When we travel we are forced out of our comfort zones and into an exploration of the new. This is what I love about travel. We go into a trip expecting to be wowed by exotic foods, romantic languages, stunning landscapes, and cultural exchanges. It’s easy to forget about the small “adventures” we’ll come across. However, it can be the small adventures (aka surprises) that catch us off-guard.

Here are a few common “surprises” we hear from North American travelers experiencing European hotels for the first time (or the first time in a while):

1.     Maybe the first thing you’ll notice upon landing across the pond is that proportions are smaller. Generally, cars are miniature, extra-large coffee cup sizes do not exist, and this carries into the scale of your hotel rooms and washrooms.


2.     It’s common that a “double” bed will be two twin beds pushed together. If this is not to your liking, hotel staff will be happy to help separate the beds, depending on your preferred arrangement.

3.     You’ll notice bedding will almost exclusively consist of a fitted sheet on the mattress and a duvet; a top (flat) sheet is very rare. One travel hack is to remove the duvet from the cover and use this sheet-like cover as a top sheet!



4.     Adjusting shower/bath faucets for the right temperature is always a bit of a learning curve at each new hotel property; don’t be shy to ask for tips from the hotel staff if you have any trouble getting the water just right!

5.     Washcloths are not common in European hotels. If you like to use a washcloth as part of your daily routine, pack your own.

6.     Often, hotel bathtubs do not use a shower curtain, rather they have a small glass panel to help protect from water overflow. We hear guests exclaim that they “wash the bathroom floor” with every shower. Please be very careful when stepping out of the tub onto a wet floor!

7.     Keeping with the theme that things are smaller in Europe, the showers and tubs are frequently smaller than we have at home. (In Italy and France this is especially common.) Remember, much of the architecture is hundreds of years old and the hotel is striking a balance between preservation and modern use.



8.     You might need to insert a keycard into a slot just inside your hotel room door to activate the power in the room. This is in an effort to conserve energy and prevent lights and appliances from being left on while the room is not occupied.

9.     Be mindful of the outlet adapter and voltage converter – North American hair dryers work on a lower voltage than in Europe and you can easily fry your appliance. Most gadgets work on either, but check your plug for details.

10.  Often an outlet will have a switch beside the plug – make sure your switch is “on” to turn on power to the outlet.


11.  On-site fitness facilities are a common hotel inclusion in North America, but in most European destinations an on-site gym is a novelty.

12.  You might find your hotel room provides an in-room electric tea kettle with a selection of teas and instant coffee (don’t expect to find a Keurig or filtered coffee pot in your hotel room).



13. In most European countries a common breakfast includes yogurt and muesli, fruit, pastries, jam, cold cuts, cheese and bread, cold cereal, and boiled eggs. In the UK, they will likely add blood pudding, fried eggs, and pan-seared tomatoes to the spread.

14.  That said, many European hotels in major cities are accommodating the expectations of their North American guests with scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon or sausage, potatoes, filtered coffee, etc.

15.  Remember the mantra, “when in Rome” and try something you might not have for breakfast at home.

Overall, keeping a positive and open attitude will go a long way.


  • Navigating daily life in a new place with different customs and infrastructure is an adventure!
  • Find the fun in the learning process; rediscover that curiosity for trying something new!

Consider Pico Iyer’s (my personal favorite travel writer) words on travel:

Travel is not really about leaving our homes, but leaving our habits.”

-Pico Iyer

“Visiting a new town is like having a conversation. Places ask questions of you just as searchingly as you question them. And, as in any conversation, it helps to listen with an open mind, so you can be led somewhere unexpected. The more you leave assumptions at home, I’ve found, the better you can hear whatever it is that a destination is trying to say to you.”

-Pico Iyer

-Amelia Chandler, Music Contact International Tour Manager


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