- Americans are flocking to Europe this summer despite continued travel chaos.
- Three European hospitality workers say they can often spot an American tourist from their behavior.
- They share what they wish Americans would know before traveling and advice for assimilating better.
An analysis by Allianz Partner predicted 55% more Americans will go to Europe this summer than last.
Insider asked a luxury-accommodation provider, a cafe co-owner, and a bartender for their opinions on what Americans should know when traveling through the continent, from volume control to tipping.
1. Keep tipping
In the States, tipping staff is essential, an assumed gesture in recognition that hospitality staff depend on it.
Lots of Americans carry over their tipping habits into Europe and hospitality staff massively appreciate the extra income. “Their excellent tipping for standard service and tendency to spend more than customers from other countries has a positive impact on the community,” said Cameron Temple, who works at the Luxury Chalet Company, a luxury-accommodation provider in the Alps.
“Americans nearly always tip and are a lot more generous than French people,” Stephanie Telling, co-owner of We Are Keys cafe in Normandy, France, told Insider. “If you see a note in the tip jar, you can be sure American tourists have just stopped by.”
Yet Benfield said she was noticing some Americans who have heard they don’t need to tip in Europe are starting to avoid it.
“A new trend is a lack of tips,” Stephanie Benfield, who works at Adventura Cocktail Bar in Salema Algarve, Portugal, told Insider. “Serving staff in mainland Europe still aren’t paid huge salaries and rely on tips. We’ve seen American clients being super generous, but it’s becoming more common not to tip at all. A euro would always be appreciated!”
2. Quiet down
“We identify Americans pretty much straight away because they’re louder than your typical French client,” said Telling.
Temple agreed that American patrons were “often louder than the locals.”
3. Don’t be demanding
Whether intentionally or not, Americans can come off as demanding when traveling in Europe, according to Benfield.
The bartender said that, when she is trying to juggle drink orders coming in, she often gets interrupted by Americans who want to place their orders.
She isn’t entirely sure where this demand for quick service originates from, but suggested it might be that the “friendly, Portuguese style isn’t meeting expectations of slick bartending service” they’re used to.
“There is more pressure or an unsaid expectation that I feel I’m not meeting,” said Benfield. “It can be awkward.”
Telling also told Insider her staff noticed Americans who aren’t served immediately try to order at the cash register instead of waiting at their tables.
Telling said it can “rub her team the wrong way” when Americans assume the only way to order is the way they’re used to. “In France, we are more likely to ask how the system works and follow the system in place,” she added.
4. Learn the basics of the language
No one expects Americans to be fluent in each language in mainland Europe, but Temple said that knowing the basics like “Hello, please, thanks, excuse me, sorry,” “Can I have –,” and “Can I get the bill?” would go a long way when traveling around Europe.
Telling told Insider she loves it when American tourists come into her cafes and refuse to speak English, even though she speaks it fluently. “They really want to practice their French,” she said.
5. Consider how you’re using a knife and fork, especially in fancy restaurants
Benfield warned that American tourists might not know their style of using cutlery is unusual in Europe and could be shocking for staff in upscale restaurants.
According to Benfield, Americans often hold their forks in the left hand and knife in the right when cutting up food at the beginning of the meal, then put the knife down and switch the fork to the right hand, using like a shovel to put food into their mouths.
“A local restaurant can always tell customers are Americans by how they carve up their meal at the beginning, not using their knife for the rest of the meal,” said Benfield. “In fancy restaurants, they’re surprised by this.”
In Europe, the knife and fork are used together throughout the meal, the fork in the left hand or non-dominant hand, and the knife in the right hand, with both utensils facing downwards.
6. Go with the flow
While it makes sense that Americans use travel books and travel websites to plan their European adventure, locals feel Americans miss out on some of the best sites and experiences because they are so wrapped up in their “plan.”
“You don’t need to hit all the tourist sites,” said Benfield. “Take the road less traveled, go with the locals’ recommendations, and have fun. A lot of US tourists seem exhausted by trying to cram it all in.”
“Sometimes, people come into the bar, down a drink in a couple of minutes, and then leave as a way to tick it off their Rick Steves itinerary rather than just relax,” she told Insider.
7. Ask what’s good on the menu, rather than just what you know
Benfield and Telling find that Americans gravitate toward what they know when dining out or drinking out.
“We have a bar with most ingredients and can make most drinks, but we have items on the menu for a reason,” said Benfield, adding the “not-quite-perfect off-menu request” will probably not be as good as the drinks they offer.
Benfield said Americans often “bark what they want” before reading the menu or asking what is recommended. “They choose what they’re used to rather than trying something new,” said Benfield.
Telling has noticed the same. “I remember having a bad interaction with one person who, seeing we did all kinds of eggs, really wanted an omelet which was not on the menu,” Telling said.
“He didn’t understand why we couldn’t just make one for him. I think maybe restaurants in America are a lot more flexible in changing the menu to satisfy the client.”
Instead of ordering what you know or expecting staff to prepare what you want, Benfield suggested reading through the menu and asking the staff or locals what they’d recommend.
8. Be on time
The staff at ski resorts around the Alps Temple works with consistent feedback that Americans are late for ski lessons.
“They arrive with an entitled presence,” Temple recalled one staff member saying to her. They gave the example of an American group turning up to a private lesson 30 minutes late, expecting to skip the line for the gondola.
“They need to ensure they arrive on time or book a later slot,” Temple said. “Don’t assume that because you’ve booked a lesson you will be jumping in line. After all, everyone has paid for a lift pass.”
9. Keep up the nice talk
One thing hospitality staff and locals love about Americans is their kindness.
“They are always willing to have a conversation with you and want to chat,” said Benfield. “Most are super sweet and will offer to put you up when visiting the States.”