Reddit asks Americans: What surprised you about visiting Europe?


Reddit has put the question to American readers: what surprised you about visiting Europe? Some of the answers are quite interesting:

“The Italian’s way of driving. Never in anytime of my life was I more paranoid of being hit by a moped.”

I’m not sure that’s how all Italians drive, but my wife and I had a few close calls while walking in Rome. Many Italians are fearless on their mopeds.

“I first went to Europe as a twelve-year-old kid, and I was shocked by how OLD everything was. Here, a church that’s a hundred years old seems ancient, but in Europe you really do have ancient structures. The sense of centuries and millennia of well-recorded history having played out everywhere I went was sort of crazy.”

I had a similar shock in Assisi. After an American friend had torn down his parent’s 200-year-old barn, we felt as if we had witnessed something historic. Smash cut to my wife and I in Assisi, being told, “That building is almost 1,000 years old.” Wow.

“I was taken aback by how small the village streets are. Also, how quaint the small villages are, they’re like out of a fairy tale.”

Again, I agree. Some rural areas have impossibly narrow streets. It’s very charming.

What surprised you while visiting Europe? Comments are open.


  1. For me, it was definitely how small all the interior spaces were — hotel rooms, corridors, shops, everything — even compared to dense urban areas in the U.S. It made me realize how Americans take wide, open spaces for granted (or as a value).

  2. So true. Small shops and definitely small hotel rooms. By comparison, at least.

    As a related story: When I was young I worked at a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. An English family came in and the husband asked for a small cone. I handed it over and he said, “Wow. Isn’t anything in America small?!” I guess it goes both ways.

  3. I guess I didn’t think much about how it would look, before the trip 3 years ago. In England, the houses were all brick. So different than PA and OH. In Scotland, more stone. I was constantly aware that I was in a place that was foreign to me. And OLD. Wonderfully old.
    Dublin, though, there was something familiar and Scranton-like there. I can’t put words to it.
    When we returned, I looked at my streets differently.

  4. I just (landed on Wednesday) came back to Europe, after visiting California for about half a year. So I’m just gonna answer your question in reverse ;-)
    The plates are so big when you go out to dinner in the U.S.! Here in the Netherlands, we don’t really have the concept of “boxing things up” or “taking a doggy bag”, so we just finish whatever we get, because it’s a shame to throw it all out. In California, my girlfriend probably never finished more than half her meal, and had the rest packed up to go.
    Riding your bike is *so* much better in Europe… Americans really aren’t prepared for cyclists, and the number of times I thought I was going to die in traffic was higher in those few months, than ever in Europe. (Note: we lived in a town near LA, and didn’t have a car… So we did everything by bike.)
    I could probably go on and on, but just seeing the difference was interesting to say the least.

    Okay, one last thing, just to warn possible travelers to Europe: people working retail seem much nicer in the US. Don’t expect anyone working in the supermarket to ask you how you’re doing, or packing your bag for you, when you come to Europe. ;)

    p.s. It’s funny to see “Europe”, while the cultural differences between countries in Europe are so big… (And it’s probably the same with me saying “U.S.” to everything, while we only stayed in California.)

  5. Martijn, that’s great, thanks! I’m going to ask the question in the opposite direction today. Thanks for sharing your observations.

  6. I haven’t been to Europe, but I have been to South America, and something I noticed that I’ve heard is similar in Europe is that the concept of “free refills” is nonexistent.

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