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10 Culture Shocks I Experienced Travelling in Europe

At the end of August, I set off to Rome to kickstart my Euro trip and fulfil one of my biggest dreams since high school.

During my trip I visited 9 countries over 35 days. (You can read about that in detail here).

Travelling around Europe was particularly eye-opening because of all the cultural differences.

In this post I dive into some of the culture shocks that I experienced during my time in Europe.

(Note: Not everything I have listed below came as a “shock” to me, some are merely cultural differences that I noticed.)

No ban on smoking publicly

There is no way to escape the smell of cigarettes when you are walking on the street in Europe because there are people smoking almost everywhere. I was surprised by just how common it was.

In India, public smoking is a punishable offence by law, and you can be fined for it. (Although there are certain places where people do smoke publicly In India, it’s nowhere as common as it is in Europe).

Water isn’t cheap

In Europe unlike in India, tap water is safe for drinking.

Yet strangely, despite this water isn’t cheap. In certain stores and restaurants buying a small bottle of water costs upwards of 3 Euros.

In fact, in some places like Prague, even beer is cheaper than water.

You are not served water in restaurants

In India, the first thing that you are usually served once you are in a restaurant is water.

However, in many European countries, the practice of serving customers with water for free in restaurants simply doesn’t exist.

You can take pets and cycles on public Transport

Pets are surprisingly well behaved in Europe and can be taken along on the public transport. You can also take your cycles on buses and trains.

You can drink almost anywhere

Public drinking is banned in India. However, in Europe you can drink alcohol just about anywhere whether that’s sitting on bridges, in parks, while riding public transport, even in church compounds.

People love the summer

I don’t know a single person in my state (Kerala) who loves the summer because of how hot and humid it can get. Here, you are used to having sunlight almost throughout the year.

However, for most Europeans summer is the favourite time of the year and they dread the winter because of how cold and gloomy it gets during this period. Winter depression is a common phenomenon in Europe.

There is a right way to ride the escalator

An etiquette to follow while riding the escalator in Europe is to stand on the right side and let others who are in a hurry to pass through the left.

There is nothing of that sort in India, so I didn’t know about this until my friend living in Italy mentioned it to me. Otherwise, I would have probably ended up standing on the left and frustrate people behind me and risk coming of as rude.

In the most cities you can find buskers everywhere

One of the things that I really enjoyed about Europe was that there are plenty of Buskers who play some fantastic music.

The busking is almost non-existent in India except in few places like Goa. Busking has yet to catch on here.

MRP doesn’t exist

In India there is a Maximum Retail Price (MRP) which is basically an upper limit price at which all retailers can sell their products in Supermarkets and stores.

In Europe the concept of MRP doesn’t exist therefore the same product can cost more/less in a different supermarket or store.

Free Public Education is a Norm

I was aware that college education is free in Public Universities in Germany, but I didn’t know that so many European countries offer completely free education for citizens of the European Union.

For international students there are also plenty of college scholarship programmes available that let you study in Europe for free.

The Government offers lots of amazing perks & benefits

Being unemployed in Europe (as an EU citizen) isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

In many countries the government offers great unemployment benefits to its citizens such as providing people with more than 50% of their last drawn salaries for up to two years.

Hungary offers €30,000 to married couples who can produce three children. The Hungarian government offers married couples 10 million forint (around €30,590) loan, which they do not have to pay back if they have three children.

Keeping a calendar

My friend who is studying in Germany told me that over here you need to plan ahead while meeting your friends and fix on a date and time.

Simply dropping by unannounced in a friend’s places (which is common in India) is not a polite thing to do.

There is a habit among Europeans to keep a calendar and to refer it while making plans to see if they will be available.

In India usually only people who work and have busy schedules have the habit of keeping calendar. Also unlike in India, there is a lot of emphasis on punctuality.


  • In many parts of Europe unlike in India, most restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores don’t open on Sundays.

  • The work culture is so much more relaxed than in India, and people know to relax and enjoy life. People also get a lot more holidays during the year and employers tend to be a lot more flexible.

  • Public display of affection is almost everywhere.

  • Drinking is part of the culture and it’s normal to have a drink with lunch and dinner. It’s even acceptable to drink even when you are in office.


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