Every January, thousands of American college students migrate to Europe to begin their studies in a foreign land far, far away from home. Though I have heard this a great wealth of information on the topic, when I set off to live in France my junior year, I was struck by the absolute lack of informative guides to living or traveling in Europe. I ran into problems everywhere I went. It is now in my power to prevent others from suffering as I did and I will not allow that to happen. Here now is a guide to the most important countries one will encounter while traveling Europe.
The Portuguese are famous for being easy going and friendly and are unlikely to cause anyone too much of a problem. I did however discover while staying in Lisbon that in many restaurants, that in lieu of payment, by merely singing a few blues songs for your waiter, he and the rest of the staff will start clapping wildly, and remain clapping until you leave the restaurant. It is a remarkable phenomenon that Americans should really attempt to take more advantage of.
Russia is a cold and forbidding land so hostile to Americans that they require a visa to even get inside. Should you not feel inclined to getting a visa, it is a bad idea to try sneaking in through Estonia. That is of course assuming you don't enjoy being chased by dogs or shot at.
When dining in restaurants, it is a good idea to walk up to the first employee you see with a beard and give that beard a good firm tug. If it is real, the restaurant is totally legit and you should make every effort to eat a meal there. If however, the beard is fake, the dishes served there will likely be stews filled with turkey anuses, opossum snouts, squirrel tails and much, much worse.
Most travelers to France, and especially Paris endure the grating experience of being abused by a snooty, part time poets or actors that get by waiting tables. Their smug and condescending way of dealing with Americans is sincere, and should therefore be aggravated as much as possible by requesting high fives, singing Blues songs, and asking what's up with their crazy "moon man language."
Topics you should avoid bringing up are French military defeats in Vietnam, Algeria, WWII, the Franco Prussian War of 1870, the Napoleonic Wars, the Seven Years War, and the 100 Years War. It's still kind of touchy but they like to be reminded of their victory at the Battle of Zinderhowzen in 1832. It's completely made up but the pride that the mere mention of this battle creates is really a sight to behold.
Back in 1983 when the invention of Ricola finally put this beautiful and prosperous land on the map it was a country running as smoothly as a Swiss watch; which interestingly enough, are made there. Its pretty much the same as it was 26 years ago. The railroads run on time, the people are friendly, and the streets are remarkably clean. So clean in fact that you will likely be trailed by Swiss agents that keep tabs on you to note whether you are littering or not. Offenders are begged and pleaded with to be more considerate in the future.
Also, if you are ever wandering around in the Alps alone at night, it is a good idea to have a flashlight, as there are lots of loose stones and branches that can lead to a twisted ankle or possibly worse.
This wonderful country, is the only country in Europe where you can count on everyone around you to be able to speak English. They speak differently than we do and can at first seem unintelligible and frightening, as they have very strange accents and they quite frequently reek of fried fish, potatoes, and Guinness.
It is completely unnecessary to have to hire a tour guide in this country as anytime you are confused as to what you are looking at you can point and ask passerby, "What in the world is that?" Whether it is Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, or one of their ridiculous taxicabs they will answer your question with a response. Should it be insufficient or unintelligible, you can always take comfort in the fact that you can always ask somebody else.
This country is shaped like a boot, and the inhabitants of this country love being reminded of this fact again and again and again. The inhabitants of this country speak Italian, which I found to be completely unintelligible. I laughed hysterically at everything they said, hoping they would think I was insane and leave me alone. This did not work as I envisaged and led to me laughing hysterically for the better part of 7 or 8 days. Do not make the mistake I did.
Their bread, pasta, and pizza are of course stellar and should not be missed.