Throughout the 16 days of the trip, I gained a whole new perspective of the world that we live in. Being able to spend a couple days in four different countries gave me a great perspective of how the countries compared to each other and the US, and the things that made them different. I learned the truth behind each countries stereotypes and stigmas and became an expert on European public transportation. Here is an overview of the things that stood out to me in each country and my tips and tricks for getting around.
The United Kingdom:
It was in the UK that I learned how the British are driven by tradition and are bonded together by a love their country. During a discussion with John White he explained the decision of the UK to exit the European Union. Although he said that it was an unfortunate decision, he expressed that he stood by his country and would support the cause. I think this was a great representation of the British as a whole. At the end of the day they always come together. It also helps that they love their monarchy political system and they love the queen. Having her as a symbol of unity is what makes the UK a powerful country.
What to know before you go to the UK: They don’t serve water at restaurants unless you buy a bottle. If you buy a bottle, it usually comes in a glass container so it is more expensive than usual. Try bringing a water bottle that you can easily refill and carry with you. They also don’t usually serve ice cubes and the water is mostly room temperature. It would be most useful to buy a “visitors pass” if you went to the UK independently. This visitor pass allows you to ride the underground, the over ground, and trains. It also allows you to travel zones 1-6, which would get you anywhere you needed to go.
It was in France that I got a taste of how the French lived and treated others. One thing I heard before I went to France was to prepare myself to be treated very rudely. I actually had a very different experience than I thought. Each restaurant I found myself dining in I was served by kind French waiters and waitresses who actually helped me learn a couple sayings. Maybe it’s because I played into the fact that I was an American tourist. I didn’t try to act like I fit in and I think that is what they appreciated. They helped me learn how to count, order hot chocolate, and ask for the check in French. Although I had a very positive experience with most of the French, I also had a taste of a rude French man. One of our speakers, Graham Brown, gave a very stereotypical speech about the differences between the UK, The United States, and France. He frowned upon everything that America does and talked poorly on our President. He boasted about France and tried to justify why their country was better than any other country in the world. It really played into the stigma that the French believe they above all others. My main takeaway was that there are people who will bring positive light to your country and people who will bring a negative representation to your country. And just like I had experienced this in France, it happens all over the world as well.
What to know before you travel to France: Go see the Eiffel Tower during the day and at night. You get two very different experiences from each one. Also, try to ride up or walk up. There are activities, shops, and restaurants on the three tiers of the tower and you could easily spend a couple hours looking around. Take a whole day to go to The Palace of Versailles. Trying to squeeze it all in during a couple of hours won’t get you the full experience. The public transportation here is similar to London and just as easy.
In Germany I felt the safest and I feel this plays into their country as a whole. The city was very neat and clean, and the whole city of Heidelberg was in walking distance. There is a large university in the middle of the city and I think because they have so many students is why it feels so safe. People love to roam around and walk their dogs in Germany, and it was here I saw the most dogs inside restaurants as well. Germany also has a very low crime rate which also gives it a safe feel. The city of Heidelberg almost felt like I was in Downtown Phoenix or somewhere in the US. I often forgot that I was abroad.
What to know before you go to Germany: Almost all of their food is red meat, I found it difficult to find white meat options and when I did it had curry sauce all over it. Even at a Chinese restaurant, curry chicken was the most popular dish. Germany has Uber, like most of the other European countries as well, but in Germany it was very reasonably priced. Although you could walk to the other side of the city within 30 mins, Uber made for a very efficient time saver. Shops close earlier on the weekends than on the weekdays in Heidelberg so plan your major shopping days for during the week.
It was in the Netherlands that I learned how direct the Dutch are and to not take offense to it. Especially in a business setting, there is no need to sugar coat anything. Just tell it how it is. Don’t dance around what you are trying to say, just say it. They appreciate this way more. I also learned how laid back the Dutch are. An example of this came from a speaker we had during our visit to Grant Thorton. Ronald Bergenhenegouwen, gave us a short overview of what the Dutch thought of the UK exiting the European Union. He expressed things that he knew were going to have to change, people he was going to have to hire, and new policies that would have to be implemented in the Netherlands. Although he knew all these things would have to be put into action, he was going to wait to see how things played out before starting to prepare. His thoughts were to not put anything into action until the actual date of Brexit happened. I kept thinking in America we would start planning and preparing right away, before the date, but in the Netherlands it is more go with the flow.
Things to know before you travel to The Netherlands: The tram system is extremely confusing. I still don’t quite understand it and got lost and took the wrong exit many times. Just try and plan extremely well before you leave your hotel and know which stop to take to get your destination and which stop to take to get back to your hotel. The bus system in Amsterdam is easy to understand and in my opinion the best way to get around the city quickly. While riding the bus, you must exit form a different door than you enter. You usually enter the middle door to get onto the bus and exit the front or back door to get off the bus. Most people in The Netherlands speak English and Dutch. Just ask politely for them to talk in English if they start rambling in Dutch. They will switch for you.