If you are looking for a comprehensive list of ways to get head shakes, finger wags, and yelled at by upset locals, try travelling in a group of eighteen Americans through Europe. To add to the inevitable noise level of eighteen people, I might add that we are a very excitable group that loves to dance in the streets and sing our original “if I was your bratwurst” song as well as many Taylor Swift covers. We wear our cute little rompers that are perfect for lake days in the U S of A and not so much in the chapels in Florence.
So yes, we get too loud, often look lost and confused, complain about paying for water, hard core resist paying to go to the bathroom, get trampled in the U Bon stations in Berlin, and wear the wrong clothes to church. However, from my experience, the stereotype that Europeans hate Americans and are rude could not be further from the truth. Strangers on the street may treat tourists as annoying, like in any large city. This is pretty valid, because tourists are only there to see the sites and look past the local people they interact with as if they are merely in the background.
In contrast, the friends that Dr. P spent time developing relationships with and introduced us to could not be more accommodating and kind. Franci spent all morning teaching us about wine and patiently spent time helping each of us choose wine to bring home. Fabio made us the best steak at his family restaurant and gave us a tour of the wine cellar while teaching us Italian history. The family hotel we are staying at is run by the kindest couple, Miriam and Roberto. They spend time getting to know each of us, waiting up to give us our keys at night and making us cappuccinos in the morning.
The assumption that Americans are rude because we are loud or that Europeans are rude because they are reserved can be overcome by opening dialogue when we travel and treating people with enough respect to develop relationships. The whole reason this trip is able to work is because of the relationships developed here. Even if we can’t avoid every embarrassing Americana instinct we have, I hope to remember to the importance of developing good relationships every time I travel.