Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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What I’ve Learned

Updated on 10/20/07

(This a living document that will be updated often)

Recently, my buddy Dave asked me what I’ve learned during my trek through Europe. Upon reflection I had accumulated a huge collection of unspoken, every-day kernels of European wisdom that have become so ordinary and customary that I had already begun to take them for granted as common knowledge. I started to make a list and it took on a life of its own. I’d like to share this knowledge with you now.

· 'Freelancing' doesn't mean people are gonna give you free stuff.
· Immigration officials in the UK do not like to hear the phrase "Well, technically I'm homeless."
· Having a decent grasp on Spanish will allow you to successfully wing it on occasion when trying to speak Romanian, with one very key exception; in Spanish, “muy” means “very.” In Romanian “mui” is the infinitive of “to give a blowjob.”
· Two words that you don’t want to see, hear or even imagine side-by-side; “Extra-large” and “thong.”
· Do not skip rocks into the sea, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not sneeze, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not pee, while holding a plastic cup of wine (ladies excluded).
· Do not run, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not watch the movie “The Ring,” while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not jump for joy, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not jump for thrown keys, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not jump for more wine, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not walk backwards, at night, on uneven beach, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Do not pan cook, with extra grease, shirtless, while holding a plastic cup of wine (once again, obviously, ladies excluded).
· Do not wear the same light blue shirt that you spill wine on, without fail, every single time you wear it, for eight months straight, while holding a plastic cup of wine.
· Spanish women smoke so ferociously and tan so aggressively that by the time they are 28, their faces and bodies are so ragged and burned out that they appear to be in their 40s, with a voice that only a coalminer could love.
· Due to the aforementioned unappealing and over-used state of the Spanish women in their late 20s and older, the social acceptance of a man in his 40s or 50s dating a girl in her late teens is so widespread that these relationships are casually depicted in everyday scenes, like major car commercials.
· Cute example of ancient laws still in effect in York, England; You can legally shoot a Scotsman with a longbow from the city walls, provided you spot him approaching on horseback.
· This just in; DO NOT even think of drinking and driving in Bulgaria! The first time you get caught, you go to prison for a loooong time. The second time you get caught, they execute you… by firing squad. Whoa!!
· In clothing optional areas, inevitably it is the people that you would least like to see naked that go the distance. Double goes for Germany.
· By and large, the Spanish do not understand the concept of a “garbage can.”
· Fortunately, Spain has a fantastically robust street cleaning system.
· (Not necessarily a European lesson, but nevertheless…) Do not playfully spray canned, pressurized air on yourself in an effort to be cute. It gets really cold, really fast. Also, do not ever shake the can before using it. Trust me.
· Check to make sure that your very expensive digital camera with numerous delicate moving parts is not in your day-bag before you go to the beach.
· If you ever wanted to know what a sea urchin tastes like, go up to the water line on any beach, get on your knees and lick the ground.
· Never eat at a restaurant that has pictures of its dishes out in front or that is located within two blocks of any major tourist site.
· I was shocked by how many Australians knew of Minneapolis, until I learned that it was only because of fricking “Beverly Hills 90210.”
· In Italy “five minutes” means an hour.
· Italian deodorant is detrimental to the effort of fighting body odor.
· If you see a huge group of tourists under the age of 50 all heading for the same place, check it out. It might be cool.
· Never take directions from a drunk person.
· I don’t care what nationality you are, men should never, ever wear thongs.
· No matter what continent, country or city you visit, bus drivers are all rude, anti-social, constipated dickheads.
· There’s always room for wine.
· Just when you think that skirts can’t get any shorter, they do.
· Money belts make you look fat.
· Being drunk at 10:00 the morning in Germany is socially acceptable.
· A “Flying Buttress” is not a WWF, female wrestling move.
· Amsterdam prostitutes do not like to have their pictures taken.
· If you’re feeling lucky, public transport can be taken for free in Genoa, Verona, Venice, Stockholm, Berlin, Salzburg, Prague, The Hague and Brussels (Metro only).
· “Omelet” is a relative term.
· None of the elevators in the Haarlem (The Netherlands) train station work.
· If you find yourself trapped in an elevator in the Haarlem train station, five minutes before your train is scheduled to leave, bashing the control panel with your fist out of frustration will only succeed in drawing your own blood.
· No matter what terrible thing has just happened, if your mom asks you how you are doing, just say “fine.”
· When you are in a crowded, loud bar, if you can hear one voice above all of the others, it’s either an American or an Italian.
· Shower rooms in certain parts of Denmark are unisex.
· If someone asks you if you are younger than 26 and qualify for a student discount, just say “yes.” They never check.
· If you ask someone where the “bathroom” is, they will either say that there isn’t one or you will be shown to the showers. Ask for the “toilet.”
· Time flies when you’re drunk.
· As a tourist, you can and will be busted for J-walking in Berlin.
· Unless it is the last stop on the line, regional trains only stop at each station for about 60 seconds.
· Be ready to get off your train the instant it comes to a complete stop or you will get an unexpected bonus ride to somewhere else.
· If your train starts moving away from your desired station before you have had a chance to clamor off of it, with supreme effort, you can throw yourself and your heavy bags off the train at speeds up to 10 MPH.
· You can get sun burned in the Arctic Circle.
· Edinburgh is pronounced “Eh-din-brah” by the Scottish.
· The English language seems to routinely ignore it’s own phonetic rules.
· If you’re riding on a bus, metro or tram and everyone suddenly gets off at the same stop, no matter how sure you are that you know what you’re doing, follow them. They know something that you don’t.
· If you get trapped on a tram in Prague that abruptly empties and heads into the garage, the driver cannot or will pretend to not be able to stop and let you out until you are deep into the garage.
· If, while in a public place in Norway, you go three minutes without hearing a cell phone ring, the entire Norwegian cellular network has crashed.
· Country where you will do your most drinking: Spain
· Country where you will shatter your travel budget: Norway
· Country where you are most likely to get laid: Iceland
· Country with the best public transport: Norway
· Country that has such a bizarre computer keyboard configuration that it will actually cause nightmares: Luxembourg
· City with the cheapest transport: Prague (totally free, if you have the cojones. Otherwise a mere 25 cents)
· Even cheap wine in Europe is still way better than half the stuff they feed us in the States.
· Nothing wilts a bad mood like a chocolate gelato.
· Never trust anything a Berliner tells you, not even “hello.”
· Never buy a youth hostel breakfast. If it comes with the price of the bed, fine, otherwise you can get a much more satisfying breakfast at the grocery store for half the price.
· When you’re on the road, it’s almost impossible to look good all of the time, but you can at least endeavor to not look funny most of the time.
· European Mars Bar = American Milky Way
· European Milky Way = American Three Musketeers
· They don’t have a candy bar called “Three Musketeers” in Europe
· At 33, you are considered to be a geriatric on the backpacker circuit.
· If you buy and wear a t-shirt printed with the name of the city that you’re visiting before you have returned home you are a geek.

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©Leif Pettersen 2012