Saying ‘Mamma Mia’, public transport that’s actually useful and elderly people that stay out till 3am: American tourists reveal the things that surprised them the most about Europe
- One US tourist was left shocked with cafes staying open until 3am in Spain
- While one American said they had a hard time finding a public toilet in Europe
- For another, it was the fairly liberal availability of adult films on regular TV
Mamma Mia may be a movie – and a joke phrase in TV shows – but people in Italy really do say it during everyday conversations.
It’s one of a multitude of surprises Americans have aired on an internet thread about travelling in Europe.
So far 2,400 comments have been registered – so Europe clearly has the power to shock.
One American tourist said they couldn’t believe how you could get around cities, especially London, without having a car
The debate started on the Reddit forum after one user, ‘Cosmic Questions’, asked: ‘Americans who have visited Europe, what surprised you during your stay?’
‘JadedAdhesiveness’ waded straight in with her shock at the opening and closing times of eateries.
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She wrote: ‘I was in Italy and went for a run in the afternoon, then tried to find food soon after. It was like 5pm and every single restaurant was closed. They all close for a couple hours between lunch and dinner.’
And ‘pumpkin_pasties’ added: ‘Even at 3am the cafes were full of elderly people. I studied abroad in Spain and my 70-year-old hostess was always out much later than me, always at the opera.’
The option of moving around cities without a car was also a shocker for Americans in Europe.
One said: ‘In London, you really can get to and from anywhere without a car. It was fantastic. Everything ran on time, it was available 24/7, it was wonderful. America’s public transit is practically third world.’
And ‘PleaseStepAside’ added: ‘Lived the majority of my life in NYC. Moved to Spain (Bilbao) for a year.
‘I was seriously surprised how “well behaved” people are with crossing streets (like, everyone actually uses the crosswalks and waits for the light) and how seriously well behaved and polite people were on crowded trains. Good job, Europe.’
But for ‘ajw596596’, driving was a different matter.
He said: ‘Driving on the Amalfi Coast during the summer is possible death around every corner. I swear I almost rolled down the side of the cliffs at least a hundred times.’
For ‘IAmJustYou’, finding a public toilet was one of the things that they found the most shocking.
The winding roads around Italy’s stunning Amalfi coast proved a hair-raising experience for one American
They said: ‘There it’s called the WC (water closet). So asking where the restroom, bathroom, toilet is got blank looks until I found someone that spoke English and understood what I needed.’
Europe’s ancientness raised eyebrows with ‘jsnoobie 275’, who took the train into central London from Stansted Airport and couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
She said: ‘My first thought looking out the window was “why is everything is so old? When are we going to get to the good part of London?!” It wasn’t till later that it dawned on me… you guys have buildings much much older than our republic. Literally buildings that have stood for centuries.’
In Italy, ‘himalayanpapaya’ said she had a bizarre experience while eating lunch in a cafe in Florence with her friend, with the shock generated by an over-familiar owner.
She said: ‘She had her then-eight-month-old son in her lap. The cafe owner came out to chat with us and after a few minutes literally took the baby out of my friend’s arms and brought him inside so he could show his wife how cute this baby was.
‘No one around us batted an eye. In his defense, this was an exceptionally cute baby.’
While ‘ParkingPiglet’ added the most shocking thing he saw in Italy was a man say ‘Mamma Mia’.
He explained: ‘I thought that was just a joke phrase in television shows, I couldn’t believe I heard it in real life.’
France’s friendliness was a shock for one Reddit user
For ‘CalgaryChris77’, the surprise was the lack of an on-the-go culture.
He wrote: ‘There no one is ever carrying around a drink, and when you go to a restaurant each drink is individual. If you want a bunch of refills of tap water they think you are crazy.’
Though ‘MedicalAnteater’ did point out that Italians, while not walking, will ‘stand to knock back an espresso’.
France’s friendliness was the shock, meanwhile, for ‘likelysmarterthanyou’.
He wrote: ‘First time visiting France was expecting everyone to be obnoxious and hostile to Americans. Found the opposite. Every single person we spoke to, from cab drivers to shop workers, was friendly and polite. Great visit.’
Dunno_dont_care chimed in on this subject with: ‘Can confirm. When I was in France, a simple “bonjour” with a smile went a long way. An attempt at speaking more French went even further. Just saying “hello!” and speaking in English got very nasty looks.’
‘SentimentalHedgegog’ joined in the discussion with a list of surprises that Germany generated.
The light switch being outside the room he was trying to light up was one and ‘basically soft core porn on TV after 2ish am’ was another.
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