‘Tis the Season For Globetrotting

Categories: Global Mindset, GlobeSmart

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.

Tipping and Other Tips to Keep in Mind While Traveling Abroad

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:

  • Be sure that passports will not expire during your trip. Note that the process of renewing or getting a new passport can take many weeks. Keep in mind that some countries require that your passport be valid up to six months after the last day of your trip.
  • Find out ahead of time whether, and to what extent, your credit cards and bank cards will be usable in your destination country. Credit cards and ATM cards generally offer better exchange rates than hotels or banks, even with a transaction charge.
  • Study maps and figure out your route before venturing out. Walk with purpose, as if you know where you are going. It is advisable to try not to stand out as being an obvious tourist, as tourists are often targeted by thieves.

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:

London, United Kingdom

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.

Typical Gestures:

  • British people are comfortable with more than an arm’s length of space between them.
  • Make sure your facial expressions and gestures are reserved.
  • Note that eye contact may be sporadic and is not always sustained.
  • Maintain correct posture and poise.
  • If indicating “two” with your index and middle fingers, keep your fingers together — making a “V” with the palm toward the body is an obscene gesture.

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.

Paris, France

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.

Typical Gestures:

  • A double kiss, used as a form of greeting, is usually done by kissing the right cheek and then the left; in practice, many touch cheeks instead of using their lips.
  • Putting hands, palm up, in front of the chest and shrugging means “I don’t know” or “I am not responsible.”
  • The French indicate numbers beginning with the thumb. “Two” is indicated by raising the thumb and index finger. Raising one’s index finger to indicate “one” may be misunderstood to mean “two.”

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.

Rome, Italy

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:

  • Placing your hand on your stomach (it can mean that you do not like someone).
  • Extending your index and little finger at someone. This gesture is meant to mimic the devil’s horns and is a way of wishing a person bad luck.
  • Avoid making the same gesture with your palm and fingers upturned, which is very offensive.
  • The same hand gesture applied to the forehead implies that the person’s spouse is unfaithful.
  • Slapping your raised arm above the elbow and thumbing your nose.
  • Stroking one’s fingertips under the chin, then thrusting them forward is a sign of defiance or derision, and while not necessarily obscene, it should be avoided in order to avoid giving the wrong impression.

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.

Frankfurt, Germany

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:

  • A raised hand with the index finger extended is used to get someone’s attention.
  • Holding the fingers next to one’s head and turning the hand as if rotating a screwdriver is a strong gesture indicating that someone is crazy — sometimes used on the autobahn to comment on others’ driving skills. The use of this gesture is not recommended for foreigners.
  • When entering a room, the eldest or highest-ranking person generally enters first.

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.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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:

  • Avoid standing with your hands in your pockets, and take care not to leave your left hand in your pocket while shaking hands with your right.
  • Bending one’s arm and tapping the underside of the elbow is a way of accusing someone of being unreliable.
  • To indicate that someone is cheap or miserly, a Dutch person may glide his or her forefinger down the bridge of their nose a few times.
  • Stroking one’s chin between thumb and forefinger is a way of indicating that someone’s story is an old one.

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.

Slow Down. Unwind. Switch Off. Immerse.

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, explore GlobeSmart.

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