Bad things happen everywhere else in life. You think your vacation is different just because you took the time to plan it out? Umm, yeah. Okay. And love is a fairy-tale that leads us to happily ever after. The End. These are some of the unexpected things that you can pretty much count on with foreign travel. And trust me, if these are the worst things that happen, it’s a very successful trip.
1. You will have money problems. Period.
American credit card technology is different from that used in Europe (and maybe other places, definitely Europe). We slide our cards; they do not. You will have some kind of misunderstanding at some point during your travels because of this very simple difference. Certain stores might not even take your card because of it’s ancient technology. It’s not a big deal; this is a very minor bump in the road. Find an ATM and pay in cash. All ATMs should take your card.*
2. You will get lost.
Especially if you are using the maps from a tourist office. In France, especially, entire roads are left off of those maps. Again, not a big deal. You are a tourist, so you probably aren’t going to be wandering around in any of the sketchy areas of town. Even if you are, just take a deep breath. It’s doubtful that you are going to encounter any gun-slinging mugger. Find a taxi. Take the metro. Look for a major point of interest on your map in relation to the last place you know you were. This is doable and normal. It’s a foreign country. Plus, getting lost sometimes opens the door to discovering unique places.
3. If you don’t speak the language, you will be misunderstood.
You ordered two coffees; they brought you two Cokes. Or two croissants. Or two Diet Cokes. Whatever, just roll with the punches. Don’t get angry or frustrated because it won’t help anything, and remember, you are on vacation. A miscommunication is not life or death; it’s expected! Either figure out a way to politely explain what happened or enjoy whatever surprise was brought to you.
4. The food will not be the same.
Surprising, I know, but it needs to be said. Foreign cultures look at food very differently. This includes everything from their cooking style to the actual serving of the food. Your steak isn’t cooked to your liking. Oops, you ordered a pizza with egg and tuna. The plate was actually a starter and not an entree like you thought. My general rule of thumb if I don’t speak the language is: Suck it up and deal with it. It was me who ordered the dish. I can’t blame the people at the restaurant. But of course you should feel free to do you. Just do it nicely because if not it is likely you will receive the same in return.
5. Some people are jerks.
Think of all the bad experiences you have had with tourists in your home town or city. Everyone at some point has put out some negative energy towards tourists. Reality check: It’s not going to be different anywhere that you are traveling. You encounter some jerk who has a problem with tourists, or Americans in general. Just blow it off. People are people, and this one asshole is not representative of their entire culture.
6. You can’t plan for everything. There will be surprises.
It’s raining and you can’t hail a taxi on the street; you literally must find a taxi stand. The waiter takes double the amount of time you were planning, and you miss your train. The museum you hoped to see is actually closed after you have trekked across the city to get to it. Life happens, and you can’t plan for everything. Take the surprises as they come. You are on vacation. You are one of the privileged people in this world who has enough money to blow on travel. This is a good thing. Make the best out of it. *Unless you have one of those new cards that some smaller banks in the South are using. The cards don’t have raised numbers, and they look literally like toy cards. I have not been able to use these cards at all in ATMs in Europe.