Bad things about Europe

When the Europeans get things wrong – from zebra crossings, to table service in bars, smoking and sparkling water.

On the whole, I’m all for the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” approach. Obviously, that doesn’t extend to wearing togas, having vomit parties and football violence, but generally it’s a good rule to live by. Vive la difference, and embrace the cultural differences, I say.

But there are certain differences that, try as I might to have an open mind, I just can’t take to. So instead of being all magnanimous about it, I’ll just be crushingly immature and say that, in the following instances, Europeans are just WRONG.

Zebra crossings

What is the point of a crossing if the pedestrian doesn’t have right of way, and can’t create a gap in the traffic by waiting at it? In Europe, zebra crossings are just a complete waste of white paint.


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The rules dictate that the cars should stop if you’re already on the crossing as they approach. Obviously, this means that trying to cross a road is a nervous game of chicken, with you never quite sure whether your brave gamble to step out into traffic could be your last.

Sparkling water

You’re hot, you’re sweaty, you’re thirsty. You’re gasping for refreshment and thus buy a bottle of water. You open it, gulp it down and… UGH! It’s that horrible fizzy crap.

Europeans love sparkling water. It’s their one major defect, and sparklingly revolting is often the standard option. In fact, in Slovakia, it’s virtually impossible to find a bottle of still water – you get lightly sparkling if you’re lucky.

I can’t think of any drink less refreshing than carbonated water, and I struggle to think of any less pleasant to taste. Learning the phrase “without bubbles/ gas” is tremendously important for your mental health.


Is there anyone out there that honestly believes the world was a better place when you spent a night out drowned in a fog of smoke? Well, for those getting all nostalgic, go to Germany and then head east. You can get the chance to absolutely stink and be unable to wear the same clothes again. The smoking ban in public places is slowly creeping in across the continent, but the emphasis is on the word “slowly”.

Table service in bars

This bugbear probably reveals more about my Anglo-Saxon temperament and drinking problems than continental Europe’s failings. But I don’t care. I’m right and they’re wrong. When I go out for a drink, I want to be able to get it fairly quickly – that’s why I’ll walk to the bar and ask for it.

I most certainly don’t want to spend half an hour whimpering and trying to get a waiter’s attention.

Alas, the golden rule is that the thirstier you are, the more crucifyingly slow the service will be.

Do you agree with our European Insider? Or do you have your own bugbears about life and travelling in Europe? Share your thoughts below.

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