Europe is a continent rich in culture, history, and culinary delights, making it a dream destination for foodies and history buffs. However, when dining in European restaurants, you may encounter some practices that are astonishingly different from what you’re accustomed to in the United States.
Here are 14 things that might surprise you when you enjoy a meal in a European restaurant. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your first European adventure, these insights will prepare you for a unique dining experience.
No Tipping Culture
Unlike in the US, where it’s customary to tip between 15 and 20 percent, gratuity is often included in the bill in many European countries. According to a TripAdvisor study, about 43% of respondents in Italy never tip.
Water is Not Free
It’s commonplace in the US to receive a glass of tap water for free, but diners typically pay for bottled water in Europe.
Bread Costs Extra
Unlike in the US, bread is not complimentary in most European restaurants, and they charge for it separately.
European dining culture emphasizes enjoying the meal over rushing, resulting in longer meal times. As Yale history professor and author of “Ten Restaurants That Changed America,” Paul Freedman states, “In Europe, mealtime is a moment of leisure, conversation, and relaxation.”
More Emphasis on Local Cuisine
European restaurants often highlight local ingredients and traditional recipes, offering a unique dining experience.
Smaller Portion Sizes
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that the average US restaurant meal is more than four times larger than in the 1950s, whereas traditional European portions have remained more stable and are generally smaller.
Less Ice in Beverages
It’s rare to receive a glass of ice in Europe, unlike in the US.
It’s more common to see outdoor seating in European restaurants, thanks to the prevalent café culture.
Different Food Safety Regulations
Europe has different food safety standards, sometimes resulting in menu items that might surprise American diners, like unpasteurized cheeses.
No Doggy Bags
The practice of taking leftovers home is less common in Europe.
While many restaurants offer English menus, some translations can be amusingly inaccurate.
More Formal Service
Waitstaff in Europe are often more formal than their US counterparts, reflecting cultural differences in service expectations.
Diverse Payment Method
In many European countries, paying at the table with a portable credit card machine is expected.
Many European restaurants close in the afternoon for a few hours, a practice known as “siesta” in Spain. This can surprise tourists who are used to continuous service throughout the day.
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