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Understanding European Culture Etiquette: A Traveler’s Guide

Europe is a continent rich in history, diverse cultures, and unique traditions. As a traveler, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the etiquette of each country you visit to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience. In this guide, we will explore the cultural norms and etiquette practices across various European countries.

Greeting Etiquette

When it comes to greetings, Europeans have different customs. In many Western European countries, a handshake is the standard greeting, accompanied by direct eye contact and a smile. However, in countries like France and Italy, a light kiss on both cheeks is customary when meeting friends or acquaintances. It is important to note that the number of kisses may differ, so be attentive and follow the lead of the locals.

Dining Etiquette

European dining etiquette can vary greatly from one country to another. In France, for example, it is considered impolite to start eating before the host says “Bon appétit.” In Spain, it is customary to eat late, with dinner often starting around 9 or 10 pm. Additionally, it is common to share plates of food in Spain, so don’t be surprised if someone offers you a taste of their dish.

In many European countries, it is polite to keep your hands on the table during a meal, but in Germany, it is considered rude. Instead, rest your wrists on the edge of the table. Remember to use utensils appropriately, and avoid using your hands unless it is customary for the specific dish.

Dress Code

Europeans are known for their sense of style, and it is important to dress appropriately when visiting different countries. In general, Europeans tend to dress more formally than other parts of the world. Avoid wearing casual attire such as shorts, flip flops, or tank tops when visiting churches, museums, or upscale restaurants.

In Italy, for instance, it is common for locals to dress elegantly, even for everyday activities. In Scandinavian countries, on the other hand, people often dress more casually, favoring comfortable and practical clothing.

Public Transportation Etiquette

Public transportation is a common mode of travel throughout Europe, and it is crucial to be mindful of the etiquette when using buses, trains, or trams. In many countries, it is customary to give up your seat to the elderly, pregnant women, or people with disabilities. Always remember to validate your ticket before boarding, as fare evasion is taken seriously in some countries.

Tipping Etiquette

Tipping practices vary across Europe, so it is essential to understand the norms of each country. In most European countries, a service charge is included in the bill, and tipping is not expected. However, leaving some loose change or rounding up the bill as a gesture of appreciation is always welcomed.

In countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is customary to tip waitstaff around 10-15% of the total bill. In Eastern European countries, tipping is less common, but leaving a small amount is still appreciated.


As a traveler in Europe, respecting the cultural etiquette of each country is vital. By familiarizing yourself with the greetings, dining customs, dress code, public transportation etiquette, and tipping practices of the places you visit, you will not only show respect for the local culture but also enhance your overall travel experience. Remember, a little effort in understanding and adapting to European customs goes a long way. So, embrace the diversity and enjoy your journey through this fascinating continent.