A few months ago, we did a piece on a viral thread that had Europeans revealing their biggest WTF moments while traveling in the US. But since planes fly both ways across the Atlantic, let's turn the tables, shall we?
Turns out, Reddit user Cyber-Gon submitted a question to r/AskReddit, asking: "Americans who visited Europe, what was your biggest WTF moment?" and their answers are just as entertaining as the Europeans'.
From divine German tap water to the number of bicycles in the Netherlands, here are some of the most-upvoted replies!
Y'all get how many days of paid vacation?! And sick leave? And public healthcare?! And you don't live in a socialist hellhole like I've been told? America, you lied to me!
Tripped on an escalator in England. Got stitches. Was laughed at when I offered to pay the bill. "What bill? This is the civilized world."
In Toulouse, France, I went to a nice restaurant and ordered dinner. When it arrived, I was like, 'Where's the rest of it?' The waitress laughed, as she grew up there and in Canada. (I'm from Brooklyn, New York, where portions are huge.) She calmly told me to eat it and if I was still hungry to order another one. By the last bite, I was stuffed. That was my WTF moment: when I realized how rich and high quality the food was over there.
It boggled my mind how old everything was and how it was still integrated into everyday life. Like in the UK, drinking in a pub that had been in the same spot since the 11th century or eating dinner at restaurant in an 18th-century cathedral. Or in Prague, staying in a hotel that had been operating since the 15th century
My biggest WTF was coming back to the States. Seemed like such a downgrade.
Not American, but Canadian.
First time I went to Ireland, I go through customs and the agent says to me...
"business or personal"
"oh yeah, what's up?"
"Visiting the Inlaws."
"first time in Ireland?"
"feck*ng eh... Well, why ya standin around. go get pissed.
We were driving through Spain, and to the side of one of the roads, we noticed these MASSIVE bird nests in the high power electrical towers. They were at least twice the size of eagles nests that I had seen. And there were so many of them!
Then we saw these giant birds in them! We stopped by the side of the road and tried to take some pictures (didn’t have a great zoom lens, sadly). But no one else was stopping. It was so odd. We are accustomed to at least a few people stopping to watch the osprey, eagles, or other birds where I’m from.
So a few days later, we are chatting with a German tourist, and we bring up the birds...
I think she thought we were joking until we pulled out the pictures. Then she started laughing.
Storks. Those are storks. Of course, don’t you know that? They are everywhere and such a nuisance. Don’t you have storks in America?
Then she looked confused. Well, if you don’t have storks, who brings the babies in kids stories?
Um...how does that work?
And that was when we realized that the story of the storks makes a whole lot more sense when storks are nesting on every chimney, tree, or tall place...
French butter made me stop and reflect on the beauty of being alive. I didn't think butter could be improved upon, but holy sh*t. So creamy."
If something costs five euros, it's exactly that. Tax is included.
In Europe, wait staff are paid a living wage so they do not need tips. The eating experience is much more laid-back and slower in Europe, relative to America. It also seems like [European] wait staff is never trying to force you out of the restaurant once you are done eating.
Went to Dover England and saw a mother f*cking castle. The newest section was built like 300-400 years before my country was founded. Turned a corner and the next part was 200 years older than that. Ten minutes later walk up to a Roman light house built 2000 years ago. Daaaammmnnn
Edit: The best part was we arrived the night before we went to the castle. I didnt see it on the ride to the hotel. (We get inside and our room is the largest room we had seen at any of our hotels apparently the hotel was built by an American company so the rooms were built like they would be In the US.) I open the curtains to see what is out my window, usually a parking lot, another random building or something boring. Not today Yank, not today. CASTLE.
I lived in Spain for 9 months at one point and was trying to get to the supermarket in the middle of a weekday and the entire city center was blocked off. I had to park and walk a ways and discovered that they were having a giant block party. Kegs and all. Around noon. Celebrating the towns new garbage trucks.
I love Spain.
Funny enough, my biggest WTF moment came from an American. We were at a restaurant in Cinque Terre, Italy called Trattoria Dal Billy. About halfway through our meal, I overheard a guy with a Tennessee/Arkansas accent say, verbatim, in a frustrated tone "you need to speak more American!" to his waiter. This isn't Rome. This isn't Venice. It's a small town called Manarola. The odds of finding someone fluent in your language are drastically lowered; however, this guy was pompous enough to not only continue to berate his waiter, but then tell the manager who came around that he needs to hire someone who can speak American...in a foreign country...of which he obviously speaks ZERO of their language. Seriously, WTF!
I was doing a study abroad program in the UK but also had to take monthly blood tests for a medication I had been put on before I flew over. I was fully prepared for a laundry list of paperwork and fees to deal with the tests as well as getting these results to my doctor back in the states.
After the first blood test I went up to the receptionist and asked what I owed. She looked at me with a bit of confusion and said, "Oh, no, you're fine you can just go." My doctor doctor also got my blood results in less time than they did when I got them in the states. Screw our broken healthcare system.
Went to Denmark on a whim with some friends. The biggest surprise was when I realized that I had met a ton of strangers over the course of a week and I had no idea what they did for a living. Never once did we talk about work or school.
Every night in Spain, around 3 a.m. this MASSIVE fleet of street scrubbers, vacuum-mobiles, and water hoses appeared and cleaned the entire city for about an hour. It was like ~100 people every night just cleaning the city. The following morning, all of Salamanca was spotless. That sh*t was magical.
My biggest WTF moment was when I visited England and people respected me a lot more when I told them I was canadian and not american (I'm actually canadian)
When I️ visited the hospital and had X-rays done, spoke with two doctors, and was triaged by a nurse, all with no health insurance, and my total bill was 24 euros. Then I️ had to pay 10 additional euros for some painkillers, again with no insurance or anything.
In my early twenties, on my first trip to Europe, I took an Italian ocean liner, New York to Genoa. My WTF moment was going out on the deck on morning six for the foggy passage through the Straits of Gibraltar. Europe emerging through the mist on my left and North Africa on my right, coupled with the awareness of how many voyagers throughout history had sailed through that passage (including my Italian grandparents traveling in the other direction), gave me chills.
Not paying for a gynecological exam. I developed an ovarian cyst while in England that was causing some pain. I made an appointment at a health clinic and was examined. Afterwards, I expected to pay because A) that's always the first thing that happens in US healthcare and B) I was a foreigner who had never paid into the UK National Health Service. They just laughed and said, "We don't take money for services and we'd have no idea what to charge you".
Mind blown. God save the NHS.
In Amsterdam, the number of bicycles outside the central station. How the F do people find their bikes once they park them?! Also, the Dutch are easily the most graceful cyclists. The way you guys can weave through dumb folks standing in the bike paths is outstanding.
In Spain, the siesta is real. I just thought that it was an archaic thing that some people did. Nope. Everything shuts down for an hour or two. Even in super-touristy places, 99% of shops and businesses shut down.
Blatant nudity everywhere. Porn mags just sitting at the front of newsstands in the middle of the city. A giant graffiti penis and nobody cared. Made me realize how prudish we are in the US
This was a few years ago before "chip" credit/bank cards were like "a thing" in the States. But when I stopped in Amsterdam, and hoped over to Latvia, I discovered that in both countries, my DEBIT card that needed to be swiped to buy anything, was like a weird old relic. Every cashier everywhere gave me a confused look when I handed them my card and they saw it didn't have a chip. They would, after I politely mentioned it had to be swiped, question whether or not that was even possible with their register. They always looked shocked to discover that the little slat along the side of their credit card thing was to be used to slide a card through. And when it actually worked, they always looked even MORE shocked. That's the first time I learned "Oh damn. Maybe America is behind in a lot of ways." Because everyone looked at my card as if it were carved out of stone and would pay them in some Flinstones-style currency that they were convinced they couldn't actually accept. By Day 2 of the trip, even I was like... "You f*cking American assh*le with your ancient technology."
How easy and unencumbered by useless bullsh*t most things are.
Getting on a 5:30 train from Burssels to Berlin? Show up at 5:20. And get laughed at by the Germans who will finish their beer at exactly 5:28 because they know the walk from the bar to the platform is 1 minute and 57 seconds.
In the states that would require showing up at 3:15 because of at least 4 security checkpoints and 8 lines of people who can't figure out how an escalator works.
How to party like a German: pre-party on Friday at 11 p.m., get into club at 2 a.m., leave club on Sunday at 6 a.m. Germans are nuts, in a good way.
The quality of the fast food surprised me. Everything from the street vendors to chains like McDonald's was better quality then anything I'd gotten at home.
Late to the thread but here goes... Went to Sweden on a vacation package. Stayed at a wonderful historic hotel for part of the trip that had a restaurant inside of it. Part of our package called for a free dinner at the hotel and we had asked that it be the night we arrived.
We arrived and got settled in our room and then went to check out the restaurant. As soon as we walked in, there was no one there, only a hostess. She immediately said they were expecting us and we could sit anywhere. There was no one else in this gorgeous, ornate restaurant. A waiter came out and said they had prepared a special meal for us. We asked why it was so empty and he said the restaurant was closed one day a week and today was that day.
We were shocked, we apologized profusely and told them that we had booked through another company and would have just scheduled it for another day. He said it was no problem and we had some free extras such as wine and dessert. The main course ended up being a huge piece of meat, which we jokingly said must have been because we were big fat Americans. No one rushed us, we had a great time, and after we left they closed the restaurant for the night.
It was a total WTF moment because if you booked something like this in America, they'd either force you to reschedule or just have the restaurant closed with no explanation.
In Spain, everyone appears to be very thin yet I swear eats a loaf of bread a day.
That their standard of living was just as high as ours, but everything was smaller. Smaller apartments, smaller cars, smaller grocery stores, and fewer jars of peanut butter in the smaller grocery stores.
In Lisbon, feeling proud of myself for eating late like a local at 9 p.m....only to walk into an empty restaurant. By the time I’d finished eating at 10 p.m., the place was full.
In Italy, when buying a soccer ticket, they needed to know which team I was rooting for to determine where I could sit. Then, during the game, people were setting things on fire.
Had a positive what the f*ck moment in Greece in the eastern Peloponnese where I saw a guy walk down to the end of a pier and throw an actual f*cking trident into the Aegean and pull out a wriggling octopus. Dude walked up the beach and handed it over the deck railing to a chef.
I lived in Germany for 8 years from 1992-2000 (Ages 4-12). I didn't realize it until I moved back to the states but there were recycling bins on EVERY street corner. It wasn't just a green bin then a trash can, it was a giant blue bin. One section for green glass, one for brown glass, one for clear glass, one for plastic, and one for paper.
Oh and going to a German school, students took public transit. There wasn't such a thing as a school bus.
Most stores are not open on Sundays. Not even grocery stores.
In Germany, they had the cleanest, safest, and best-tasting tap water, but nobody drank it and they called it toilet water.
When I visited Prague, water cost two crowns and beer cost one.
British food. I went there expecting chip shops and roast dinner, but instead was amazed by every variety of tikka sauce that could possibly exist.