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Whenever I start this conversation, people are typically astounded that I haven’t been to Europe before. “You haven’t been to Europe????” is how the conversation always seems to start, as though traveling to another continent is a thing that everyone can just wake up and do. No, I haven’t been to Europe before, but a few months ago, my girlfriend and I decided we would shoot our shot, request 7 days of PTO and embed ourselves in different cultures for a week and a half.
Okay, granted, there was more to it than just a spur of the moment decision. My best friend from high school has been studying in Barcelona to get his Master’s Degree and for months I told him I would come out to visit him, I just never found the time. I talked to my girlfriend about it and we picked a slew of dates and locations, trying to plan the perfect European adventure. After a few weeks, we landed on “beginning of summer” for the time frame and Barcelona, Paris, and Amsterdam as our destinations.
All of our flights are booked and we’re rocking out in Airbnb’s the whole time, and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. But here’s the thing: between how busy I’ve gotten at work and family events on the weekends, neither one of us have had any time to put together an itinerary for the trip. We’re going in completely blind, which can be a good thing sometimes. However, I just want to make sure we’re not fucking up our first trip to Europe. So with that in mind, I have a few questions.
What are the rules there?
Something people keep bringing up about Paris is how nice it is that you can just get a bottle of wine, some bread, some cheese, and just sit out in a park and have a picnic. That sounds absolutely dope, and I’m all for it. But the only thing that keeps coming to mind is “Open Container Policy.” I’m not saying I’m going to be chugging whiskey out of the bottle while walking down the streets, but where’s the line? And on top of that, are there any other random laws we should know about before we step foot on foreign soil and cause an international incident?
How much should I worry about the language barrier?
So far, I’ve heard that the stereotype of the French being rude is only true if you simply assume they speak English. I totally get that, and I figured that if everything is going to be written in a foreign language anyway, I should learn that language.
Well, here we are in the final hours before our trip, and I’ve failed out of six days worth of Duo Lingo because I haven’t learned the difference between “see you later” and “see you tomorrow” yet. I still haven’t learned how to say, “Where’s the bathroom?” or “More wine, please,” and I have a sneaking suspicion that’s going to be an issue. Which brings me to my next point…
Am I about to go on a 10-day wine bender?
I was thinking about it over the weekend and I realized that Spain and France aren’t exactly known for their beers. Plus, all I’ve heard is that the Sangria in Spain is phenomenal. I have no doubt that it is, but going from Sangria in Spain to Cabernets in France tells me that I’m going to need to make sure I’m not treating this as a wine special at a tapas restaurant. If I do that, there’s no doubt I spend the entire trip in a perpetual hangover that would cause me to cast an undeserved negative light on Europe as a whole for at least a few years.
Are there ATMs there?
What I’m looking forward to the most about this trip is that we’re planning to live like locals. Yeah, we want to see the Eiffel Tower and yeah, we want to see the Sagrada Familia in Spain, but other than that we don’t really plan to do a bunch of touristy things. But if we’re living like locals, does that require cash? Are there card minimums if we want to stop for a cup of coffee? Will I have to pull out some Euros if we’re going to the market for a loaf of bread? If the answer is yes, then where do I go to get that cash?
How much am I allowed to talk about my trip to Amsterdam when this is over?
I’m at the point in my life where I know how to tailor my stories to match my audience. I can talk about the same spring break trip to different groups of people and they could have very, very different thoughts on the level of raunchiness the trip had. There’s no doubt in my mind that tons of people are going to ask about this trip as a whole, which is totally fine! I’m sure I’ll want to talk everyone’s ear off about it.
But when it comes to Amsterdam…literally none of our plans are work appropriate. We both have every intention in checking out a coffee shop (wink emoji) and heading to a sex show to watch people bang one out on stage. Not exactly a 9-5 conversation. Now, that’s not going to stop me from going because frankly, that sounds super weird and fun and awkward and awesome. But talking about it, well, that’s going to be a different story. .