10 Things Europeans Say About You Behind Your Back
1. WE HAVE TERRIBLE FAKE ACCENTS
Ouch. Turns out that posh James Bond imitation you think you've mastered sounds like the squeak of chalk on a blackboard to a Brit. And chances are, even as you read this, you believe you are the exception to this rule—that your Daniel Craig could fool a native? No. Stop. Please.
2. WE LIKE SMILING
Boy, those French are unfriendly, huh? Guess again. They're just more physically reserved than you are, and that goes for facial expressions, too. A Parisian, especially when addressing a stranger, will rarely smile, and this is often misinterpreted by American as that legendary (and largely mythical) French rudeness. We, on the other hand, have been taught to approach new people, even total strangers, with our pearly whites bared. Down, Sparky. It just weirds them out.
3. WE HAVE BARBARIC EATING HABITS
From way up in Scandinavia all the way down to Sicily, Europeans seem to be united in the opinion that Americans don't know how to enjoy a meal. Yep. Shocking as it may seem, the country that invented "fast food" and the "power lunch" puzzles its neighbors across the pond when it comes to table manners. Apparently, we start eating before it's considered polite, we don't stop to talk enough, and we perhaps miss the entire point of chowing down in the presence of other human beings. Wherever you may be visiting (but especially southern Europe), if you sit down to eat with locals, we suggest that you just quietly tell yourself, "Slow down."
4. WE ARE BAD DRINKERS
Ok, in fairness to my American brethren, it's true that in some corners of Europe it is common to outdrink Americans at a truly magnificent pace. But overall, the European approach to beer, wine, and spirits is similar to their approach to a nice meal: What's the rush? It's perfectly acceptable to savor a two-hour lunch that includes a few goblets of wine. But binge-drinking is considered a weakness, especially in wine-producing regions, where the vino is regarded as much a food as a beverage.
5. WE ARE WORKAHOLICS
Except in a few major economic centers, London in particular, the locals aren't going to be terribly interested in hearing your workplace war stories, how much money you're spending on your vacation, or how much your house back in the States cost. The country you are visiting may even have strict rules or customs about the length of a work week. But more importantly, Europeans just know how to pursue a work/life balance more healthfully than Americans: Take time to sit down for coffee and a croissant in the morning, consider an afternoon nap (if you're staying with your Italian cousins, they may insist on it!), and if you head out to dinner in, say, Barcelona, expect the tapas to go around the table well into the wee hours. Relax!
6. WE ARE SCARED OF NUDITY
Whoa. Really? But isn't American culture awash in cutting-edge body parts and potty mouth? Yes, and that's actually a sign of our priggish problem. In many European cultures, the human body is considered simply, well, the human body. Our fascination with certain anatomical features is not shared by Europeans. That's why in some regions of Europe you'll see nude bathing and hear jokes that would make your mother blush. Next time you see a photo of the inscrutable Catalan Christmas pooper, just say to yourself, "Don't judge. Remember, you are a prude."
7. WE ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH
Duolingo, people. Duolingo.
8. WE ARE UNCULTURED
Be honest. Did you even know that "Sochi" was a thing before the Russian city hosted the Winter Games? Is Trieste in Switzerland, Croatia, or France? We're not suggesting that you prepare for a geography bee before boarding your Paris-bound plane. But, gosh, get some arrondissements into your short-term memory, remember that Marseille is France's second-largest city, and understand that "Omaha Beach" is not what the French call that stretch of Normandy coast. (Btw, Trieste is in Italy.)
9. WE NEED THE FASHION POLICE
This applies to American men more than women, and it's difficult to argue. On any given street of any given European town on any given day, I will not be able to compete with the stylish dress of the gents who pass my way. While a few decades ago this may not have been the case (I can imagine Don Draper holding his own against an onslaught of silk-suited Florentines), my generation has admittedly opted to dress like overgrown boys, and our T-shirts, baggy jeans, and five o'clock shadows scream "Yank."
10. WE DON'T KNOW OUR OWN HISTORY
I say kudos to Europe's schools for instilling in their citizenry the ability to understand the difference between Bill Clinton and George Clinton. Unfortunately, Americans' grasp of European and even American history is often as sketchy as their grasp of geography. So just know that when you drop a name like Churchill or Garibaldi overseas, you are inviting a conversation in which you may eventually be called upon to remember who sold President Thomas Jefferson the 800,000+ square miles that now comprises all or parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and, of course, Louisiana.
(Psst! It was France.)
Psst! Wanna Elope?
When you're engaged to be married, but buried under catering menus, to-do lists, and secret Pinterest boards featuring enough decorative twigs to build the world's largest bird's nest, forgoing a huge wedding for a combination elopement/honeymoon can look rather appealing. Picture it: spur-of-the-moment vows in an exotic locale, the only evidence of your nuptials a lone photo of your blissful faces snapped by a local. Then? Instant honeymoon. But it's not quite that easy. As romantic as ditching the checklists and heading for all-in-one paradise sounds, doing a little bit of planning before boarding that plane will help you avoid wedding-day disasters that can occur even when you and your true love are the only attendees. Plus, we found the latest information on six trendy budget getaways that you might want to consider for your own last-minute ceremony. Investigate the process for a marriage license. Before you even commit to the location for your elopement/honeymoon, talk to the convention and visitors bureau to research the hoops you have to jump through to obtain a marriage license there. Some locales, though popular, have restrictions like waiting periods or witness minimums that could hamper your ideal ceremony. For example: "In St. Lucia, they have very strict rules," says Shawn Rabideau, founder of Shawn Rabideau Events & Design in New York City. "You've got to send all the paperwork in, and the resort sort of helps you with that—they bring it down to the local city office—but you really need to follow the rules. Otherwise you could find out—and this has happened—people have found out they weren't even legally married." Some documents that might be required are birth certificates, passports, divorce decrees (if applicable), a certified copy of the death certificate for a widow or widower, and so on. Applications for a marriage license also might need to be filed before you get there—if only to avoid extra fees. An additional precaution to take when marrying abroad is to check travel.state.gov, which lists information such as whether same-sex marriage is illegal. Depending on the restrictions, it might make sense to do a private ceremony in the states and a symbolic one abroad, says Rabideau. Think logistically. Will your elopement include just you and your partner? Or are you bringing a few friends? Posing simple questions like those can uncover potential organization problems: "How easy is the location to get to?" Rabideau says. "For example, some of the resorts or the islands in the Caribbean only have flights certain times a day and certain days of the week. Is Grandma going to be traveling for 12 hours? That might not be the best thing for Grandma. Are you going to be like, 'Oh, we can just Skype with her, that's great?' Technology doesn't always work." If, upon further research, your dream location might be a travel nightmare or not as quick-and-dirty as you had envisioned, stay stateside to cut down on surprises. While you're planning, go over the emotional fallout too: "Before you make the decision to elope, consider for just a moment and make sure that it's not going to be something you regret," says Jamie Chang, of Mango Muse Events in San Francisco, who specializes in destination weddings. "Not the getting-married part, but the not-having-anyone-there part. Will you be sad if your Mom isn't there? You don't want to look back and wish you'd done it differently." Lean on the hotel or resort for assistance, but ask questions. Most hotels and resorts have experience organizing weddings for out-of-towners, so it's smart to listen to their advice, even if you want a unique DIY wedding with hand-picked caterer, officiant, music, and décor. "They're going to have a list of vendors that they use and rely on," Rabideau says. "That usually is the best way to go. If they're recommending them, they don't want them to fail. It's their reputation." That said, ensure you get the experience you want at the price you want, even when choosing a pre-existing package. "See what the resorts have to offer," Rabideau says. "Do they have an onsite planner that can help you? Very often the onsite planners are more like assistants, so they're juggling 10 or 20 other clients... Are there any hidden fees? Do they do more than one wedding on the day? If they do, is it next to you? Is it like a factory? If you want to feel special, it starts to take that specialness out of it." Brace yourself for a different pace. The sense of urgency we have in the U.S. doesn't apply to some foreign vendors, hotels, and officiants who operate at a throttled-back clip. "Understand if you're doing it in a different country, there's a different way of living," Rabideau says. "Spain [for example] is very different—they're more relaxed there; it's a different culture. They may not necessarily work at the same speed you work at. Not only pack your clothes, but pack your patience." Include a few traditional touches. Even if your wedding is intended to be tiny, spur of the moment, hipster-quirky, or out-of-the-box crazy, you can still hire either a local wedding planner to ensure your ceremony hits all of the marks, or one or two local vendors, depending on your priorities. "While eloping does mean having a wedding with just the couple, I think it's important for every couple to consider hiring a photographer," Chang says. "Even if you only hire them for an hour, it's nice to have a memento of the occasion and of the emotion and the love you felt." Also, this might go without saying, but don't ship your suit or dress or check it in your luggage. "Carry it on the plane with you," she says. "The flight attendants are usually really helpful with wedding dresses and finding a safe place for them." If you're feeling generous, bring the experience back for your friends. Once you're home safe, you can keep the party going by including friends and family who weren't there for the ceremony. "The most successful elopements I have seen also include some type of sharing with the family back home, whether that's posting photos on your favorite social network or hosting a 'toast the newlyweds' reception when you get back home," says wedding planner Karen Bussen, of Simple Stunning Weddings, who has recently partnered with Palladium Hotels and Resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Riviera Maya, Mexico; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. "That's a great place to show your wedding video and let all the folks who love you share in your happiness." Hot destinations for eloping: Costa Rica The authenticity of Costa Rica, with its off-the-beaten-path feel, appeals to millennials, who have been flocking to the country to get married. "Central America is not their parents' tropics," says Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com's Guide to Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways. "Green" weddings in particular are in style, says Christina Baez, a spokesperson for Costa Rica's tourism board. Especially in vogue: couples offsetting their carbon footprint with donations to reforestation projects, planting an honorary tree during the ceremony, and doing a post-wedding "trash the dress" photo shoot by jumping into one of the country's waterfalls, like those in the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano area. Savannah, Georgia Enduring, idyllic, and accessible, Savannah is a popular go-to wedding destination for couples who want their choice of restaurants and B&Bs but don't have the budget for long-haul air tickets, Rabideau says. Downtown's Forsyth Park, one of the biggest in the area, is a hotspot for small weddings. Negril, Jamaica The island of One Love offers laid-back weddings to couples who want to take the plunge, literally and figuratively. At Rick's Café in Negril, couples can say their vows and immediately leap from a 35-foot-tall platform into Caribbean waters. Afterward, relax with a rum-and-fruit-juice Planter's Punch while gazing at the area's famous purple sunsets. Las Vegas Getting hitched by a singing Elvis impersonator at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas is always an option (they even can stream it over the internet for family and friends!), but so is exchanging rings at beautiful indoor or outdoor hotel chapels at the Wynn Encore, the Bellagio, or Caesar's Palace. Or go mobile with services like the Las Vegas Wedding Wagon, which brings the wedding to you. Another bonus: With only a photo ID, you can obtain a marriage license and get hitched in 24 hours; the Las Vegas Marriage Bureau is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight. Sedona, Arizona Escaping south to a warm resort in the States is a popular trend for elopers on a budget, Rabideau says. Red-rock views and indulgent spas are two quintessential Sedona musts. The Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa offers a 90-minute "three-part recharging massage" designed for hikers and bikers who want to get back on the trail the next day; the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa's concierge can arrange a hot-air balloon ride with a champagne toast high above the mesas. Marrakech, Morocco Stay in a traditional Moroccan "riad," a house with an interior garden, in the historic Medina district, recommends Ingrid Asoni, founder of Asoni Haus event planning in Marrakech. "You still have the tranquility of a romantic getaway, but you also have some incredible views over the whole of Marrakech and the Medina," she says. Riad Noga, La Sultana, and Riad Enja are a few good picks. And don't skip the traditional pre-wedding couples' "hammam," a treatment involving a scrub, a clay or soap wrap, and another scrub—so you're radiant for your lover and ready as you'll ever be for pledging your eternal love.
1. Pack a few paper place mats. They can be useful anywhere there's an outdoor shower. By stepping onto a place mat after a bush shower in Botswana, I managed to keep my feet clean and avoided getting dirt in my clothes. Sandy S. Hogan, Las Vegas, Nev. 2. Don't assume a single room costs less than a double one. If you're traveling solo, compare prices. I recently booked a hotel in Spain online and noticed that rates were the same whether I booked a single or a double, but the single was much smaller and its bathroom had only a small shower stall and no tub. Don Carne, Lansing, Mich. 3. Postcards are helpful when there's a language barrier. Finding anything in Tokyo is difficult when you don't speak Japanese, so here's what I suggest: Buy postcards of the places you want to see; an English description of the landmark is usually found on the back. Show the postcard to a taxi driver and he'll take you to the spot. Jim Dinsmore, Northridge, Calif. 4. Carry the exact change for public transportation. In Venice, we were annoyed when a vaporetto (water taxi) ticket-taker refused to give us our 3 euros change. Later, we discovered that if you don't have the exact fare, ticket agents make no promises about giving change. Dana Hunting, Seattle, Wash. 5. If you're renting a car in England, remove the left front hubcap. The last time we were in England, I met another American at the car rental agency. He had just returned his rental and was annoyed he had to pay for a missing hubcap. He said that between negotiating the narrow roads, having the steering wheel on the right side of the car, and driving on the left side of the road, he couldn't judge exactly where the left front wheel was. As a result, he repeatedly hit the curb and eventually knocked off a hubcap. Later that trip, while visiting Hadrian's Wall, I noticed many cars in the parking lot were missing hubcaps. Sure enough, most of the drivers were Americans! I'm glad I had taken my new friend's advice and put mine in the trunk. Bernard Hershkowitz, Commack, N.Y. You can find more tips in the December 2005/January 2006 issue of Budget Travel magazine.
Sir Richard Branson
Window or aisle? When forced to make the choice, I prefer aisle. This lets me get up and move around the cabin without bothering anyone. I find this is one of the best way to meet interesting people. The last thing I ate from a minibar?I try to stay away from the minibar, because it's my experience that once you start into a minibar, it's hard to stop. But, there are occasions when I have a certain craving, or am just plain hungry. At those times, I usually have every intention of staying healthy, planning to choose some nuts, or fruit juice. More often than not, I usually end up eating the chocolate. I won't leave home without... My cell phone. It lets me travel whenever I have to, and still be connected to all the businesses. But it is the most important item for me, because it is my lifeline to my family. No matter where I am, I can speak to them throughout the day, letting me stay more than in touch. The best trip I've ever taken? And why? My trip on Virgin Atlantic's inaugural flight in 1984. It was the first step in building what I've always known was possible--an airline that provides great service at a great value. My dream trip? My dream trip is into space. I'm planning to launch with Virgin Galactic in just a few years. The movie or book that inspired me to pack my bags? Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything. I recommend this book as a must read for everyone. My greatest travel pet peeve? My greatest travel pet peeve is when luggage takes forever to come out into the baggage area. I hate waiting, especially at that point when I just want to get off and start my trip, or I'm anxious to get home. How I deal with jetlag? I don't believe in jetlag. It's mind over matter. Working out, eating right, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and good living is the way to deal with jetlag. And, I must say, if you fly the right airline, it isn't an issue. If I could travel with any living person... Nelson Mandela. I'll never go back to ____________ And why? I never say never when it comes to traveling. If I love a place, I can't wait to go back. If I don't love a place, I'll go back to find what I missed. If I could be anywhere right now... With my kids.
Ski Condos for Slackers
Rather than let units go unfilled in their prime season, ski-condo owners post discounted prices online to entice spontaneous folks (and procrastinators) to book at the last minute. Prices dip lower as the deadline approaches. "I tell my friends to search about a week in advance," says Tony Lopes, manager of Ownerdirect.com, which lists condo rentals all over the world, including at many ski resorts. Ownerdirect.com is heavy on British Columbia properties (600 units at the Whistler and Big White resorts alone), and has a good selection for the rest of Canada and the U.S. In one of its Rock Bottom Specials, which are discounted by at least 40 percent, a two-bedroom unit in Park City, Utah, dropped from $120 to $60 a night. Resortquest.com represents 17,000 condos and house rentals in North America--and you can search the site by activity (skiing, golf, etc.). Under its Hot Deals & Special Offers tab are last-minute incentives such as 20 percent off, free gas cards, or a free fourth night. At 11thhour.com, a clearinghouse for all-inclusive packages, cruises, and vacation rentals, a condo that's usually $699 per week can cost $499. Or go to a site that's strictly for skiers: Lastminuteskicondo.com. It lists offers from condo owners at 15 Colorado resorts and a handful of mountains in Montana, Utah, and the eastern U.S. Some sites focus on specific ski towns. Aspensnowmassonsale.com lists down-to-the-wire offers--seven days ahead at the most, sometimes for 50 percent off--on condos, hotel rooms, and house rentals in the Aspen-Snowmass area. Vailonsale.com works exactly like the Aspen site, but with deals in Vail, Colo. Visitbreck.com, for skiers heading to Breckenridge, Colo., has a Hot Deals section, which commonly features 10 percent discounts and third- or fourth-night-free offers, as well as an option for bidding at the last minute. You bid for available units during the two-week window prior to arrival; if your price is accepted, you have 24 hours before you must commit. But read the fine print before agreeing to any offer: A cleaning fee might be added later, and "slopeside" can be a relative term. Also, the trade-off for getting a deal is that cancellations and changes usually aren't allowed.