Culture Shock

      The purpose of travel is different depending on who you ask. Some people travel to relax. Some travel to admire nature’s beauty or the historical power of art and architecture. Still, some travel simply for the experience - to encounter cultures and people are ultimately different from what they are used to. If you are one of these travelers, a brave adventurer hoping to dive into the lifestyle of others there are a few things you will want to know - just to make the adjustment a little bit easier. Here our some cultural differences between the US and most of Europe that you may not be aware of.

The biggest difference that you will encounter is the European love for walking, cycling, and public transportation.  While here in the US, driving, even relatively long distances, is a daily occurrence for most of the population, many cities in Europe have a very low percentage of daily drivers. Here while young people get their permits to drive between the ages of 14 and 16, it is not uncommon for Europeans to wait until they are 20 or older to get their driving permit. This is because of the extensive public transportation system and a love of cycling. If you plan to visit any of the moderate to large cities in Europe expect this different and ignore the auto instinct until traveling into much more rural countryside.

Another difference to keep in mind is sizing. Almost everything you will come across in Europe is a bit smaller. Culture there dictates slightly more moderation that culture in the US so portion sizes at restaurants, hotel rooms, taxis, and most stores are all slightly smaller than here in the US. Do not be surprised or offended if your hotel room is on the narrow side, or perhaps your dinner entree seems a little slight - that is simply the standard.

In other shopping terms it is also helpful to know while shopping in Europe that cities and towns alike contain far fewer superstores and one-stop locations. Many countries there still follow a system of small shops for specific goods. Also, sales taxes are included in the ticketed price of goods for many European shops, groceries and restaurants. Keep this in mind so as to make sure you know exactly what you’re spending.

Financially, eating out in Europe is a much simpler process. Not only are taxes already included in the listed prices of meals, tipping is often seen as unnecessary. Unlike in the States, servers and bartenders are, by law, to be paid a minimum wage that cannot be expected to be supplemented by tips. This means that in most restaurants tipping is not only unnecessary but occasionally seen as a presumptuous move.

If at this delectable, tip free meal, you’ve planned on meeting people, also keep in mind that time is frequently relative to place. There are some countries where the social repercussions of being an hour late are similar to what it would be like if someone were only five minutes late to an event here in the US. There are yet other countries where people are even more punctual than here in the US. Every country works on its own cultural timetable, which can also often include the use of military time as opposed to a 12 hour clock. Just be sure, whenever in a new country, you have an idea of what “on time” means culturally. Also keep in mind the importance of the group meal in some European nations. The group dinner is often a revered and very important time in one’s day and fast food is often not an option. Meals are considered experiences and precious time to be spent on good conversation, good drinks and relaxing from your day at work or otherwise.

It must be said that of course all of the mentioned differences are generalizations to which there are many exceptions, as each European country has its own fairly unique culture. However, in general these differences do exist, or can lead you to similar differences in your specific place of travel, they are the little details we miss. No matter why or where you travel, make sure that part of your experience is learning about the culture you’re visiting. Chances are that it will open you to a way of living that is wonderful in its own right, and something you may have never thought to try.

~safe tRAvels~

Travel Tech

If you’re looking for a way to update or digitize your travel plans look no further. Here are our top picks for most helpful and cost effective travel apps for you mobile phones and tablets.

~ safe tRAvels ~


Flight Track

Never miss a flight again! With interactive maps, live updates, and the ability to connect others to your travel plans Flight Track by Mobiata is one of the best flight related apps on the market. The app color codes flight information to let you easily identify its status and keep your informed with the most precise information concerning your flight. Not the one flying? Flight track can let you follow the path of family and friends, keep track of the the status of their flight and even receive push notifications when it’s time to leave to meet them at the airport.

 

                                 Entrain

Flying to a different timezone? Use Entrain to help defeat jet lag. Designed by  Olivia Walch, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and Danny Forger, a professor of mathematics and computational medicine at Michigan, the app uses cycles of light training in the days leading up to your trip to help you adjust the rhythms of your body to the rhythms of your destination. With a simple to use interface and clear instructions that app can be set to understand how much light you’re already getting to create a personalized plan.

 

XE Currency

Traveling out of the US? If yes XE Currency is your new best friend. The app can be used to keep you up to date on the most current conversion rates in between many currencies. The app can be personalized to update as frequently as you like, you can see multiple currencies at once and you can even add a widget of the app to your notification center for ease of access.

 

 

Travel List

Did you ever think your smartphone could pack your suitcase for you? Now it can. Trip List is a pre travel partner extraordinaire. The app works with predesigned lists as well as your own edits to help you design the perfect packing list and travel schedule. The app will also remind you of vital steps before you leave like charging your phone, the online flight confirmation, and more.

 

 

 

TravelSafe Pro

 

Unfortunately currently restricted to Android, the TravelSafe app can be one of the most important apps you download. TravelSafe is an interactive database of all the emergency numbers you may need nearly world wide. It will immediately connect you with any one of various emergency hotlines and government sourced numbers.

 

 

 

 

WorldMate

If you’ve ever wanted a personal assistant, this is about a close as you’ll get with an app. WorldMate is an app that compiles all your flight, hotel and rental information to one place and keeps you up to date with competing prices for all three. WorldMate also  provides calendar synchronization, real time flight updates, mobile flight check in and the ability to share travel plans with friends, family and colleagues.

 

Google Translate - Word Lens

Welcome to the future. This element of the Google translate app was released in 2012 and has since received tons of attention. The app uses smartphone cameras and augmented reality technology to translate signs and written word between languages. Simply open up the app and focus it on printed words you’d like to translate. The app then receives the image, translates the text and sends it back to you nearly instantaneously.

 

 

WhatsApp Messenger

This cross platform messaging app allows mobile devices across the globe to connect without having to pay for SMS messaging. The app connects to regularly purchased data and internet plans or Wifi to connect to others using the app. Once connected the app can be used internationally for easy text communication, audio and video messaging as well as phone calls.

 

 

 

 

MiFlight

Short and sweet, this community interaction based app is the answer to the core of what every traveler wants to know, how long is the TSA Security Check line? Simply input your airport of choice and eliminate the unknown. Now you’re able to plan ahead and know how much time to reserve for getting through the security line. Once you’re through just go back into the app and record how long it took you, travelers later in the day will thank you.

~safe tRAvels~