1. Tipping is different. (Look it up on line before you go). In France, for example, waiters make a decent wage. You leave a Euro or two after a meal – not a percentage of the bill. This changes the dining experience, since waiters get paid the same no matter how much you eat and drink or how quickly they turn the tables. They don’t rush to get your drink order, or try to force feed you desert. I don’t know if this is the chicken or the egg to dining being a much more leisurely affair.
2. There are a lot more small shops and they don’t all have the same things. So shopping is more of a gathering experience and less of a hunt (for those of you who’ve seen Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman) I don’t know if this is related, but French law forbids stores to have sales except for twice a year – January and July.
3. If you’re paying by credit card. Check with your card issuer to see if they charge for the currency conversion. Citbank charges 3%!! So before we went, we got Capital One cards which don’t charge anything. We’ll probably dump them after we pay off the bill because their commercials are so annoying.
Also most credit cards in Europe are smart cards with a chip imbedded. This limits the need to dial in each time you make a transaction. So they don’t take your card out of sight to scan it – they just bring a wireless gizmo to the table where they input your card and have you type your PIN. Then you don’t need to sign anything. But they also take American dumb cards and do make you sign the reciept.
4. Everything was really expensive. What cost a buck here cost a pound in London (that’s almost $2) and a euro ($1.35) in France. Gas was close to $8 a gallon. I don’t know how normal folks deal with it 52 weeks a year (as opposed to tourists who are there for 2). But I just learned that England has the 2nd best economy in Europe AND their minimum wage is close to $10 an hour. Maybe there’s a connection.
Most business people don’t like a high minimum wage because they see it as a cost. But there’s another side to it. No matter how low your costs, you can’t make money without a market. A higher minimum wage increases the amount your market has to spend on your goods. Henry Ford found this out when he doubled the prevailing pay rate to $5 a day. He had lower turn over costs and more people could afford to buy his cars.
5. Stereotypes put to death. Toilet paper in both cities was much better than I was led to believe. And the French were not rude to tourists. Many spoke English and most tried to. Menus in the tourist sections (which was almost everywhere) often had English subtitles.