Americans Who Traveled To Europe Share 99 Culture Shocks That They Experienced


One of the beautiful things about traveling is going to a place and realizing that life doesn't have to be the way you grew up to believe. By exposing yourself to different customs, you get the chance to reflect on and reevaluate yours.

So in an attempt to see which European 'lessons' stuck with Americans the most, Reddit user AppleberryJames asked them what culture shocks were the biggest they had in the Old Continent. From the prevalence of tourist scammers to hike-in restaurants, here are the answers.


WTF in an awesome way are the stands and restaurants in Germany where you basically have to hike in. There's no casual foot traffic and it's not a simple drive. You are hiking and come to a beautiful view and there's a little restaurant or stand where you can get wine or beer and wurst and fries or whatever. Then you sit and enjoy the view you hiked to while enjoying your delicious food and excellent beverage. It's fantastic.

Image credits: streamstroller


Drinking a beer and noticed that the brewery was established in 1489, 3 years before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue”

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Was in Sweden a few years back when a kid in my charge broke his collarbone. Medics drove him to the hospital. Like two hours later, after X-rays, an exam, and getting set up in a fancy sling, he walked out of the hospital. Total cost: $0.

Image credits: anon


Paris is FILTHY. The architecture was gorgeous, the food was excellent, but the smell of cigarettes and urine is everywhere. I felt like I needed a shower every time I left the hotel.

Amsterdam on the other hand is the cleanest and most well organized city I've ever been to.


The sheer amount of scammers in tourist areas.

Like, American tourist areas have some, but it's no where near egregious as Europe.

Even at the Vatican it's unbearable. Fake petitions, friendship bracelets, guys wearing vests telling gullible visitors they bought the wrong tickets. It definitely put a damper the experience.

A positive WTF moment was realizing how awesome people generally were in Paris. I can't tell you how many times I heard the rude Parsian cliche, but every interaction I had was genuinely pleasant. What I picked up fast was that people in France in general expect some form of respect. It's amazing how a small amount of politeness can go a long way with strangers.

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So many pharmacies in Spain.

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In Paris I saw a gang(10+) of police officers patrolling on rollerblades.. I heard them before I saw them. vrrrrrrr vrrrr vrrrrr

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Studied in France and I was shocked to see the Cafés turn into bars at night.

They just switched out the menu and it went from selling hot cocoa to whiskey on the rocks!

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The colorful, cartoonish gravestones in north western Romania that depict how the person [passed away]

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I fell in love with Sweden. But every time I go and visit, I’m still shocked at how many people just lay out and tan. On the sidewalk. Next to this Fika shop. Next to a museum.

Literally, people lay out and tan ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE in this country.

I’d be walking through Gamla Stan or Djurgården, then BAM out of nowhere, I nearly trip over a lady trying to tan. åh! jag är väldigt ledsen!

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No gaps in the bathroom stalls. Felt like I was pooping in an exclusive club and it was nice not having to make eye contact with m**********r trying to go next

Image credits: AppleberryJames


Constantly having to remember to carry around change to use the bathroom in Germany.

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1. Biggest WTF to me was how cheap the wine was. To get a halfway decent bottle of wine at a restaurant in my city is $30+, but it so much less to get a great bottle at a restaurant in Europe, even in Paris. I found amazing bottles in Portugal for ~$10 and I found awesome single glasses in Bordeaux for ~$4.
2. It was a 50/50 chance that a toilet outside of a hotel would have a seat. Also, I'd like to add that I enjoy the idea of having to pay $.50 to use the restroom. It seems like it is a lot less likely that someone [poops] all over the seats.
3. Public transportation was so convenient compared to home.
4. Is the selfie stick business a multi billion dollar industry?
5. Lack of decent air conditioning

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I still can't get over the dog parks. This was in northern Italy and maybe London unless I'm mixing up the 2 trips.

But they have dog parks in the city where it's just a park and a sign post that says "dog area" and no fence! Dogs just run around in that area!

I was overall surprised how dog friendly they were there.


A lot more smoking than I’d have expected.

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On a school trip we toured Germany, Italy and Switzerland. My friends and I were all around 16-17 and we're from Texas. We stayed in a village in Switzerland, Andermatt, for 2 nights. One night, we asked the chaperone to go to the store nearby to buy some snacks. We ended up going to a bar. Everyone inside was very invested in watching the tour de france, like actually cheering and screaming. We ordered drinks and shots and not once did they ask for ID. Afterwards we were so confused, like we were obviously teenagers but they didn't seem to care and served us anyways lol.

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In Spain, you have to sorta wave and call for service, especially for the final check.

They will literally leave you at a table with empty glasses for hours unless you ask. They consider it rude to intrude. and it makes Americans feel pushy to ask or wave our hand for attention.

It's pretty easy to do if you watch the locals...a little wave, a smile and a nod, etc and they come right over.

But if felt intrusive on our part at first for sure.


There was a day care or kindergarten located directly above the [call girl] display booths. Amsterdam, 2007.

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Public restrooms that cost money to enter a bathroom stall.

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Not an American, but a Bulgarian.
My family had a relative from America who came back with his child who all luve has been in America.
(Somewhere in Detroit, but I am not sure where.)
When we were walking around the streets he had a look of shock on his face when he saw the papers with people pictures put on trees, bus stops, street lambs etc.
He thought they were wanted posters of criminals and was impress with how many crime we had.
I explained to him that those things are called nechrologs and are essentially posters of [passed away] people that family members put around to spread the news and pay respect to the death.
He was even more shocked after that.

Image credits: BugThonk


How drinking out in public is no problem. Especially in balkans and Germany

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I was on a trip that went from Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Every city we were in at least one bar played country road take me home by John Denver and the locals went crazy for it. Knew every word


In a Oktoberfest tent in Munich Germany. Waiting in line for a stall(terrible choice but when nature calls) guy walks past the line and try to just cut everyone. Front man prolly 6-2” German man goes in after the guy who tried to sneakily take the stall. It was like a cartoon of fighting noises in the stall and everyone was so casual. It only made me love that county more lmao

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I lived in Holland for five years. I could say something about the bikes or beer, but the only thing that stopped me in my tracks was a Sesame Street sign. It turns out Big Bird is *blue* in the Netherlands!

I mean I know they say he’s Pino, Big Bird’s cousin, but I’m not fooled. You know Big Bird just moved over there to seek an alternative lifestyle.

Image credits: Andromeda321


People that work 32 hours a week get over 30 days paid off every year no matter who they work for or more.


When I was at Maidan/Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine two people came up to me and placed 4 live monkeys on me without my permission.. then they expected me to pay them each $100 because they took pictures... Yes, this is probably not commonplace but I was like "Wtf?! A monkey scam in Ukraine of all places?!"


Dublin – Subways on every freakin' corner. Not the underground public-transport kind, either.

London – Hey, there's people that aren't white here – feels like home. (Feels like home in a good way, it was nice to see some diverse faces again.) London felt the most American to me of all of the places I went.

Ediburgh – Damn there are actually like, early-70's style hippies here, and damn, this place is like living in a Harry Potter book, and damn, this place needs to be cleaned up a little bit. I loved this city maybe the most out of my visits but i was surprised at the amount of homeless and just general grime I saw.

Amsterdam – how is there this many beautiful women in one place at one time? And, how could there be this many bicycles in existence?


In America we work ourselves to the bones.

Hell, the fact I’m now working what’s called a “straight 8” shift is boggling to me.

But as back as I can remember, working 8-12 hour shifts with a 30 minute lunch is pretty much the norm.

So when my current boss was sent to France for a couple of weeks and the fact that in an 8 hour day, you got 90 minutes for lunch and a 20 minute break for cigarettes and coffee he couldn’t comprehend it.

That and wine while at lunch for work was mind blowing to him.


Switzerland. How safe it is to walk across the street. Probably has something to do with the whole "the vehicle is always at fault" thing that would probably never fly here. Cars would slow significantly if I was sort of within the vicinity of a zebra crossing. Made it sort of awkward for me even if I was actually intending to cross there.

Also Switzerland. Hearing all of the cars at a red light start up again when the light turns green.

Granted, this was Wil. I'm not sure if the size of the city has anything to do with it.


Once visited my dad's friends in kaufbeuren as a kid. They apologized profusely that it was so hot.

It was only like 80 degrees F. That's a normal summer here in Memphis. I think they'd die here.


Seeing women walk into the men's room when the ladies' is full (Paris).


Apparently being ethnically Filipino, well dressed, and walking with 3 white women makes me look like a pimp. Still both weirds me out and makes me laugh that some dudes in Paris wanted to "rent" the friends I was with


A lot of the roads in Ireland are barely large enough to fit 2 small cars. Usually one car has to pull off for another to pass. Despite this, there are often bikers and walkers on these narrow roads, with blinds corners, and a speed limit of 80kph. Strangely, I've yet to see any road kill despite the abundance of dogs and livestock.


I'm from Norway, but moved to America.

My husband and I recently came back from a vacation visiting family in Norway. During the visit we went to a supermarket where you have to put a coin (roughly 1 dollar) into the shopping cart to loosen it from the rack. When your done you reattach the cart and your coin gets returned.

I had never thought twice about it but for him it was amazing.


Not really WTF, just amusement, but when I went to Prague, there were a number of chocolate shops that had large, chocolate penises prominently on display. I remember one that had melted white chocolate drizzled down from the tip.


In a good way, the fact that everyone minds their own business and I don't have to worry about people trying to talk to me on public transit or in a grocery store. Americans don't know how to mind their own business and just go about their day for themselves (this is a generalization but in general, there isn't the kind of invasive chatting on a day to day basis from Europeans like you get in the US and I find it very refreshing and very noticeable whenever I'm abroad.)


Cold meds and Kleenex being behind the counter in pharmacies. I mean, I had fun using my French, but my poor boyfriend just needed cold meds and Kleenex and I don’t want to have the pharmacists bringing me different cold med brands one by one because we don’t know the European brands when I could easily compare them by myself. We’re also hitting the limits of my French vocabulary when it comes to describing symptoms.


Washing machine in the kitchen. No dryer.


In Europe, when you order orange juice, they take fresh oranges and squeeze them in to a glass. I've never seen that recipe in the states.


The complete lack of window screens. Does everybody just accept bugs overrunning their homes whenever they open the windows?


How you don't tip servers or bartenders in England


I wouldn't say this was a "WTF" moment so much as just a bit funny and embarrassing on my part.

I was visiting a friend in the Netherlands. I had just gotten back from a year abroad in Asia, so I was not accustomed to anyone being able to speak English.

I went to purchase a train ticket in.... Amsterdam, I think, though it may have been Utrecht. At any rate, I approached the counter and asked, "Excuse me, do you speak English?"

The bemused counter clerk laughed and said, "Of course. Do you?"

I turned beet red. It's very silly looking back on it.

Also, same trip, but in Brussels, I asked a local store clerk where to find a particular bar I was searching for. She gave remarkably detailed directions, and listed off many other recommendations for places. I was a little bit surprised at the level of detail, and I guess she noticed that because she laughed and said, "I like to drink. A LOT."

[edit 1: spelling

edit 2: The bar in question was "À la Bécasse", for anyone who cares.]


(TO BE CLEAR this island is f*****g tiny. there are about 80 people living there and its mostly farms and berry bushes. back when it was still Yugoslavia, my grandma left to America while her brother went to Italy. Some people say the squatting is just a stereotype, but it's just exclusive to this one island bc its very rural. in all the other islands in Croatia we've visited, nobody else was squatting. Just to clear things up bc people were calling my story fake.)

On with the story then,

So, my grandma is Croatian. We went to "the island" as we call it (it's a small island in the Adriatic) we can't go there very often, as it's about $5,000 per person (FOR THE FLIGHT AND BOAT RIDES), but when we do, it's beautiful. there are palm trees and turquoise waters, full of colourful fish. the cuisine is enchanting and delicious. But, the culture is strange. It's a Slavic country, and on the rural island, everyone just squats shirtless. it's pretty much specific to this one island bc we went to Losinj and Zagreb and they didn't squat. and Goats and chickens literally wander the streets. But, the "WTF" moment came when we went over the hill with my baba (grandma) to check out her old abandoned school. Then, out of nowhere, a wild goat just rammed me in the stomach and ran away. thank you for listening.


My mom fell and sprained her knee in Spain. Free ambulance ride, x-ray, consultation, medication, and ice pack. All despite the fact that we are foreigners. This would have cost more than the plane tickets in America. Edit: typo


Was in Italy last month for the first time. Was intrigued by how common it was for people to just take a nap nearly anywhere in public.

Also the little vending machine "stores" that had 3-4 vending machines in them and one sold alcohol and cigarettes, another sold condoms, lube and *toys*. Wasn't shocked, more so applauded the simple ingenuity of it. :)


Day drinking and smoking. We have breweries all over Kansas City, but we usually don't partake until after work hours.

Ireland was a lovely place, you're all very pleasant and music was everywhere. And your barbers are top notch


First time we went to England, we saw a bunch of signs that said "TO LET" and we couldn't figure it out. Are these a bunch of toilet signs that are misspelled? No way. There are too many. Turns out we're dumb and it's just their way of saying "available to lease"/"for rent".

Also we were very confused by Digestives. What a weird name for a snack.


The waiter absolutely refused to bring my espresso - My dinner companions and I had ordered dessert after having dinner and I wanted to have my espresso with the dessert. He didn't bring it out until after the dessert.


About 25 years ago, teenage me was in Europe on a basically unsupervised school trip. We had been there for a while but the biggest culture shock I received was when I went to a McDonald's. Yeah, yeah, going to McDonald's but I was looking for something familiar and comforting at the moment.

I had my burger served in a styrofoam container and the fries were completely different.

I know it seems odd, but over the course of that entire trip, getting a meal from McDonald's that was "different" was the biggest shock to young teenage me.


You cannot buy physical tickets at a soccer game (at least at Wembley stadium) in England. They literally have ticket windows where they will print them off, but will not sell them to you. I went to a game in 2018 at Wembley (tottenham vs CP) and unknowingly had fake tickets. When i went to the ticket box to buy real ones they said i can't. I had to go online, create an account, buy through their website and then go back to the window to have them print them out. Security told me this is how all EPL games operate but i can't back that up.


The absence of obese people was shocking.


Robust public transit systems (relative to the major city I live in in the US).


I spent a week in Greece and Athens was infested with dudes selling Jamaican bracelets. They're set up near every major sight. It was easier to give them 2 Euro for the bracelet and just keep it on as a way to repel them the rest of the trip.


Not being harassed by police.

I did some dumb s**t on a scooter in Paris and instead of spending 20 minutes going through all the bull s**t and puffering cops usually do, he just wagged his french finger at me and message was recieved.

How it should be


When I was in Bulgaria about 5 years ago, there was a woman cop that heard me and came over and gave me a total serious face that I was in trouble for some crime and I needed to come with her.

Turns out she was flirting with me and just giving me some s**t like a normal person, not a cop.

It ended well...


Went to London. The entire atmosphere is different. People are more relaxed, there's a real appreciation for things around them. The Tube puts my hometown of NYC's subways to absolute shame, but I nearly toppled a couple of times. Wicked fast.


In a Paris subway station, I had to step over a huge log of human s**t. Right on the platform where people stand and wait for the trains.


In Budapest, at the airport, there's a service where you pay to have them shrink-wrap your luggage, because the baggage handlers can't be trusted not to steal your stuff.


The toilet in my apartment in Germany had a shelf so that everything dropped above the water line. Confusing as f**k, but I guess it is for inspecting your stuff for parasites. I hated it, s**t in the open air smells like you expect.


In Paris, everything seemed too small: elevator in our hotel fit two people, or one with a suitcase. Rooms had probably 7' ceilings. Sidewalks felt like they were 3' wide. Glasses of water were maybe 4 ounces (with a 1L bottle to fill them with). Even doorways and hallways seemed 80% the size I am used to.

I've always heard that things are bigger in the US, but I never really understood until I went to Europe.

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You can't buy a bus ticket at the bus stop. Or the bus station. Or online. The only place you can buy them is the tobacco shop.

At some stations, you can't buy a train ticket at the train station or on the train. You have to leave the train station with all your luggage, walk into town, find a tobacco shop, buy a train ticket, then walk all the way back to the station, and by the time you get back you missed the train.


Germans stare. Like blatantly stare, and if you nod to acknowledge them they look at you like you're crazy.


When I was in Amsterdam (in the weed district or whatever it’s called), the whole area was like the same 6 types of shops/restaurants, over and over again(excluding the actual coffeehouses and bars).

There were cheap touristy trinket shops, cheap touristy head shops, Argentinian steakhouses, shwarma places, French fry/churrro/stroopwaffel bakeries, just over and over again. For whole city blocks. With the occasional bar or coffeehouse in between.

I mean, I get it, people are high AF and just wandering around, but you’d think there would be a little more diversity right?


I just got back from Berlin and there's a huge city park that runs through it. From the road driving passed it I saw that EVERYONE WAS NAKED...IN A CITY EVERYONE...OF ALL LIKES AND AGES... legit old man dangus just flapping about like Julie Andrews in a field of Edeilweiss. Even then, didn't think too much of it, thought it might be a "park" thing. Later my wife and I went down to the hotel pool and again, there was both men and women alike just letting it all hang out. Bratwurst and pork knuckle, everywhere. My wife literally went into a panic and spun around on the spot as if she was not supposed to be there and started speaking gibberish, I proceeded to laugh hard enough to draw attention to our Canadian, clothed-and-out-of-place asses. 10/10 would totally go back (seriously, loved it).


A beligerant in a pub somewhere in Hamburg noted my extremely Texan "cowgirl" accent and proceeded to lecture me about how s**t Americans are because they never travel. He lectured me... In Germany... About how I need to get off my a*s and leave the US from time to time. Guess it just goes to show that drunks gonna drunk, no matter where you are.


Lived in Finland for a bit. The quite that prevails everywhere is impressive and a little scary to me. I will say so does their kindness. A friend of mine dropped about 40$ worth of electronics when we left the apartment one morning. When we arrived that night he was distraught thinking it would be lost. Nope, it was sitting on a fence by the apartment complex right in downtown Kotka (smaller town but still). Eating out was also pricey. My wife and I eat out probably just as often as we cook at home but in Finland I could not find anywhere that was like cheap fast food or something, it was all expensive. Lastly, the number of public drunks. I have never seen so many drunks, they were harmless for the most part but they were constantly some place on the streets. Some of my favorite moments with drunks was one peeing in a trash can literally in front of the Helsinki train station and another who at about 2 am was walking in our apartment courtyard. This guy seemed to have some difficulty standing and walking and both seemed to scare him. He was shouting at the top of his lungs the whole way across the courtyard while holding onto anything he could. He was acting like he was walking a tightrope over a canyon.


If you ask for flat water(because the default seemed to be sparkling) in a restaurant they bring you a plastic bottle of water. Why do they insist on wasting all these plastic bottles instead of giving me tap water in a glass? Why do I have to pay so much for this water? It frequently cost more than alcohol for some reason?


How the restaurants serve soda with no ice.


When you ask for ketchup in an America, you either get a million little packets or the whole bottle, in Europe whenever I asked I would only receive a measly 2 packets or less.


I was surprised when I saw a lot of east european wearing T-shirts with a single random english word on them.


The two medications that are keeping me alive cost a whopping $300 a month per prescription, so $600/month or $7,200/year.

I moved to the UK and the same medications cost £9 apiece for a three month supply. Grand total is £72 a year.

I know the conversion rate isn't a perfect 1:1 but the fact my medicine here is literally a hundred times cheaper blew my mind.


Went shopping in Spain. Every time I found a decent looking shirt/sweatshirt it would have some weird quote on it or a random word +definition. I think I found this most notably at Pull + Bear.


Seeing Confederate flags flown outside private residences in Sweden.


Paying money to use a public bathroom. Granted, it was the most pristine bathroom I’ve ever used, but I just don’t have a problem with using a grimy public restroom in America for free. I guess it’s nice if you have a problem with those.

Also asking for ice in your drink and your waiter looking at you like you asked them to loan you $1000.


Giant, irregular shaped roundabouts with like a dozen exits.


There was like a little sink right next to the toilet. Super convenient to wash my hands while sitting down


There is a wall in Munich (I think it was Germany at least) and it's like enclosed and stuff. But you just whip your d**k out and just pee on the wall. Which is honestly not that odd really. But the odd thing was, A. My teacher informed of us said wall several months before we saw said wall. And B. My tour guy, a European, made a point to take us to pee on said wall.

And a quick Google search is finding me nothing so I may have just pissed on someone's house.


Kermit the Frog, in Spain, is called Gustavo. WTF.


I live in Iceland and whenever people say they don't have insurance, personal or business wise, I feel uneasy. Also, people don't sue eachother.


In Paris near every single tourist attraction there is a flock of people trying to sell you garbage.

The WTF part for me is that we saw hundreds of these guys during our trip and whether no matter what attraction we were at every single one was selling the EXACT same shitty Eiffel Tower souvenirs.

Why wouldn't any of them branch out even slightly to set themselves apart from the countless other people hocking the exact same c**p?


I recently went to Engalnd and France, here are the highlights!

Every intersection was a rotary(Roundabout, cant shake being from MA) in rural France.

Some dude was going down on a girl in Versailles, in front of our school group

Paying for the f*****g bathroom.

3USD for a tiny diet coke, as well as the taste, christ.

How f*****g fast Parisians drive, like if you arent walking on a cross walk during green, you're dead. Coming from a jaywalking Bostonian, yikes.

Charles de Gaulle airport. Just why.

The first time I got on the London Underground, I stood because I thought "I've been on plenty of trains this should be fine." I almost fell over because apparently they go faster in Europe.

How much smoking there is, I walked out in Piccadilly Circus and need an advil because of how many cigarettes there were. I've been to NYC and my mom was a smoker for years, Londoners chill please.

edit: to add more wack stuff.


Canadian here. In the uk you have to be over 16 to buy an energy drink. I was dumbfounded over that one!


How they automatically serve you sparkling water instead of normal tap water


You cannot drink alcohol in your seat or anywhere in the standing during a football (aka soccer) match. You can drink it underneath the stands, but you cannot watch the match live with an alcoholic drink in your hand.

Also, having a legit bookie taking bets at those matches. Imagine how much money an NFL game would take in if they allowed betting at the stadium.


Clean, punctual, and pleasant public transit.


Not an American, but Canadian.

First time visiting London, England, I said WTF when I saw a sign for "Humped Pelican Crossing."


A total lack of top sheets on the beds. Also rarely any toilet seats in Italy. I joked my travel blog would be no top sheets or toilet seats


I was in the heart of Rome with my wife, found a little place to eat and decided to get a pizza (Because Italy!). While just as the pizza arrived, the song on the radio changed, and started playing.... A Shania Twain country song.


Just visited Zurich. WTF Switzerland, why is you so beautiful?


People stare at you if you wear athletic clothing when you're just walking around.


In England everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, was driving on the wrong side of the road and mipronouncing words like "tomato".


my husband ordered an old fashioned at a bar in Paris.

instead of bourbon garnished with an orange peel, they mixed bourbon and Tang.


The peeing boy motif in Brussels


Strangers standing WAYYYYYYYYYY too close to me in lines


The graffiti. GRAFITTI. EVERY. WHERE. It's really disappointing, TBH


Eating a real gyro in Greece and being forever jealous that we can't get that here


White beans in my can of tuna fish. It was great and the food was bought in Switzerland.


A lot of places I've visited there are no shower curtains. I felt like a blue jay in a bird bath just lightly splashing water on myself as to not get the floors all wet.


I took a trip years ago to Lake Maggiore on the Italian-Swiss border. First it was the people, both men and women, changing into their swimsuits right on the beach in front of everyone. Next it was visiting a McDonald's in Switzerland and having to pay for ketchup packets.


In the U.K., the chain of legal betting shops called Ladbrokes. I mean you literally leave the place a Broke Lad. The balls...

And in Ireland, the big gambling chain is Paddy Power. Not only is Paddy a generic and vaguely derogatory name for an Irishman, but losing your paycheck in one of these places is hardly empowering. Paddy Power! Giving Paddy the Power to become a Broke Lad!

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