European Travel Adventures - The Basics
Travel Tips for Germany and Europe
By: Yollie & Dan Bunag
In this hub, we hope to share our experiences and adventures while we were fairly new in living, traveling, and exploring Germany and Western Europe. After living in the US for several years, living in Europe can be a culture shock. We offer some tips to newcomers to help them in adapting to the new culture and making their assignment more enjoyable. We hope that the information and tips provided would be of use to those going or getting re-assigned to Germany or Europe.
The Saga Begins
By: Yollie and Dan Bunag
Hello! I'm writing this lens to share my personal experiences during our stay in Europe. As most of the women or wives, our passion lies on shopping and sightseeing. But before I'll embark on that the first and foremost tip is to learn basic conversational words or sentences from whichever country you'll plan to visit. Ask around or buy a dictionary or search the web, because not all Europeans speak English or let's say, they don't want to answer you except from their own languages. Saying simple words or phrases mostly delights them and they'll try to communicate with you in their own ways. Learning good morning, noon, and night or simply hello or good day would suffice for greetings. Do you speak English; please excuse me; I'm sorry; how much; yes and no; thank you so much (usually they have informal or formal words but I prefer the latter) and goodbye. If it's hard for you to say the words, simply write them down and show it to whomever you need to talk to. I find a lot of them courteous and will try to accommodate or help you but bear in mind you'll find some not friendly, rude and snobs.
The first time I went grocery shopping in a German store, I was buying pork chops or schnitzel and wanted it cut thinner. The butcher did not understand a word so I simply try to gesture, even chopping with my hands. It's just like we're playing until the gentleman behind me was really having fun with my actions and offered to translate for me. I was so grateful and he told me that younger generations usually speak English because the butcher was an old man. In Paris, you'll get ignored if you don't speak their language. A friend of mine visited me and I got her a tour in Paris (driving makes you crazy since parking is so impossible and the gasoline so expensive) I packed some fried chicken, frozen drinks, sandwiches and snacks but did not want to bring them since she wants to experience dining in Paris. I insisted and told her that if you don't speak French, you'll get hungry. She laughed at me but still brought the food. Guess what, she was so thankful that I packed her the food because the people she was on the tour with went to an outdoor cafÃ© but were ignored because nobody speak French. So she placed her food on the table and started eating. When the waiter asked her that she shouldn't eat outside food she told him "now, you can speak English"! So the best way to eat is through Mc Donald (I'm kidding!). Anyway there are some nice restaurants that really cater to tourists.
Are you planning to go to Germany or Europe?
Water Closet--I got to Go!
Haben Sie Munzen (Coins)?
You and I know that after traveling or walking about for a while, sooner or later we'll need a rest room. Well, in Europe restrooms (WC-water closet) are not everywhere. If you see this sign, make sure to go otherwise look for McDonald or Burger King because you can use their WC even you won't eat or order from them. Hotels are also nice place to go but some have dress code in order for you to get in even just by using their WC. In Monte Carlo, very casual attire is a not recommended to most of the hotels. I had a funny experience in one of the 5 star hotels there, where royalties, ambassadors, shrieks, rich people and very common people like me (of course) stays (I was only there for the restroom - the room rates equals to many months of paycheck). Oh well, the WC is bigger than my living and dining room combine and it's all in marble but the funny part is I was in the ladies room and the seat was up (weird!), so I tried pulling it down but to no avail. I pulled it harder and to my surprised, it already had a seat cover! Then the next problem was, I can't find the flush handle but saw 3 dots with different colors on the top. I pressed all three, no success in there until my hand passed the dot to flush. So it was a sensory toilet! The first dot is for putting down the seat cover, the second to flush and the third is to put up the seat. So for giving me such hardship, I was kind a playing magic wherein I wave my hand over the dots and miracle--it moves by itself! Then my friend was also doing the same thing like me (ha-ha-ha)
Europe Travel Tips
Haben Sie Munzen (Coins)?
Another tip is to always bring coins because most of the outdoor or public restrooms have coin operated doors. You want to read another funny experience (I have a lot of toilet jokes-on me). We were in Luxembourg and it was snowing and I have to go. I saw a WC and pulled over. I rushed inside, unfortunately there was no attendant. I don't have their coins and looked around if I could ask someone for help since I left my bag in the car. I saw a basket with coins so I borrowed one to open a stall and I hope the attendant did not notice and would forgive me because I rushed back in the car since it was snowing so hard. It's either I peed in my pants or borrowed the coin - let's see which one was right? Now it's easier because a lot of European countries have Euro currencies. I still missed using their currencies like deutschemarks, French francs, Italian lire, Austrians shillings, Belgian francs, Czechs koruna, Luxembourg francs but I was able to collect them before they change to euros. If you go to Czech Republic (Prague) always carry with you a roll of toilet tissue or packs of tissue. You pay the attendant first then she/he will give you two single ply tissues before you go in the stall, hello- how can you possibly clean up with that! Next time I went shopping for chandeliers in Czech, I was carrying a roll but did not have their coins, so my friend gave the attendant one Deutschemark (DM) and we were surprised that she let us go in first despite the very long line. Then we realized that 1DM is equivalent to about 10-11 koruna at that time. Some countries esp. public ones don't usually stock toilet tissues and no attendants so be prepared! In Austria, they have outside stalls with coin operated. I remember at one time, I left my toddler son with my husband in the park while I went to check the Swarovski shops with my eldest son. It just happened that as soon as we left, my toddler wanted to go badly and I forgot to leave shillings to my husband. Luckily, the space between the floor and the door would fit a small kid, which my son did crawl in and out the door otherwise he would have stunk the whole place!
European Phrase Books
Those were my first adventures and I learned my lessons the next time we traveled. Well, this is just the start of my lens. Be sure to check my site next time (even though you only wish to see Europe) because I can show or guide you in my journey the way I saw, felt and enjoyed my travels. If you want to ask me for information, I'll be more than happy to help as much as I can because my experiences are still vivid in my heart and mind. Let's explore the fun of shopping next time. Auf Wiedersehen, Ciao, Au revoir, Mahalo, Paalam!