Recent developments in Europe have reminded Chris and I just how European we are. After all, I have family roots in Germany, and Chris has roots in England and Italy. These roots just might be the reason that three of our favourite cities are Berlin, London, and Rome. We’ve been lucky enough to visit these cities on many occasions, and each time we feel inspired by the common values that unite them. We’re also amused by the subtle and overt cultural differences in these great European cities.

Photo via Flickr by Barnyz

Language Barriers

Some of these differences became apparent at our multinational wedding, where English people, true to form, queued patiently at the buffet, probably talking about the weather as they did so. All the conversations would have been in English only, as foreign language skills aren’t a strength of the great British people. On the other hand, we Germans were more than happy to converse in English throughout, so long as we didn’t have to queue, or even worse, engage in small talk.

Keeping Order

Other little differences are very easy to spot when visiting Berlin, London, or Rome. For example in Berlin, one of the worst crimes you can commit is crossing the road before the Ampelmaennchen, or traffic light man, turns green. Even if you can see that there’s no traffic for half a mile in either direction, it’s considered proper to wait for the green light.

Similarly, woe betide any German who mows the lawn on a Sunday, which is considered a criminal offence against peace and quiet. In contrast, there seems to be a law requiring Roman drivers to be as loud as possible, beeping horns for no apparent reason, seemingly out of an unspoken fear of tranquillity.

Sociable Italians should also be aware that whilst it isn’t technically illegal to start a friendly conversation on the London Underground, it is seriously frowned upon. Even smiling can be perceived as a serious breach of Tube ethics, something we Germans willingly follow.

Wining and Dining

Attitudes toward food and drink also vary enormously across our ancestral homelands. In England it’s considered perfectly acceptable to cover chips in vinegar, whereas we Germans wouldn’t dream of eating ours without a healthy dollop of mayonnaise. In Italy, if you want to offend a chef, add salt to your meal, implying he hasn’t got the flavours quite right.

When it comes to drinking, there isn’t a significant difference between English people and Germans. Essentially, most believe that beer is good, and more beer is better. Italians tend to have a more sensible approach to alcohol. They typically drink wine because it is pleasurable to do so, as opposed to trying to get drunk as quickly as possible.

Hopefully this little guide to cultural differences across Europe is helpful. In the event of any difficulties, you can always just use an English person’s favourite word, “sorry.” Just don’t bother to learn how to say it in German or Italian, since everyone in the world speaks English already.

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

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