunting wealth.

Complaining About Portion Sizes

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European portion sizes at restaurants and cafés are generally smaller than in the U.S., as they prioritize quality over quantity in dining. Commenting negatively on portion sizes can be perceived as wasteful or lacking appreciation for the culinary culture, so it’s best to embrace local dining customs.

Overemphasizing Heritage

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American tourists will often refer to their European ancestry, but this can be seen as superficial by locals, who value more authentic cultural connections. By focusing on learning about and experiencing the current culture of the country, you can have more meaningful exchanges and insights.

Being Unaware of Local Etiquette

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From greetings to dining etiquette and public behavior norms, local customs vary widely across Europe. When tourists disregard these customs, they can offend locals or create misunderstandings. When you’re headed to a new country, it’s best to research local etiquette to not only show respect but also enhance your own travel experience.

Expecting Ice in Every Beverage

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In many European countries, drinks are served with little or no ice. Reader’s Digest says this “dates back to the 19th century. During that time, it was already commonplace for most American homes to have an ice box. Ice would be harvested in northern America or Canada, shipped across the Atlantic, and sold at a high price in British department stores.”

Comparing Everything to the U.S.

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By constantly comparing the experiences you’re having in Europe to the American version, you can come across as dismissive of the unique local culture. Try to appreciate and respect the differences, as celebrating the diversity of cultures and practices can enhance understanding and enjoyment of international travel.

Disrespecting Historical Sites

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Some American tourists may not realize the depth of history and significance behind European landmarks, leading to disrespectful behavior. This can cause resentment among the locals and tarnish the reputation of American tourists, so it’s important to show respect for historical sites and help preserve them for future generations.

Inappropriate Jokes or Comments

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Humor varies hugely across cultures, and jokes that are harmless or funny in the U.S. might be offensive or inappropriate in Europe. This can lead to misunderstandings or offenses, especially when jokes are made about sensitive topics like history, politics, or culture, which may carry different connotations abroad.

Overuse of Credit Cards

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Some European countries prefer cash or local payment methods, particularly in smaller establishments or rural areas, so it’s important to have both options available while you’re away. Adapting to local payment preferences not only avoids inconvenience but also demonstrates respect for local norms.

Ignoring Dress Codes

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Collette says, “Europeans tend to dress up a bit more than Americans, and they prefer a sleeker and more fitted look…. Think tailored, classic, and neutral, and you can’t go wrong.” Certain venues, such as churches and upmarket restaurants, have particularly strict dress codes, so it’s important to respect them by avoiding casual attire.


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In Europe, many towns and cities have small cobblestone streets, long winding staircases, and small elevators; therefore, packing a large suitcase may make traveling difficult. It can limit your ability to be spontaneous when you’re on your trip, which might mean you miss out on some of the best experiences Europe has to offer.

Expecting Air Conditioning Everywhere

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Many European buildings, especially historic ones, don’t have air conditioning, and it’s important to remain open to this while traveling to ensure you get an authentic experience of accommodation, restaurants, and more. It also reflects a bigger focus on environmental sustainability, which you should always respect.

Wearing Athletic Clothing Everywhere

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In many European countries, dressing appropriately is a sign of respect, and wearing athletic clothing outside of a gym setting can be frowned upon. Americans who dress in athletic wear all the time may be perceived as neglecting local norms of presentation and formality.

Overreliance on Technology for Navigation

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While technology is incredibly useful, constantly relying on it for navigation can mean you miss out on spontaneous exploration of Europe’s historic towns and cities. If you can, try to engage with local people, ask for directions, and use local maps to take in your surroundings more authentically.

Ignoring Local Eating Times

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Eating times in Europe can vary significantly from country to country and are often much later than American norms. According to Business Insider, Italians will often eat between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. “Mediterranean nations like Italy appreciate later dinner times, complete with pre-meal drinks and bites.”

Not Adapting to Local Shopping Etiquette

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In many European markets and small shops, there is an etiquette to follow, such as greeting the shopkeeper or not handling produce without gloves. By ignoring these norms, tourists can be seen as disrespectful or ignorant, so take your time to research and watch others to fit in better. 

Expecting Fast Service Everywhere

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The speed of service, especially in restaurants, can be more leisurely in Europe compared to the U.S., reflecting a more laid-back approach to dining and shopping. Being impatient or complaining about slow service can be seen as rude, so try to embrace the slower, more relaxed pace of life.

Lack of Spatial Awareness in Public

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Personal space and public behavior norms can differ in Europe; for example, standing too close to others or blocking walkways can be seen as rude. Americans can be unaware of this, which can lead to invasions of personal space or cause obstructions for locals.

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