Most Embarrassing Travel Moments: 2004
Part of the fun of travel is the ridiculous spots we find ourselves in due to a language barrier, cultural misunderstanding, or just bad luck. Do you dare to share your most embarrassing European travel moment?
Women using male toilets
yes it is fairly usual in all parts of Europe, that when the queue for the female toilets is really long and there's no-one waiting for the male ones, then women will use those ones - normally if you're with a group one person can warn any men wanting to enter (although to be honest European men don't seem to have a problem with the women doing this). In fact in Germany and Belgium I've frequently been shown into the male toilets in this situation by the attendant. It's just being pragmatic but I can see it might be shocking for non-Europeans.
UK Fri 12/17/2004
the double take
ok, about the uni bathrooms. There are segragated bathrooms at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. OR atleast we( my group) thought so. So we were standing in line, while the guy sgot to 'do their stuff'. Well, there was this group of snobby french girls (speaking from seeing them earilier, no tfrom stigmas placed on them!) What do they do? Walk right in to the men's bathroom (clearly marked).
I was dumbfounded, but what was really funny was this guy in his twenties from either Australia or New Zealand (from his accent), who went strollinf into the mens restroom. Well, we outside heard a yell of What the H**L!, and he came out , looked from the mens restroom door to the women's, looked at everyone, shrugged, and went back. Needless to say, everyone laughed. He was out before the girls and he and his friends purposely stayed until the girls had exited. Upon they exit, he and his friends starting laughing- at the girls! It was great, and then I and my group started to also. It was great fun, and the girls just stuck their noses in the air and went on their way. We were alerted by a matronly women(presumably french by accent) that it was "perfectly normal in France". but we were to far gone to listen to her.
Ok USA Mon 12/13/2004
My band took a trip to Europe and I overslept the morning of our performance. I grabed my uniform and ran to the bus. When we got there, it was a huge place... and no bathrooms!!! I had to change in view of everyone. Those guys had a blast! The worst part is that I had left my bra off to hurry with dressing... Only wearing thongs... very bad day.
Los Angeles, CA USA Tue 12/07/2004
I'm sure this has never happened to anyone else :). My group was heading to Vienna from Krakow by train when at 4:30 a.m. we arrived at the Czech/Austrian border. One individual in my group got up and tries to use the WC in the same car but the door was locked. He then went to the next car to use the WC. Before he is able to return to his original sleeping car, he notices that the car that he is in is pulling away from the other car. He now finds himself on his way to Prague with no shoes, coat, or luggage! To make a very long story short, after several phone calls between the porter/conductor on each train, he got off and was placed on another train which got him to Vienna about 4 hours later.
Austin, TX USA Sun 11/28/2004
Unisex toilet in Copenhagen
I am an American male and was visiting a university just outside of Copenhagen back in 1993 (when I was 23 years old). I met an attractive Danish brunette (age 21) student; contrary to popular opinion, not all Danes are blonde!
Cut to the chase. After chatting for a while, she said she had to go to the bathroom. I said I also had to go. We got to the bathroom and I assumed she would go into one room and I would use the other.I asked her where the men's room was. She nonchalantly told me to follow her "in here" (where she was going). I was a little puzzled and she said, in almost perfect English, that this is a unisex toilet.I was a little nervous but took her word for it. As many visitors to Europe know, many stalls have doors that go from the floor to near the ceiling and this was no exception.
She went into one stall and I went into another. I was standing to pee and I heard her tinkling away in the other stall. She was talking to me while "doing her business." After I was done, I left my stall and began to hear her "do more than pee." (we'll leave it at that)I washed my hands and told her I would wait outside. She cheerfully told me she'd be "finished going" in a few minutes.
The young lady came out a few minutes later and acted as if nothing unusual happened. What a difference between the strictly sexually segregated restrooms in North America and the more "laissez-faire" attitude, at least in Denmark.I found the experience to be both embarassing and perversely exciting at the same time.P.S., Hope this posting wasn't too racy.
MA USA Thu 11/18/2004
"Clubbed To Death"
You know the movie where Elodie Bouchez gets lost one night in the suburban fringe of Paris?The weird thing is, watching Clubbed To Death I realized this had already happened to me. My lesson that day: never assume a city bus will return you to the point of departure - like Bouchez' character, I found myself at a bus garage with a dumb look on my face. Venturing out, it seemed a very dodgy area and I did not know how to get back to the Marais! I'm used to urban diversity and seeing lots of immigrants but I felt ignorant of my safety in this strange land - after all, where WAS I?
Above the impatient shouts of some (not all) riders on the bus, the kind driver told me where to hop the train line back to the city center. My Metro card didn't work in this area, so without pause I hopped the turnsile past the 2 toughs hanging out in the station, and got my lost Canadian butt back to Tourist Paris.It was an irreplaceable experience.
Toronto, CAN Thu 11/18/2004
Gina's post (3 posts below)
Why do I now have the strange urge to make a career change to Paris hotel cleaning crew member?Yes Gina, naked use of a walkman in a hotel room will get you into trouble. I actually had the same exact thing happen to me here in the US. I feel like I made a friend that day, and she looked like she was enjoying herself . . .
Chicago, IL USA Fri 11/05/2004
Be careful what you read - and leave behind
Departing from Cincinnati for the long flight to Rome, my wife bought one of those women's mags with a cover that touted all sorts of great info, like how to have better sex. You know, you see them in the grocery store line all the time. As we prepared to leave our hotel in Florence, she decided to abondon it in the room, assuming the maids would toss it out. We stopped back later in the day to pick up our luggage and there was this mag with its suggestive headlines, on the coffee table in the reception area, waiting to be read by Americans desparate for a touch of home. I guess. Wonder what the maids thought?
Lawrence, Ks USA Mon 11/01/2004
Parking is NOT free anywhere
We parked in the garage under the grocery store in Interlaken, Switzerland and went inside to shop. Upon leaving we forget to pay the meter next to the elevators. We proceded to the exit thinking an attendant would take our money only to find our ticket didn't open the gate. I couldn't back up because of the cars behind me. The guy behind me got out of his car and came up to talk to me. I said something in German and he retuned in English that we needed to pay the meter by the elevator. My friend got out and ran to pay the meter. How embarrissing. I was worried enough about using the emergency brake and the clutch and gas to get up the hill without rolling back and hitting him. We made it out ok and I remembered reading something about the same thing in one of Rick's books.
Orlando, FL USA Mon 11/01/2004
Should have used that Do Not Disturb sign
I was in my hotel room in Paris. I had just come out of the shower and I was in a towel. I put onmy headphones and started listening to music on my walkman. I started dancing and my towelfell down, but I didn't care. I was enjoying myself so much, I wasn't even paying attention to mysurroundings. I was jumping up and down on the floor, shaking my butt, completely into the music. Then I jumped up on the bed and did the same thing. For some reason, I turned around and was horrified to see two much older women standing there looking at me. I fell off the bed in shock and then I covered myself with the sheets.
The women were the cleaning crew. They said they had knocked but no one answered, so they didn't think anyone was in the room. Since I was listening to the music, I didn't hear the knocking. For them to walk in and see me dancing completely naked on the bed, it must have been embarrassing for them... although not as embarrassing as it was for me to be seen by them! They apologized and left the room.
If I had just put the Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob, this humiliating moment could have been prevented. At least it was only women who saw me naked. I would have been much more embarrassed if it had been men.
Chicago, IL USA Thu 09/30/2004
I THINK I'm wetting myself!
My friends were posing in front of the Louis XIV statue in front of the Palace of Versailles. Suddenly, one of the women yelped and said "I think I'm wetting on myself!" How do you THINK you're wetting yourself?!!! Either you are or you're not! Turned out that the woman standing behind her did not lock down the spout on her water bottle good enough and it was slightly dribbling, touching the other woman's legs. We all laughed the rest of the day and week!
FL USA Mon 09/20/2004
driving in germany
Back in 2000 I talked my wife in to going to germany on vacation. I had only been there once but really enjoyed my visit though I had never driven a car in germany.I decided to take her to the black forest for the first 3 days (where I had previously visited) and then on to munich.
The driving from stuttgart to freudenstadt was easy. Off to munich ! All was well until we hit the city center in search of schiller strasse where our hotel was located. Lots of traffic and one way streets. After finding our 100 room hotel that only had 5 parking spaces the manager told me to park on the sidewalk. That parking job took twenty minutes- right between two very close BMW's.
I was shaking so bad afterwards that my wife had to check us in to the hotel. The next day I went to the hauptbahnauf and located the car rentel co. I paid the guy 50dm to come to the hotel and pick up the car. ps..the train system in germany can't be beat !
alton, va USA Tue 09/07/2004
Trapped on Balcony
I was at a hotel in Europe. One morning, I got out of bed and I was naked. I decided to go out and enjoy the view from the balcony. Since it was early, I didn't think anyone would be around to see me so I didn't bother gettingdressed.
I closed the sliding door to keep any flies from getting into the room. After being out there for a while, I started to feel a little chilly so I was on my way back into the room. This is when I stopped enjoying myself. When I had closed the sliding door, I ended up locking it. I was trapped on the balcony and I had no clothes on! My only hope was the cleaning crew but it would be hours before they'd be coming to my room. I had no choice but to wait for them. As I waited, other guests started to come out of their rooms and walk out onto the balcony. They, unlike me, had the sense to put on a robe at least. I ducked down so that none of them would see me naked or laugh at me.
If only one of them could have found themself in the same predicament I was in, I would have felt a lot better. I needed to use the bathroom. I had needed to since I woke up, but wanted to go outside instead. I had been holding it in for the longest time now but I couldn't anymore. I peed right there on the balcony! When the cleaning crew finally came and "rescued" me, I had to show them the mess I made. I had never been so humiliated in all my life. I'll probably never go back to that hotel, in case they remember me.
Brooklyn, NY USA Fri 08/13/2004
quite a trip
The first time I went to Europe (also the first time I'd been on a plane or on a vacation alone) I landed in Paris and went to my hotel. It was too early to check in so I dropped my bags there and went for a walk. Breathing in Paris for the first time, I walked a half block down the street - there was a sweet little church. I walked closer to get a better look and immediately found myself tumbling to the ground - into a pile of broken glass.
I looked down to find my hand gushing blood. I ran to the hotel where my poor, NSE hotel lady was faced with her newest tenant dripping with blood yelping "aidez-moi!" She took me into the bathroom with a firm hand and washed the cut and then took me by the shoulders, pushed me outside the hotel and pointed toward the green cross marking the pharmacy.
At the pharmacy, they kindly washed my wound, dressed it and used tweezers to pick out the glass. But one big chunk was too deep. Stubbornly refusing to go to the doctor it stayed in there until a train to Venice when it just appeared in my hand.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 08/11/2004
Though U.S. tourists may be the most maladroit, I swear France purposefully places rickety tables and semi-functional liquid dispensers in the most inconvenient of places.
One time, I encountered a fully loaded , 3' heavy coffee thermos and had to pour it into a 3" cup in the middle of a hotel lobby. Anyway, I incredibly managed to do so without a single spill. Turning back to the table and proud of myself, I managed to knock over a container of coffee spoons with my elbow. I guess I was put back in my place!
CA USA Fri 08/06/2004
Locked Out Side a Bungalow in My Underwear
I was staying in a bungalow alone. One night I went to make sure the door was locked. It was an unseasonably warm night so I stepped out outside the door. I was just in my underwear and t-shirt and the bunglow was secluded so it was ok. Then all of a sudden a gust of wind comes up and slams the door locked! The desk at the bungalow village had closed hours agao and I just had only tow options:
1. Walk about 2 miles barefoot in my underwear to the associated hotel and hope they had a master key.
2. Sleep outside the bungalow and wait until morning until the desk opened.
These were not good choices but at least this was Europe and I probably wouldn't get into too much trouble for walking barefoot with a t-shirt and underwear at 12 am. So I choose #1. Then I had the idea to check the patio door. It was open. Thank goodness! Well, this was almost an embarassing moment
Boston, MA USA Tue 07/27/2004
On New Years Day 2000 we were in Vienna. Having to use the facilities but not being hungry we went in to a restaurant and downstairs to the washrooms. My wife in hers and I in mine. I did my thing in the urinal but couldn't figure how to flush it. I turned around and as I walked towards the sink I broke an electric eye that flushed all the urinals at the same time. As the ceilings were easily ten feet high it sounded like a 747 taking off. I washed my hands and waited outside the ladies room for my wife. Her comment was 'Did you here a jet taking off?'. When we walked through the diner I was sure everyone was looking at me!
Red Deer Alberta, Canada Sun 06/13/2004
Our trip to Ireland was amazing, but driving on the left took some getting used to, as did our car. For example, we had no idea that there was no "park" as a gear option. We had to cut the wheel to the left (or right, depending on where we parked), pull the parking brake, and hope that all went well.
One afternoon we drove to Galway and found a spot in a parking garage. We spent the afternoon doing our sightseeing and when we got back to the car we started it up, as we had every other time. However, this time we had a problem...we couldn't undo the parking brake. We pushed, we pulled, we pressed every button in, on, and around the darn thing and it just would't unlock. Finally we had enough!
My husband, a former highschool football player, found a garage attendant and let him know the problem we were having. The attendant, a tall skinny young man, came over to our car and slid into the drivers seat. With no problem he lifted the brake slightly, depressed the button, and eased the brake into the off position. My husband and I started laughing so hard that we're sure the attendant thought we were insane. It didn't matter! We were so grateful that we gave the attendant a tip and told him to go have a pint on us. I'm pretty sure that he told his friends about the dumb Americans he met at work that night!
Manchester, NH USA Wed 06/09/2004
I was staying in a small hotel near Dover and it was my first experience with a shared bathroom. I brought all of my shower "stuff", got undressed and was ready to shower. Only...I couldn't figure out how to turn the darn thing on. I pushed/pulled anything I could see - but nothing was working. There was a sign that read "pull neon lever". Well, there was no lever and nothing neon in the room. I had to get dressed...sheepishly walk downstairs and have the innkeeper come and help me. I felt like an idiot! As it turns out, you had to pull on this chain as if your life depended on it.
chicago, il USA Mon 06/07/2004
Dumbness in Germany
Traveling in Europe. One too many beers and nature called. Upon leaving the stall I realized...I couldn't. I couldn't work the doors automatic lock. I spent the next 20+ minutes banging on the door and drunkenly yelling for help. My friends finally came to check on me and rescued me. I still don't know which was more embarrassing-getting locked in or finding out the lock was a simple (but weird looking!) slide lock.
USA Fri 06/04/2004
Hair Raising Experience in Athens
Before I took my boyfriend to Athens for the first time, I bought him a fancy voltage adaptor for his hair dryer ? he had serious "rock star hair" at the time. At our small pension the very first morning, he ignored the adaptor that I had laid out for him and plugged his blow dryer directly into the socket. Poof. The power went out in the entire pension. The owner came up the dark stairs, saw us standing in the hallway holding a smoking hair dryer and just rolled his eyes. We spent our first day in Athens roaming the Plaka looking for a replacement blow dryer...one that worked with 210 volt power plugs.
Pasadea, CA USA Thu 05/06/2004
laundromats in France
In Honfleur, Normandy, we decided to do a load of laundry since it was raining. Our first experience with French laundromats could not have been more embarrassing, or funny. We could not figure out how to use the centralized control for the machines, and to borrow a phrase from Jeff Foxworthy, we looked like "a couple of monkeys doing a math problem." Fortunately, a kindly old French couple took pity on us and helped us to figure out how to use the machines, despite the language barrier and our not having our phrase book with us. I am sure we were the topic of their dinner conversation that evening.
St. Augustine, FL USA Tue 05/04/2004
Eastern European local train toilets
There are still some Americans who haven't yet experienced the European train toilets that are still found on some more local routes --especially in Eastern Europe where the train toilet's contents are flushed directly onto the tracks below. I try to be humorous about this fact to kind of informally brief friends who are planning a trip over there as to what to expect. I tell them, that for thousands of years, cows have been doing this, onto their grazing land, and I can't find any report about public health problems as a result !!! Also, on a local rail line coming from Munich to Augsburg, Germany in 1948 just a few years after World War II, the train toilet had only a toilet seat and a very wide, straight pipe suspended above the rail roadbed. That's all. There was no water to slush with. Just toilet paper. So you see, when I was a boy of eleven, that's how things were. Now that I'm 66, things have improved. Keep the faith, the world will catch up!!!
North Bethesda, MD USA Fri 04/30/2004
You suppose it was your name? I've heard Jerry Lewis is very popular over there...
Beaverton , OR USA Thu 04/29/2004
Just got back from Paris. For the first two days when I had to show ID for passport control, carte orange, etc ., it seemed like people just couldn't help laughing. My wife and I looked over the pictures on my passport, drivers license, work security pass, etc. and couldn't figure it out. At Charles de Gaule, it made me nervous because an older man who checked my id said, you are not him. But then he laughed, too. It is disconcerting when people are laughing in your general vacinity and you don't know why. Weird.
Minneapolis, MN USA Wed 04/28/2004
In a small town in Mexico we stopped in a very small grocery. Dark, no lights but lovely produce. We purchased some ham and tortillas and avocados but had not been able to find a knife anywhere in town. I asked the lady for a cuchil-lo. Now I knew that two ll's together are pronounced yee but the language book said that in this case I was to pronounce both l's as L.
That lady laughed when I asked and reached under the counter and pulled out this giant machete and said "cu-chi-yo." Not really embarrassing but she had a good sense of humor about and cut up our avocados and off we went. But I'll never forget her.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 04/08/2004
Germany: Almost got off on the wrong side of the train
Had a little piccolo of Sekt on the train, and got a bit dis-oriented, and had the conductor not stopped me, I would have gotten off on the wrong side of the train. *S*
Dallas, GA USA Tue 04/06/2004
Careful Where You Go!!!
I was in Rome, and it was late, I'd drunk quite a bit and while walking back to my hotel needed to use the facilities badly. Mostly everything was closed up, and so I was getting desperate. Finally, I couldn't wait any longer so I ducked into a narrow, dark alley to do what I had to do. Suddenly, (after I'd already begun) there was a shout from below, a homeless guy was sleeping - at my feet - wrapped up in rags. I didn't even know he was even there until he started angrily shouting at me in Italian. I ran out of there and up the block pronto! Poor guy. He must think Americans are cruel.
Brooklyn, NY USA Mon 03/29/2004
My wife and I were checking out after a wonderful 2-night stay in our pension in Rothenburg-aub-der-Taber. We were completely happy with the accomodations...even using the communal bathroom down the hall. Ahead of us was a middle-aged American couple. The wife was complaining to our very patient German hostess that she felt that they'd been overcharged, because although they'd requested a "private bath," they ended up having to walk down the hallway to use the bathroom. After patiently listening, the proprietress calmly explained, "Ah, but madame, you must understand...that WAS your private bath. No one in the hotel was permitted to use that bathroom!" In wasn't our embarrassing moment.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 02/17/2004
The Connaught Meets White Socks!
My sister and I had just gotten off the plane after a long flight from Seattle into London and we were both wearing white socks and black yoga pants. Well, the Londoners who saw us were obviously amazed by this sight because we got stares and even comments. How embarasing it was. So we decided to take off the socks and avoid further stares. We came upon the Connaught Hotel and went behind a pilar to avoid being seen from the street and took off our socks and put them in our bags. When we turned around, there was a group of businessmen who saw the whole thing. We could have just walked on and pretended we hadn't noticed them, but they all started to clap and give us a thumbs up. Then later as we were going by the Connaught in a cab, we further felt embarased by the fact that you could indeed see what we were doing even from the street. But that was the worst thing that happened to us and we counted ourselves lucky. The whole trip we never saw anyone wearing white socks, unless they were running in the parks. We Americans are indeed a bit casual.
Denver, CO USA Wed 02/04/2004
Most embarrassing moments
My family and my sister's family were attending a convention at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. A buffet meal was provided three times a day, but it was never very good. One day, we all went out and spent the day sightseeing, and returned to the hotel tired, messy, and loaded down with cranky and dirty kids. We spotted the buffet table (in it's usual place) and the food looked good for a change. We all rushed over and started loading our plates. The kid's manners were even worse than usual- actually grabbing food off the serving platters and putting it straight into their mouths. Then we looked around and saw that no one there looked familiar. In fact, they were all dressed to the teeth. It was a wedding reception. The guests, including the bride and groom in full wedding regalia, looked so shocked that the whole room had come to a complete standstill while everyone stared at us with their mouths agape. We quickly put down our plates and ran out of the room. (But that must have explained why the food looked better- it had been catered by someone other thatn the hotel).
Portland, OR USA Thu 01/29/2004
I was on vacation in the Mediterranean on a warm day and decided to go to the beach. I had seen several people wearing only their swimsuits around town and in the metro. So I decided to follow suit. The car I was in was crowded and I was wearing my two piece. We got to my stop and it seemed everyone wanted off there. I had barely slipped out the door when it closed taking the knot in the top of my two piece with it as it left! I was forced to go all the way back to my hotel with no top on.
USA Sun 01/04/2004