The first week of any trip is always the one that you remember the most, and sets the tone of the rest of your time. Fortunately for me, my first week in Europe has been one the best in my life. I’ve picked up a few points on what you should expect in Europe, what you should do in Europe, and how you should act in Europe.
1: Culture shock will happen within the first day, there’s no escaping it. I had some impressions that Europe would be so different from the U.S., but at least in Copenhagen, it’s not that bad, however, smoking is a LOT more common in Europe than in the U.S. Not only that, but bicycles are FAR more common than cars. I actually think that there were some instances that there were more cyclists than pedestrians.
2: Pick a hostel based around your age group, and make sure you go there either in a small group of friends or alone. When you’re the only one you know at a hostel, you will tend to be far more social and you will actually be surprised by the number of people you meet. My first night in Copenhagen, I was still in jet lag mode and wanted to just relax for the night. However, I started talking to a few people in my room and immediately found out most of them were from America. We started talking for a while and we began to accumulate more people into our group during happy hour – by the time happy hour was done, we were a group of 18 or 19, all different nationalities.
3: This one is more of a personal opinion of mine, but having a small group to travel with is so much more fun than going with a big group. The times I spent with a couple people was far more memorable than being in a huge group. Although the first night was awesome and I made a lot of good friends, the second day was far better. Two of the girls I met last night and I decided to walk to a museum in downtown and on the way, we really had time to bond. With only 3 of us, we became good friends and have made some great memories together.
4: Experience music that isn’t American. If you go to a music event that isn’t known to have Americans and people realize you’re from America, you’re almost guaranteed to make great friends, especially if you travel with them there. I went to a music festival (Decibel Outdoor Festival) in the Netherlands during the weekend of August 14-16 and traveled there with a group of Scandinavians. Once we arrived, we started dancing with people from all around the world and when I told I was from America, many of them took an interest in my trip to Europe and instantly became a friend. Music is something that doesn’t see color or national borders. When you bond with people over music, you won’t make friends, you will meet family.
5: Whatever you do, do NOT go to American-based events (clubs, bar, restaurants, etc.). You can do those at home, and you won’t be able to socialize with Europeans. My last night in Copenhagen, a group of us were exploring downtown and stumbled across a club, and decided to join in. Once we got inside, we found out that it was an American Club style event… To put it bluntly, nobody from America really wanted to talk, the groups were REALLY cliquey, and the prices were overpriced, even for Copenhagen. I don’t miss those things about America…
6: Never presume that people won’t help you in a time of need. I was running really late for my flight to Bucharest today and the lines through security AND to get into the International section were extremely long. I told an attendant at the security point that my flight was leaving in 30 minutes, and she allowed me to go through a business class and up way. That alone saved me probably 15-20 minutes. The next one was going through the International checkpoint, and after seeing how long the line was, I asked if I could cut in front of a woman because my flight was leaving in a little bit, she allowed me and I arrived at my flight 5 minutes before takeoff. People will surprise you in your time of need. Whether you believe in karma or not, what goes around comes around and you reap what you sow.
7: This one should be pretty obvious, especially after my last point. Get to the Airport 2 hours before you flight and make sure you pack everything where you can find it when you need it. Leaving your passport in your checked baggage because you were rushed is not fun and it’s expensive.
- Culture shock will happen to EVERYONE, so just accept that, you will be able to enjoy your time so much more.
- Socialize in your hostel. It’s the quickest way to make great friends and to figure out places to travel and who to travel with in the future.
- The smaller the group you travel with, the better the experience.
- Embrace non-American music. It’s the best way you can make everlasting friends all over the world, and it’ll show that you are willing to be different.
- Stay away from American styled events. You’re abroad, you’re not in America.
- One act of kindness can go a LONG way. Be friendly, kind, and helpful, and you will have the same returned to you. We are all human, and we all have moments we need help.
- Don’t procrastinate before your flight. It’s a bad move to make.
The only thing I regret from my first week was that I was not able to record every moment that I thought captured an amazing story, but even with that, and a few other hiccups along the way, this has been one of the best week of my life. If this is a prelude of what’s to come, then this will truly be a life changing and enriching experience.
“You feel more foreign in the country you hold a passport from than any other place in the world” – Third Culture Kids’ Tumblr