Americans’ confidence in global travel appears to be returning this holiday season. According to the Allianz Global Assistance Top 10 Holiday Destination Report, Europe overall will see a significant 9.2 percent increase in American travelers during the 2017 holiday travel season (between Thanksgiving and New Year’s).
Particularly noteworthy is the City of Lights. After seeing a substantial decrease in U.S. travelers spending their holiday in Paris last year, the city will see a 16.3 percent increase in U.S. visitors for 2017, remaining the second most popular European travel destination. London is still the most popular European destination among Americans. After London and Paris, the top-visited European cities include Rome, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam. We will explore local travel tips for these top five destinations below.
Whether traveling to Europe, the Americas, the Middle East or Asia, Aperian Global’s GlobeSmart tool provides a wealth of detailed information on traveling abroad, not only for business travelers but for vacationers as well. From general information about visas, safety tips, tipping practices, and weather to more country-specific information including core values, cultural nuances, regional demographics, and communication styles, GlobeSmart is a resource on 97 countries and counting.
Below are some tips taken from GlobeSmart to keep in mind when traveling internationally this holiday season and beyond.
General recommendations for traveling abroad:
Here are some country-specific cultural observations, including tipping guidelines and gestures to be aware of when traveling to five of the most popular European travel destinations of 2017 holiday season:
Christmas: is a very popular, festive holiday in England, official holidays from December 24 (midday), 25, 26 (Boxing Day). Many businesses slow during the Christmas holiday season, from December 24 – January 2. Some public transportation may not run during this time.
Tipping: At restaurants, service is often included; if not, tip 10–15 percent. Tipping in pubs is not customary. At hotels: porters, 1–2 pounds per bag; housekeepers, 1–2 pounds. Go up to 5 pounds apiece at the five-star hotels. Guides and drivers: tip the cab driver whatever small change you have.
Christmas: The period stretching from Christmas to New Year’s Eve is a time of numerous family celebrations. Many French companies close during the last week of the year. People in France typically spend Christmas with their families and may spend the last days before December 25 shopping for gifts. It is customary for large companies to organize “arbres de Noel“: children of the employees are invited to a show where they will be entertained, fed cakes and fruit juices, and offered gifts by Santa Claus.
Tipping: The words “service compris” on your bill mean no tip is required, but most locals leave up to 10 percent. Tipping at bars is not expected. At hotels, two euros per bag; one to two euros for a housekeeper. Guides and drivers: about 25 euros per person, per day for guides; a separate driver should get about half of that. Give 10–20 euros for private airport transfers, depending on the driver’s wait time and the in-car amenities, and 10–15 percent tip for taxi drivers.
Christmas and New Year: are celebrated in Italy much in the same way as they are in the rest of the western world. December is a festive month when people make an effort to assemble before the year ends in order to share good tidings in the spirit of the season. Some businesses may choose to remain closed between Christmas and the New Year. Officially, the national holidays include December 25 and 26, the day after Christmas being Saint Stephen’s Day. January 1 is also a national holiday followed by Epiphany a few days later on January 7. Essentially there is a span of sporadic national holidays from December 24 through January 7 that when linked, can potentially make for quite a long stretch of vacation time.
Gestures to Avoid:
Tipping: At restaurants leave as close to 10 percent as is convenient, but no more. At hotels: porters, 5 euros; housekeepers, 1–2 euros per night, more for extra service.
Christmas: is the biggest holiday in Germany. Schools close for a two-week vacation and many businesspeople take an extended time off work. A German Christmas tradition is the Advent wreath and Advent calendar. The Advent wreath has four candles: one for each Advent Sunday before Christmas. One candle is lit each Sunday until Christmas. Children open one door on the Advent calendar each day starting on December 1 as a countdown to Christmas. The final door is on December 24, Christmas Eve, when children open presents. Most Germans celebrate Christmas with family; the celebration usually includes a feast either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Goose, turkey or other dishes are served. Another tradition for children is Saint Nicholas’ Day on December 6. Children put their boots (nice and shiny) in front of the door the night before and St. Nicholas puts fruits (usually oranges and tangerines), nuts, and goodies in them.
Typical gestures include:
Tipping: In restaurants, bars, and cafes, a 12% tip or a service charge is always added to the bill along with the value-added tax (VAT) (all menu prices already include tip and tax). Most people will round the bill up to the next euro or so and inform their server of the amount they are willing to pay. In upscale restaurants, a more substantial tip of up to 10% can be left, but leaving change on the table is frowned upon. For other service providers: porters- generally one euro per bag; hotel maids, one euro per day.
Christmas: Many people take one week off between Christmas and New Year. Most businesses are closed in that week. People may go to church on Christmas Eve (December 24). Christmas is often a family event, spent at home or at the home of a family member. “Gezelligheid” (coziness) is important on these days. Many homes have a Christmas tree. There will be candles, and food and drinks are served throughout the day. Some families give presents, others do not as they have already done this on December 5 (“Sinterklaas”). Both Sinterklaas and Christmas are important events.
Gestures to Avoid:
Tipping: Many services already have a service charge added to the bill. If this is the case, you aren’t obliged to tip extra. Tipping in the Netherlands, like in most of Europe, isn’t really expected. However, leaving extra change or rounding up the bill in restaurants, bars and cafés are common. No need to tip more than that, unless you receive great service. With taxis, it’s acceptable to round up and leave a small tip.
There has been a recent trend in travel that has seen an increase in the number of travelers who are interested in taking longer trips (lasting longer than two weeks). Luxury travel agency Jacada Travel also has more clients looking for “around the world” trips. In 2017, 40 percent of their client bookings were for trips longer than two weeks, but for trips booked for 2018, 50 percent are over two weeks long. Jacada has even seen a rise in trips lasting longer than 30 days, going from 1.36 percent of 2017 trips to 3.4 percent of 2018 trips booked so far. This upward trend shows that globetrotters are willing to slow down and take their time exploring new places, and perhaps immersing themselves into the culture of the places they are visiting along the way. For comprehensive, country-specific knowledge, prior to trekking to foreign destinations, we encourage travelers to sign up for a free 2-week trial of GlobeSmart, of Aperian Global’s online cultural intelligence tool. Use code: GIFT when registering.