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If you are heading off on a family holiday to Europe you must know that the best way to discover the local gems, immerse yourself in the culture and meet the most incredible people is to act like a local. Fortunately, our friends at language learning app Babbel (www.babbel.com), shared their best tips on the things you shouldn’t do in Rome, Berlin, Barcelona and Paris in order to blend in with the locals:
· Learn some of the lingo
Italians are very friendly and are always happy to help you if you ask for directions or advice. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that all Italians speak English. Learning a few key phrases will get you a long way with the locals, and if you really want to blend in, make sure to work on your pronunciation – it’s grazie and scusa will sound more like ‘scuzie’! PS: gesticulating and being passionate about what you are saying will help you to blend in even further!
· Cappuccinos are for breakfast only
Yes, you read that right. In Italy, a typical breakfast often consists of a cappuccino and a delicious pastry. However, locals will stop ordering cappuccinos after 11am. If you fancy a coffee after this, go for an espresso or an Americano, as having milk in your coffee in the afternoon is considered a bit of a faux pas. Another piece of advice – don’t drink your coffee on-the-go, it is something Italians take their time over and enjoy!
· To tip or not to tip?
While in America tipping is a must, the rules are a bit more vague when it comes to Rome. Your bill will usually come with a servizio, which means that service is included, however, most tourists will still tip. When in Rome, ‘do as the Romans do’ and skip tipping if you want to blend in with the locals.
· Don’t hail a taxi
We might be used to hailing a taxi when we travel to most foreign cities. However, in Italy, if you try and hail a taxi in the middle of the street, the most that you will get is a look full of irony – if you want a taxi, you will have to get yourself to a taxi stand.
· Saying hi
Berlin is a hugely international city, with many nationalities and cultures in every corner of the city. While in some European cities meeting someone new means a handshake, a hug or a kiss or two on the cheek, Berliners don’t have one standard greeting. However, you can’t go wrong with a handshake, a na (typical German greeting) and a wie geht’s? which means ‘how are you?’
· Getting around
When in Berlin, always remember that it is a bicycle-friendly city, with dedicated cycling lanes and you will not be wise to stand waiting in one of these. Similarly, Berliners never jaywalk, instead always waiting for the green light before crossing (you will get grumpy looks from the locals if you don’t do this, especially if their kids are with them!)
· Drop by the Späti
These small shops are dotted all over the city and they sell all sorts of things, from beer and coffee, through to newspapers and various daily necessities. If you need something in Berlin and the nearest supermarkets are closed, chances are you will find what you need in a Spätkauf.
· The street food
If you are getting lost in Berlin and simply don’t want to stop for a sit-down meal, make sure to try the local street food, as it is absolutely delicious! However, don’t be fooled into ordering a currywurst – the locals don’t eat them and it’s a bit of a culinary joke to play on the tourists!
· Know your coffee
If you want to blend in with the locals, then it is important that you know your coffee, must as we mentioned above in discussing Rome. Order yourself a un café, preferably without any additions – this is an espresso, the go-to for most Parisians. If you can’t handle the bitter drink without a dash of milk then ask for a noisette, which is an espresso with a little bit of milk.
· Hide the map and be nonchalant
Nothing screams tourist more than walking around the city holding a map. Instead, get lost in the city like a true flâneur, meaning to ‘wander’ or ‘saunter’. Parisians are very relaxed and will never stare at something in wander and amazement, simply saying that it is sympa (short for sympatique and meaning nice). Not amazing, not wonderful, just… nice.
· No croissant on a weekday
While croissants are eponymous with France and Paris, they are much more of a weekend breakfast food, as opposed to something you eat daily on the way to work. If you want to blend in, grab yourself a fresh baguette from the boulangerie (bakery) first thing in the morning. It is also likely that when you enter the boulangerie you will hear a booming bonjour! from somewhere in the shop, and you should always reply (even if you don’t quite see who said it!)
· The tapas and the paella
When in Barcelona, you must experience all the delicious food that the city has to offer. However, avoid having tapas for dinner, as it is typically a pre-meal snack for the Spaniards, while paella is a local dish for Valencia. If you want to try something more local, aim for Catalan food, such as esqueixada, a delicious and light salad, perfect for a lunchtime snack.
· Prepare for late nights
Barcelona in the summer can get extremely hot, making afternoon siestas a necessity. While you take a break to escape the scorching midday sun, you should really try and nap, as in Barcelona, the locals stay up late. So late in fact, that the typical dinner time is around 10pm and some of the clubs won’t even open until midnight.
· No food in La Ramblas, no cycling in the Gothic quarter
Surprising as this may seem, avoid eating in La Ramblas – you won’t find many locals even walking through it, let alone eating there if they can avoid it. Instead, head into the Gothic Quarter, which is not only absolutely stunning, but also has everything from delicious restaurants to great shops. However, if your chosen mode of transport is your bike, make sure to park it before entering the Gothic Quarter – the streets are narrow and it is much faster to walk!
The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.
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