1. Messing Up Public Transit
Public transit systems—at least in Europe—are all pretty similar but just different enough to confuse you each time you go to a new one. My favorite is the London Tube, which is consistent and efficient. However, some of the other ones across the EU can be a bit more confusing. For instance, in Rome they have buses, trains, and trams. However, a lot of natives won’t necessarily know the difference between these English terms and might tell you “bus” when they mean “tram” or vice versa. Google Maps isn’t very good at telling you what mode of public transport to use, so don’t rely on apps to save you. Make sure you have an idea of where you’re going and how to get there. Be mindful of the different rules of each system. In Venice—which is surrounded by water—one gets around by ferry, but the public transit system tries to rip off tourists by confusing them. I got charged $70 while aboard a ferry because I did not “validate” my ticket after buying it (said ticket cost around $5), but no one ever told me I needed to. It was written in tiny letters on the back of my ticket, but why would I look out for that if I had no idea?
2. Coming Off Touristy
Try to not look like…an American. There are dangerous places in Europe, but people are way less likely to bother you if they think you’re a local. Try to dress a bit more “European.” I had a friend at a summer program I went to in high school from London, and she later told me that she felt bad about her physical fitness the entire time because she thought everyone was always exercising. Generally, as opposed to Americans—who generally wear athletic gear as casual clothing, especially in warmer weather—Europeans are much more fashion-forward. Try to not appear as confused as you probably are—they can sense it. If you go to certain restaurants or shops that don’t list prices on a menu, the staff will almost certainly charge you more when they realize you’re a tourist.
3. Not Taking Risks
I’m not saying you should go crazy or anything, but for most of you, this is probably the first time you’re experiencing another culture. Embrace it! Try some new food or new tradition or new activity. You’re not going to get this opportunity again for a long time.