Disclaimer : I am not saying the whole of Europe works this way; I have been to 7 countries – UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands ie. Amsterdam and Italy and these are wholly based on my personal experiences. I am not trying to stereotype anyone or anything.
They probably differ too depending on your travelling style. I was a female lone traveller so I probably experienced things differently.
There are no Bins.
Yup. Unlike in Singapore where there’s a bin every 100m or so, I could hardly find any here. I have to walk pass street after street just to throw my rubbish or usually, I forget about them after putting them in my bag – I couldn’t just do it Malaysia-style and litter right? I am representing my country even though in retrospect, the Europeans probably couldn’t pin my exact place of origin.
There are no public toilets too.
If you have a tiny bladder, may God bless you. Public toilets in Europe is like finding for a rare gemstone. Occasionally, you do come across public toilets – in the form of a UFO-like-cubicle where the door slides after pressing the open button. As if having the urge to pee without finding a proper toilet isn’t awkward enough, imagine queueing right at the side of the pavement to use a gender-neutral toilet where the average using time for a person is 5 minutes (I blame that on the foreign buttons inside the toilet). What I would suggest is find a fast-food chain like McDonald’s, or head into a shopping mall. Alternatively, just hold it in until you reach your ho(s)tel or pay 1-2 Euros for a proper one.
People tend to Stare.
I am not sure if it’s my brown skin tone or that I am a female Asian that is obviously travelling alone but you will get stared at in most subways and trains where their eyes are trained at you – a little disconcerting, no? It always makes me feel like I am doing something wrong when all I am doing is travelling…am I? They plant this self-doubt in you – do you have bits of leftover food on your face, did you forget to wear your bra that day or are you doing something wrong without realizing it(when you are just standing beside the pole in the train – wait is it not okay to stand beside the pole?). You get the picture.
They tend to ask Weirdly Structured questions.
Human beings are a curious bunch, we know that. Maybe they don’t really see Asians around that often (I find that extremely unlikely) and the questions they tend to ask are quite in your face. I have been asked:
“Where are you from? Your face looks different from what I’ve seen…” – well, do I look like an alien to you? Granted, I have both Malaysian and Taiwanese blood in me, but how weird can that be?
“What accent is that? I have never heard of it” – how am I supposed to answer that? Oh, it’s probably a failed imitation of your accent because if I speak my usual Singapore/Malaysian English, you would think I am possessed.
“Why are you here alone??? Aren’t you lonely?” – This came from a lady I met in one of the hostels I stayed. People do travel alone from time to time you know…
“Oh, you are from Malaysia! Wow, your English is really really good! Where did you learn it from?” – a German’s response while asking why I was standing alone in the middle of the central train station in Munich. Sigh. I learnt English from school la. Granted, he probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded, which makes it even funnier.
And the last one, “You’re from Asia right, have you ever had sex? I heard Asian girls are good in bed”. Boy, I think all you have heard is too much moaning from a certain genre in porn that you have watched obsessively.
They think you are deaf or linguistically handicapped.
Actually, this is based on interactions with fellow travellers I have met on the road. Some of them think that because I am brown(or yellow, don’t go technical on me), I no speak English. It is not surprising though because there are some Asian travellers roaming Europe without any proficiency in the language. I am not saying it’s wrong.I just took it for granted that people would know I speak English fluently.
At first, I got annoyed when foreign travellers spoke in s-l-o-w and carefully s-t-r-u-c-u-t-r-e-d words. I have learnt that if you assertively introduced yourself and let them know you have no problems with the lingua franca, they will automatically revert to normal human speed. Of course, you will catch a hint of surprise in their eyes before that, too.
They don’t serve Butter with Bread in some/most places
Gasp! When I first asked for butter to go with my complimentary bread in an Italian cafe, the waiter promptly replied with a “We never serve butter with bread”. I have no idea asking for butter could spark such an apprehensive response – since then, I stopped asking for butter. Really though, how do the Europeans eat bread without butter? ):
the movie Taken proved to be fictitious.
Before embarking on the trip, peers kept telling me to be careful. After arriving, you realize that everything is pretty safe. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, you will do fine. Asians have an extremely skewed concept of safety – after hearing horror stories about the black markets in China, of course we are. Human trafficking is rampant in certain areas, but, if you are street smart and stay inconspicuous, it will be okay. Europe is financially plagued but they have not resorted to kidnapping travellers, drugging and removing their kidneys or any other parts of the body – or maybe I just got very very lucky. Up to your interpretation.
Have a good day, guys.