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Open to Advice

Bob
Bob

December 16th, 2006, 12:54 am #1

My younger son leaves U.S. for study in Europe on 1-2-07. Dad's feelings are mixed: Its a great opportunity for him to learn and grow . . . yet I worry about him too. He and I agree that you make the most of the experience: When he gets time to travel, he hops a train or ferry and sees as much of Europe as he can in the four months he is there. He has a buddy who is going on the same foreign study, so they can be safer traveling and exploring together.

My questions: I have never been to Europe and don't know what to expect, what things to be wary of and suggestions for good moves. My inclination is to tell my son and his friend to not make it apparent that they are American, as some people might hold that against them (for the Iraq situation, for support of Isreal, or just because). What places are the "can't miss seeing" for young men in Europe for the first time and extended stay? (btw, my son has two friends in the U.S. Navy who have been stationed in Italy for more than a year -- he can stay with these friends when he visits them).

I welcome any advice on what I should tell my son to do or to avoid doing. Marseil, Europeman or anyone who can speak from experience is especially welcome to respond. Thank You.
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Marseil
Marseil

December 16th, 2006, 2:07 pm #2

Bob,

I will try to reassure you.

You don't tell us in which country your son is going. Europe is maybe more diverse than the Americas put together (from Alaska to Cape Horn). So, don't hesitate to give more details, and I'll be more specific.

This said, there are also some things in common:
. there is a lot less weapons in Europe than in the US. Therefore, the risk of being killed by any crazy guy with a gun, is a lot less prevalent here.
. petty crime (pickpocketing, robberies, burglary, ...) is more common than in most places in the US. The consequence is that your son should avoid showing big amounts of cash, very obvious jewellery, and so on. It is also better, everywhere, not to look like a lost tourist.
. people expect consideration: if you son goes to a non English-speaking country (better for his experience and education), he should learn at least a few words of the local language. Saying hello and a few words in the local language will make people a lot more receptive and friendly when he asks if they can speak English.
. don't panic on langauge issues, many young peolpe speak English. Of course, this varies country by country.
. your son should not try to pay in dollars but in local currency, be it EUR, GBP, SEK, DKK or others.... Paying in dollars will always make people unhappy, and very often resutl in overcharging.
. to travel easily around, your son should consider a Eurail pass or an Interrail card. Do check online about conditions.
. go to bars, restaurants, talk with people, have fun. Avoid McDonalds, and Burger King, they are not the places to discover Europe.
. getting back to your questions, there is no anti-Americanism against individuals. Your son can say he is American and be very safe. It will very often open interesting conversations, and he will realize a lot more Europeans have traveled to the US than Americans having traveled in Europe.
. on the other hand, I don't think it is a good idea for your son to walk around with a 10 meters-wide (30 feet) American flag with banners saying "support our troops", or "I'm very supportive of Bush's war in Iraq"
. staying on a US military base in Italy might be fun, but is definitely not the best way to meet the Italians

Suggestions of places to go is a tough question. Four month is far from being enough to have a glimpse of Europe. I'll dare and give suggestions, more in a geographical order than in a preference order):
. Lisbon, its trams, its bars, and codfish
. Madrid, its architecture and its nightlife
. Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, for the mix muslim-catholic monuments
. Barcelona, architecure, nightlife, landscape, energy
. Bordeaux, and les Landes, for the architecure in the city, the endless beaches, and, of course, the wine
. Britanny, for the landscape, and climate
. Normandy too, including Roouien and its gothinc cathedral and churches
. Paris, of course, for the architecture, the museums, the nightlife, and the general atmosphere
. Nancy and Strasbourg, clsoe to each other and very different
. French mediterranean coast, from the Spanish border to the Italian border, with very different landscapes, and ways of living. The riviera may be the most well know area but is too urbanized to my taste.
. Geneva, Lausanne and Bern, to discover what is Switzerland, and the disticntive culture of the Swiss
. Northern Italy, the lakes area, the Alps
. Firenze, Pisa, Venezia and all Italian cities for barocco palaces, and thousands of churches
. Roma, for the combination between antiquity and all periods until now
. Slovenia, to realize that a small country can have a lot of interesting things. Ljubljana is a very nice small city too.
. Many poeple say Sarajevo and Dubrovnik are nice places, but I've not been there
. Greece, gloablly for the antiquity. Athens, of course, but also Olympia, Dlephes, and evrywhere else.
. The Greek islands too, for the variety of landscapes
. Istanbul, for the place where East and West meet
. Budapest, for its architecture, the Hugarian language, and the hot bath culture
. Wien, for barocco buildings, pastries,
. Prag, for the whole old city, and the Charles bridge, ...
. Warsaw, although most of the the city has been rebuilt after WWII
. Krakow for the cult of saint John Paul II, and Auschwitz too
. Gdansk for the cult of saint Lech Walesa
. Vilnius, for the architecture and the small city feeling
. Riga, for its city atmosphere, and its mix of influences
. Tallinn, for the city, and its proximity to FInalnd and Russia
. Saint Petersbourg, to experiencea planned xviiith city, and its transition to the xxist century
. Moscow, of course (although I haven't been there for yeas)
. Helsinki, where people are the Mediterranean of the Nordics
. Lappland, northern FInland
. Stockholm, a large city, and capital of the North
. Oslo, a small city
. Northern Norway, for the fjords, and the impressive landscape
. Copenhagen, struggling with Stockholm to be the most attractive place in the area
. Hamburg, the big port of the North
. Berlin, of course, for the feeling of a booming city along with the combiantion of architecture of xixth century, nazi city planning, and remnants of the Wall
. Amsterdam, its canals, its nightlife, its coffee shops
. Bruges, Gand and Antwerpen for their architecture, and sense of fun of the Belgians
. Brussels, for the Belgians, and for meeting all other Europenasin a single place
. London, for the museums, the architecture (from ancient times to xxith century), the nightlife, ... and language easiness
. Wales for the landscape, and the old castles
. Scotland for the same reasons

I think I must have forgotten many places in the above list..... Leaving in January, he will also be able to go skiing, in the Alps (France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia), in the Pyrenees (France, Spain), or elsewhere....

A last suggestion for you: why don't you take the opportunity of having your son in Europe for a while to go and visit him for a week or two. You will eb able to trvael around to and to discover by yourself.

And a last suggestion for your son: call your father, he worries!


Marseil.
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Eric UK
Eric UK

December 16th, 2006, 6:37 pm #3

Marseil has given an excellent review of places to go and see and other general guidance. The main advice is - don't be scared, in general people are friendly and not anti-American on a person to person level. We do, of course shrink back from the archetypal loud and brash "yank", but I have never met anyone like that myself, except, perhaps, in the USA. His advice about not looking like a lost tourist (openly studying a guide book/map) applies to all of us in any major city.

Incidentally, Marseil didn't mention Marseille, which I understand is also an interesting place. I have passed through there from the airport (on a business trip) and would like to see more of it myself.

I also support Marseil's advice for you to try to join your son and see the "old world".

One last point regarding Hamburg, it is certainly a port city, but it is also a beautiful city. When I first went there I expected a dismal industrial looking place and was immensely surprised to find the opposite. I then lived there for 2 years.
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Marseil
Marseil

December 16th, 2006, 10:50 pm #4

Yes, I did not mention Marseille, to avoid appearing to chauvinistic. Indeed I like very much the place I live because of its balance between a big city and the beach aspect.

If you like Hambourg, and ports in general, you're very welcome to come and visit here!

Marseil.
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Eric UK
Eric UK

December 17th, 2006, 3:03 pm #5

The coast to the east of Marseille is very attractive too. I have been as far as La Ciotat by road and traveled from Nice westwards by train - I love it. Don't know what the coastline is like to the west though. Vive la France.
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Europeman
Europeman

December 17th, 2006, 5:22 pm #6

My younger son leaves U.S. for study in Europe on 1-2-07. Dad's feelings are mixed: Its a great opportunity for him to learn and grow . . . yet I worry about him too. He and I agree that you make the most of the experience: When he gets time to travel, he hops a train or ferry and sees as much of Europe as he can in the four months he is there. He has a buddy who is going on the same foreign study, so they can be safer traveling and exploring together.

My questions: I have never been to Europe and don't know what to expect, what things to be wary of and suggestions for good moves. My inclination is to tell my son and his friend to not make it apparent that they are American, as some people might hold that against them (for the Iraq situation, for support of Isreal, or just because). What places are the "can't miss seeing" for young men in Europe for the first time and extended stay? (btw, my son has two friends in the U.S. Navy who have been stationed in Italy for more than a year -- he can stay with these friends when he visits them).

I welcome any advice on what I should tell my son to do or to avoid doing. Marseil, Europeman or anyone who can speak from experience is especially welcome to respond. Thank You.
Bob,

I had no time to answer yesterday, and I think that Marseil has said the essentials of what I was thinking of.
There is no particular safety issue for a young american, and he will be well accepted as long he does not display too much "I love GWB".

Being two to travel together is certainly more practical and enjoyable for them, but I would not take the "safety" argument. It may be more difficult to be low profile being two.

About the languages, while it's always excellent to say "Thank You" in the local language - and "Hello!" makes it better than "Hi!" - the need for the local language is bigger in the large single-language countries, mainly France and Germany, then Italy, Spain, and even the UK (it's not exactly the same English in Texas and Oxford...). In smaller countries, the knowledge of "Continental English" is quite good, particularly in cities with important international activities.

We may be more specific if you tell us which will be his local home base. I'm afraid that with the "essentials to see" list of Marseil, he will need 4 years... His age and kind of studies may help too.

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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

December 17th, 2006, 6:09 pm #7

There's not much "I love GWB" being displayed even here now!
75% of Americans have come around to how I felt five years ago.
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Bob
Bob

December 18th, 2006, 10:26 pm #8

Bob,

I will try to reassure you.

You don't tell us in which country your son is going. Europe is maybe more diverse than the Americas put together (from Alaska to Cape Horn). So, don't hesitate to give more details, and I'll be more specific.

This said, there are also some things in common:
. there is a lot less weapons in Europe than in the US. Therefore, the risk of being killed by any crazy guy with a gun, is a lot less prevalent here.
. petty crime (pickpocketing, robberies, burglary, ...) is more common than in most places in the US. The consequence is that your son should avoid showing big amounts of cash, very obvious jewellery, and so on. It is also better, everywhere, not to look like a lost tourist.
. people expect consideration: if you son goes to a non English-speaking country (better for his experience and education), he should learn at least a few words of the local language. Saying hello and a few words in the local language will make people a lot more receptive and friendly when he asks if they can speak English.
. don't panic on langauge issues, many young peolpe speak English. Of course, this varies country by country.
. your son should not try to pay in dollars but in local currency, be it EUR, GBP, SEK, DKK or others.... Paying in dollars will always make people unhappy, and very often resutl in overcharging.
. to travel easily around, your son should consider a Eurail pass or an Interrail card. Do check online about conditions.
. go to bars, restaurants, talk with people, have fun. Avoid McDonalds, and Burger King, they are not the places to discover Europe.
. getting back to your questions, there is no anti-Americanism against individuals. Your son can say he is American and be very safe. It will very often open interesting conversations, and he will realize a lot more Europeans have traveled to the US than Americans having traveled in Europe.
. on the other hand, I don't think it is a good idea for your son to walk around with a 10 meters-wide (30 feet) American flag with banners saying "support our troops", or "I'm very supportive of Bush's war in Iraq"
. staying on a US military base in Italy might be fun, but is definitely not the best way to meet the Italians

Suggestions of places to go is a tough question. Four month is far from being enough to have a glimpse of Europe. I'll dare and give suggestions, more in a geographical order than in a preference order):
. Lisbon, its trams, its bars, and codfish
. Madrid, its architecture and its nightlife
. Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, for the mix muslim-catholic monuments
. Barcelona, architecure, nightlife, landscape, energy
. Bordeaux, and les Landes, for the architecure in the city, the endless beaches, and, of course, the wine
. Britanny, for the landscape, and climate
. Normandy too, including Roouien and its gothinc cathedral and churches
. Paris, of course, for the architecture, the museums, the nightlife, and the general atmosphere
. Nancy and Strasbourg, clsoe to each other and very different
. French mediterranean coast, from the Spanish border to the Italian border, with very different landscapes, and ways of living. The riviera may be the most well know area but is too urbanized to my taste.
. Geneva, Lausanne and Bern, to discover what is Switzerland, and the disticntive culture of the Swiss
. Northern Italy, the lakes area, the Alps
. Firenze, Pisa, Venezia and all Italian cities for barocco palaces, and thousands of churches
. Roma, for the combination between antiquity and all periods until now
. Slovenia, to realize that a small country can have a lot of interesting things. Ljubljana is a very nice small city too.
. Many poeple say Sarajevo and Dubrovnik are nice places, but I've not been there
. Greece, gloablly for the antiquity. Athens, of course, but also Olympia, Dlephes, and evrywhere else.
. The Greek islands too, for the variety of landscapes
. Istanbul, for the place where East and West meet
. Budapest, for its architecture, the Hugarian language, and the hot bath culture
. Wien, for barocco buildings, pastries,
. Prag, for the whole old city, and the Charles bridge, ...
. Warsaw, although most of the the city has been rebuilt after WWII
. Krakow for the cult of saint John Paul II, and Auschwitz too
. Gdansk for the cult of saint Lech Walesa
. Vilnius, for the architecture and the small city feeling
. Riga, for its city atmosphere, and its mix of influences
. Tallinn, for the city, and its proximity to FInalnd and Russia
. Saint Petersbourg, to experiencea planned xviiith city, and its transition to the xxist century
. Moscow, of course (although I haven't been there for yeas)
. Helsinki, where people are the Mediterranean of the Nordics
. Lappland, northern FInland
. Stockholm, a large city, and capital of the North
. Oslo, a small city
. Northern Norway, for the fjords, and the impressive landscape
. Copenhagen, struggling with Stockholm to be the most attractive place in the area
. Hamburg, the big port of the North
. Berlin, of course, for the feeling of a booming city along with the combiantion of architecture of xixth century, nazi city planning, and remnants of the Wall
. Amsterdam, its canals, its nightlife, its coffee shops
. Bruges, Gand and Antwerpen for their architecture, and sense of fun of the Belgians
. Brussels, for the Belgians, and for meeting all other Europenasin a single place
. London, for the museums, the architecture (from ancient times to xxith century), the nightlife, ... and language easiness
. Wales for the landscape, and the old castles
. Scotland for the same reasons

I think I must have forgotten many places in the above list..... Leaving in January, he will also be able to go skiing, in the Alps (France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia), in the Pyrenees (France, Spain), or elsewhere....

A last suggestion for you: why don't you take the opportunity of having your son in Europe for a while to go and visit him for a week or two. You will eb able to trvael around to and to discover by yourself.

And a last suggestion for your son: call your father, he worries!


Marseil.
My son is 19 y/o. He will be studying at the University of Pau in Pau, France. His classes are French language, Art History and French Economics. As for language usage, he has taken 4 years of French instruction here (took one year of German and can say basic things in Greek, due to a friend whose parents hail from Cyprus) and is interested in one day becoming an interpretor/translator, perhaps for the United Nations or some other international organization. I will put him on now to say "Hello" and whatever he wishes (No curse words please, Joseph!):

**********************

Bonjour tous mondes! Je m'appelle Joe et j'etuderai en France a 2 janvier de 27 avril. J'aimerais apprendre la francais beaucoup de mieux! Je prennais francais au lycee et encore a mon universite. Maintenant Je commencerai les classes a 8 janvier. J'habiterai avec un famille francais et J'espere faire des amis francais qui m'aiderai avecla langue par parlant en francais seulement. Merci beaucoup a tous gens qui m'a donne avis environ mon etudes etrange.

Si vous ne comprenez pas que ja'i dit ensuite je recrirai en anglais:

Hello everyone! My name is Joe and I will be studying in France from January 2nd til April 27. I would really like to become more proficient in the language. I have taken classes in high school and again in college. I will be starting classes January 8th. I will be living with a French family and I hope to make some French friends that will help me with my language skills by speaking only in French. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice about my trip studying abroad.
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Marseil
Marseil

December 25th, 2006, 8:44 pm #9

Very good!

I hope your son will have fun in Pau. This may not be the easiest place to start from to travel around..... but there are still many options....

Any chance you'd come and travel around with your son during these four months?

Marseil.
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Marseil
Marseil

December 25th, 2006, 8:52 pm #10

My son is 19 y/o. He will be studying at the University of Pau in Pau, France. His classes are French language, Art History and French Economics. As for language usage, he has taken 4 years of French instruction here (took one year of German and can say basic things in Greek, due to a friend whose parents hail from Cyprus) and is interested in one day becoming an interpretor/translator, perhaps for the United Nations or some other international organization. I will put him on now to say "Hello" and whatever he wishes (No curse words please, Joseph!):

**********************

Bonjour tous mondes! Je m'appelle Joe et j'etuderai en France a 2 janvier de 27 avril. J'aimerais apprendre la francais beaucoup de mieux! Je prennais francais au lycee et encore a mon universite. Maintenant Je commencerai les classes a 8 janvier. J'habiterai avec un famille francais et J'espere faire des amis francais qui m'aiderai avecla langue par parlant en francais seulement. Merci beaucoup a tous gens qui m'a donne avis environ mon etudes etrange.

Si vous ne comprenez pas que ja'i dit ensuite je recrirai en anglais:

Hello everyone! My name is Joe and I will be studying in France from January 2nd til April 27. I would really like to become more proficient in the language. I have taken classes in high school and again in college. I will be starting classes January 8th. I will be living with a French family and I hope to make some French friends that will help me with my language skills by speaking only in French. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice about my trip studying abroad.
Have fun in Pau.

Within easy reach, you can go to:
. ski in the Pyrenees
. hike in the Pyrenees
. Barcelona
. Toulouse, la ville rose!
. Bordeaux
. Biarritz, and Bayonne
. Nude beacxhes in les Landes
. Paris (easier to fly)
. Montpellier
. London (direct flights)
. Amsterdam (direct flights too)

Have fun....

Just to help you work on your French, here is a corrected verison fo what you wrote:

Bonjour tous le monde ! Je m'appelle Joe et j'etudierai en France du 2 janvier au 27 avril. J'aimerais apprendre mieux le francais ! J'ai appris le francais au lycee et aussi a l'universite. Maintenant, je commencerai les cours le 8 janvier. J'habiterai avec une famille francaise et j'espere avoir des amis francais qui m'aideront pour la langue en me parlant en francais seulement. Merci beaucoup a tous ceux qui m'ont donne leur avis sur mes etudes l'etranger.

Enjoy your time here!

Marseil.
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