International travel always requires a certain amount of deliberation: where you are going, how to get there, what to see etc. However, when traveling as a digital nomad, with a business to uphold whilst abroad, it can be especially confusing to know where to start. With that in mind, based on personal experience, here is your top 10 most important need-to-knows about traveling to Europe.
1. English is Commonly Spoken, but it pays to try the Local Language
With a complicated melting pot of dozens of different languages, Europeans naturally require some sort of lingua franca. Thankfully, English has taken hold in Europe as the language of diplomacy, and so most people (especially in Western Europe) will speak both their native language and English. However, it is considered rude in most countries to not at least try and communicate in the native tongue, so it is certainly worth trying to learn choice phrases, or trying to achieve a comfortable level of another European language; Europe will reward you for the effort.
2. Europe doesn’t come Cheap
We quickly realized this after landing in London; with Paris, Amsterdam, Munich and other major European cities quickly proving themselves to be similarly expensive. For example, Las Vegas, when compared to cities like London and Paris, comes it at around 30% cheaper over all. The further north you travel, too, into areas of Scandinavia prices climb as the temperature drops…
If your traveling to a state that is a member of the Schengen Area, then you can legally enter – visa free – and stay for a maximum of 90 days. Staying longer than this will open you up to hefty fines and a stamp branding you and ‘illegal immigrant’ on your passport: restricting you from visiting Europe for 5 years in some cases. Therefore, if you plan to stay longer, it is worth considering applying for a visa, (terms vary per country) such as a ‘self-employed’ visa in Germany that will allow you to stay for up to two years.
4. Public Transport
Whatever your reason for traveling – should you have sufficient time – it is always worth catching one of the incredibly efficient trains interlinking the European continent. In fact, you can also save masses of money, too, should you take advantage of the Eurail ticket options, which can be valid for up to a month. Should you be in a rush, though, budget airlines Ryanair and Easyjet offer incredibly cheap flight tickets from and too most European airports.
5. Electrical ports
Europe uses different plug sockets for electrical devices, and do not, under any circumstances, try to run your American components from these sockets without an adaptor. As the voltage between American appliances and their European counterparts varies, they can cause the electricity supply to short out; killing power in the building and even possibly damaging whatever is plugged into the wall. To avoid this, simply busy a universal power adaptor and use this at all times.
6. European Business Practice
If you are engaging in any business meetings or ‘official’ practices whilst in Europe, (especially continental Europe) then it is worth bearing in mind the difference in business practices when compared to what we have become used to in the States. In fact, we were especially surprised at the bluntness of German business practice – which can often be construed as rude. However, this is never the case: these countries just simply tend to veer towards a more no-nonsense approach, encouraging you to get down to business as quickly as possible.
7. Europeans don’t appreciate stereotypes
Europeans are very proud of their individual countries, and their unique home cities. This is not surprising, with so many of them through Europe. However, many do not appreciate the stereotypes that accompany this sort of thinking (such as all Germans being efficient and all Brits having bad teeth). It is important to enjoy and appreciate each distinctive area for what they are, and don’t render entire countries to one often misconceived characteristic. While most will take any comments in jest, they are best avoided – after all you do not want to look like that ignorant American, right?
Depending on your type of business, and the length your planning to stay in Europe, tax obligations will vary massively. However, in most cases, if your are not out of the US for more than 330 days of the year, then your tax return shall not change – unless you register as a citizen of another country, of course.
9. Cash is King
Unlike in the US – with the exception of the UK – much of continental Europe still follows the old way of transacting money, with cash remaining king. Therefore, ensure you bring plenty of cold, hard cash with you. Also, it is not as easy as you may assume to change money on the continent (again with the exception of the UK), with many banks often needing to order in currency for conversion. That being said, however, many larger stores, and certainly most (if not all) ATM’s will accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express should you need to take out more money while your there.
10. Get in touch with Ex-pats
Across Europe, even in the lesser-known parts of this diverse continent, American expats are common. These shall be able to help you know exactly what visa regulations you need to adhere to, and exactly what to expect as an American entrepreneur traveling in these un-native lands. Expatica offer great links with thousands of expats across Europe, and for German specific help, Toytown Germany offers a community of knowledgeable locals (many of which are American expatriates) always eager to lend a helping hand.