Traveling and doing business in Europe, intro

Europe: large and diverse! pic: greece-map.net

Here are some pointers for Americans traveling to Europe – for fun or business or both.  Some might seem intuitive, others not so.

First and most important: not all of Europe is as same.  (Some) Americans tend to think about America as this amazing diverse place and of Europe as this block of like-minded countries.  Ain’t so.   People in Sweden are very different from people in Sicily, in language, habits, traditions, values, and customs.  The food they eat, their pastimes, preferred sports (ice curling in Palermo anyone?), their predominant political and religious convictions (or lack thereof), their architecture, and taste in interior design, etc. are all very different.

The same is true for many countries in Europe, they might be more similar than they are to say, Korea or even the US but that still doesn’t mean that what works in one country will also work in the next.

Generally, Europeans do not take kindly to the notion that they are all pretty much the same.  It is particularly offensive with small countries neighboring bigger ones.   One sure way to offend a Swiss or Austrian is to call them Germans or imply that they might as well be.

Another unfortunate blunder I have seen even highly educated people commit is to confuse European countries with one another.  A Swiss is not a Swede – both start with S, that is it.  Neither is a Dutch a Danish – despite the D and that both come from small countries up north.

A number of blog entries about different European countries will follow starting with my home country of Germany.

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