Most Embarrassing Travel Moments: 2005
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?
My worst embarrasing moment(s) were in Prague Oct 2005. I have been brought low from severe anemia & just been cleared to travel by my doctor the day before my trip, but had a "relapse" while in Prague with symptoms of severe lightheadness/nausia. I took an antacid I always keep with me, so then my husband & I tried to get to a pharmacy early Sunday evening when it started, but didn't make it. Two blocks from where we were staying I vomited right in front of a restaurant that we ate at the previous night. We looked inside the window to see if anyone noticed & the whole place was looking back at us. We continued down to the river & caught the 17 tram going towards Charles Bridge. There's a pharmacy on the other side of the bridge past Kampa that stays open late. The tram was going way too fast for the tracks & was bucking around alot making me even more dizzy/nausous. I bearly made it out of the tram to find a conveniently placed trashcan to vomit again in. A couple of Czechs said something too fast for me to catch, but my husband did(he is Czech). They said "there's another tourist who can't hold their drink!".
CA USA Tue 12/13/2005
Trains and French Hotels
Once when taking a train from Munich to Austria, this being my first experience on a European train, my friend and I boarded and took two bunks in a sleeping compartment. We didn't notice the signs that said they were reserved. When an Italian man came and told us they were his bunks, I started to argue while all of the other passengers in the compartment looked on. When I finally realized they were reserved, all I could do was leave.
Another time on that trip my friend and I returned to our hotel in Paris, where I asked for our room key at the front desk (they made us turn it in whenever we left). They said it wasn't there. I became so angry and told my friend to go and check the room to see if the door was open. Then I realized I gave the wrong room number.
Anchorage, AK USA Sat 12/10/2005
sucking pavement in Switzerland
Whilst riding my rented bike down the main street in Interlaken I got stuck in a tram rut and bit it-- in front of no less that 50 Japanese tourists. Bloody and bright red, I immediately made my way to the nearest beer (the waiter gave me a band-aid too!)...which, luckily, was not far. My motto: when the traveling gets tough (and it does), the tough get drinking!
Seattle, WA USA Mon 11/28/2005
Rules are Meant to be Followed
I was always told that it was in bad taste to ask for "doggy bags" at some restaurants in Paris. Well leave it to American me to challenge that. I was at a restaurant in the 6th and I had just arrived at the apartment I rented, got settled and went out to explore. I saw an interesting restaurant and decided to have a bite to eat. I ordered a delicious meal that I just couldn't leave (I had only taken a few bites, the plate was basically full), so I asked the waiter for a doggy bag. I'll never forget the look on his face; he gave me the weirdest look. So, I asked him again, this time a little louder and as I got louder in my request, he got louder in his query - each time embarrassing me more because by this time other people could hear our conversation. He finally understood, went to the back, and came out with one of the kitchen's personal food storage bowls with a lid (Tupperware). I was SO embarrassed, I just covered my face. We both had a big laugh about it while I packed my food, vowing to myself never to return the container out of sheer embarrassment. I came home with that Tupperware container and every time I look at it, it reminds me of that embarrassing moment! Good times baybeee!
Houston, Tx USA Sun 11/27/2005
You think that's bad????
Traveling in London many years ago, I was with an Australian girl who was a bit embarrassed to be with an American. I was young and feeling quite shy, but it was only for a week I had to hang with her. Meanwhile, I tried my best to keep quiet and act in the most gracious and respectful manner possible. One night we went for dinner at a Russian restaurant in a very narrow rowhouse building. It was early but there were a few couple seated here and there and a three piece band played at the front of the room. Each table was decorated, not with flowers but a tall, cut-glass pitcher of ice water and celery. It was a cold rainy April and I carried a LARGE shoulder bag (not very sophisticated traveler at this point) with my extra sweater, camera, etc. in it. As we were guided to our table, I tried to tuck myself quietly into the banquette. Sadly, my bag caught the pitcher of ice water and unwieldy vegetables on the adjacent table and swept it off into the laps of two lovely, beautifully dressed Indian women and their tuxedoed companions. The silk sari's were lovely and SOAKED! They shrieked and I blurted out in a loud, Midwestern voice, "I'm SO SAHWRRREEE!!" My Australian companion practically coded-blue on the spot as her awkward Amercian buddy was suddenly unveiled in the most horrifying way. The band ceased playing and gave me a standing ovation. The dinner crowd joined in. The drenched Indian couples were so very gracious, but I was mortified. There was nothing left to do but drink lots of red wine and laugh about it...what can I say?
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 11/24/2005
We were in an overnight couchet and while I was making my bed my friend who was sleeping above me thought it would be funny to cornhole me. I screamed and then we all laughed. So I am sleeping on the bottom bunk and I see someone coming down the ladder - yes, my turn to get her back!!! So I stick my finger up her bottom and then realized it wasn't my friend but was a sweet German girl...POOR GIRL!!!! I'm sorry whoever you were.
SOMEWHERE, WHO KNOWS USA Sun 11/20/2005
Pushy Rose Vendors..
While in Rome, we went to see the Trevi fountain one evening. Of course it was crowded...wall to wall people and the usual vendors selling their wares. We were taking turns having our pictures taken and were standing around looking at the pictures we took on the digital screen of my camera when a rose was shoved into my friends face and she let out a very loud scream...the kind of scream that sounds like someone is in fear for their life! The Rose vendor jumped and everyone turned around to look and imediately burst into laughter, including the Rose vendor! It was the funniest thing ever! We couldn't stop laughing about it for days!
Grand Forks, ND USA Mon 11/07/2005
My name is Louise and I work for an English Television company. We are making a brand new fun show called "Ultimate Blunders" for TLC Channel featuring blunders and mistakes. I came across your site whilst I was doing some research and thought your group looked like a fun group who share eyour travel experiences and, as I've read - you've all got some funny stories to tell. Well we are looking for people to share their stories with us and take part in our programme. Embarrassing moments - we wanna hear them!
Perhaps some of you would be interested in talking to us, about both travel and non-travel blunders - we want all your fun and embarrassing tales! Also feel free to email or hand around details to any friends and family. We will have a link to the website up and running soon but for now my details are at the bottom of this page.
I really look forward to hearing all your thoughts,
Have a nice day
London, UK Wed 11/02/2005
When I went to Europe for my first time last April, I got sick from the long flight...when I woke up the next day in Paris I felt horrible but went on the tour anyway. Then when we got to the Eiffel Tower base I threw up in the parking lot and got some on some cars. I had to get a taxi back to the hotel but I wasn't sure what it was named so we got lost and really expensive. Makes for a great story though!
West Springfield, MA USA Sun 10/30/2005
St. Patrick would be apalled!
While on a tour of the Wicklow Moutains in Ireland, a fellow tour member commented on the rugged terrain and then asked the tour guide "are there any snakes in there?" The tour guide kind of chuckled and said "no m'am, the only snakes in Ireland are in the government!" I don't think she was all that embarassed, but I sure was embarassed for her!
PA USA Tue 10/25/2005
1-way love in the Greek isles
While island hopping in the Aegean, I met a very cute French-Canadian girl in Naxos, whom I was instantly attracted to. I asked her to dinner, after which we took a romantic evening carriage ride along the harbor, and walked out to the ruins on the edge of town. Intoxicated by the wine, waves and the romance of Greece, I started to slip my arm around her, sure she felt the same way, only to be puzzled when she pulled away. Imagine my embarassment when she gently explained she was not attracted to men! Ah, Greece! I still think about her anyway!
Manassas, VA USA Tue 10/25/2005
Double Decker London Busses
My husband and I were in London just before Christmas, 2004 and were looking forward to riding the double decker buses. After a play one evening, we got ready to board the bus to our hotel. I jumped on the back platform, and my husband started to, also, when the bus took off. He grabbed for the pole but missed and jumped back to the sidewalk. I had to make a split decision: Should I stay on the bus by myself in this large city or jump off and be with my husband? I chose to do the latter, taking a flying leap as the bus sped away. I landed on the sidewalk and rolled. Thankfully, I had on a heavy coat and shoes which took the impact well. I got up quickly and sheepishly and pretended that nothing much had happened, because the sidewalk was crowded with people. Nothing broken or torn, just a slightly skinned ankle. We caught the next double decker to our hotel, but it wasn't exciting like we thought it would be. The incident made a good story to tell.
Nampa, , ID USA Sat 10/15/2005
When I was in Scotland travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh I was on their metro type train. I had had to pee for hours. When I finally got to the toilet and everything was all said and done I couldn't find a handle, or button! I was in there at least 3-5 minutes trying to figure out how to flush it! After the frustration set in I just thought, 'who cares!' and walked out. Later a lady came out and gave me a look. Guess she knew it was me. Good thing it was only number 1 ;)
St. Louis, MO USA Sat 10/15/2005
Car broken into?
So after driving around Europe and cautiously avoiding car break in's, pick pockets and other lurking thiefs we decide to visit Paris. We lock and hide all our heavy stuff in the back(presents, case of wine, tents, sleeping bags etc), park in the long term parking at Charles De Gaul and head into Paris via RER Rail. Three days later we arrive back at the parking area to find our front drivers side window missing. I pop the hatchback and investigate what was taken. Triumphantly, I find nothing stolen from the back, thus assuming the locked PacSafe steel mesh webbing worked! Then my girlfriend starts asking, "Where's the broken glass"? Hmmm... I guess the airport folks cleaned it up. Then we notice there is no glass inside the car either. Then I look harder into the window sill. I get in the car. I turn on the ignition. And roll the car window up! Doh! Guess I was a bit too excited to get into the city!
Not gonna tell
Cary, NC USA Tue 10/11/2005
Massaged by A Man!
You don't think not speaking the language can get you into trouble overseas? Well here's something that happened to me in English speaking Malta. I went to the hotel health center to schedule a massage. The young attractive lady said "I will call the massuer". I said "Isn't a massuer a man? I don't want a man to massage me. Only a woman". She says "Me". I say "Oh, you. That will be fine". So at 6 pm I go down there and there's this attractive young man there. I say "I'm sorry but I told them I wanted a massage by a woman". So I go to the office and the young lady I spoke with earlier is there. I say "You said you were going to massage me. Did you say "me""? She says "I said "male"". I felt bad about telling the young man to go home so I said I would do it. How was it? Not too bad. It was deeper than a woman's touch and I (and my muscles) liked that but it did kind of bother me all the way through that it was a man.
Akron, OH USA Mon 09/26/2005
Make sure to shut the car door
Last year in Spain, my mother and I took a cab to our hotel. Our driver was in a huge hurry so he jumped out to get our bags out of the trunk but didn't shut the back door (that he had opened for us). He jumped in the car and sped off, only to slam the door against the police van in front of it. All of the police surrounded him as we were walking away.
Seattle, WA USA Fri 09/23/2005
Trapped In WC Too!
I also have had a rather claustrophic experience of being locked in a bathroom. I was in Munich and couldn't find a free bathroom anywhere, so I headed over to a McDonald's to use theirs. They had the "toilet room" type and when I had finished I was pretty surprised to find that my door wouldn't budge! The funny part is my sister was in the adjacent room and she was also stuck. I could hear her calling for my help, and we both just started laughing. After a lot of tugging the bathroom doors finally opened and from then on out we decided to take turns using the WC's in case we got stuck again.
USA Wed 09/21/2005
Just trying the language!
During one of our lunches in Paris, I decided to break out my French book and see what I could do. Six of us were having lunch and we had to meet back with our tour in just under an hour, so I decided to tell the waitress that we had to be served promptly. Well, I pointed to my husband and I in a gesture that I thought included the whole table! Well to my surprise, they brought our two meals only -- while the others just sat. Apparently I wasn't specific enough! Then I thought, well, I'll ask for the bill. I smiled brightly and said "La additione, por favor!" The whole table laughed -- the waitress just looked confused. So clearly French and Spanish don't mix. We did get the bill and we did meet our group. But my phrase was the phrase of the day on our tour bus!
Los Altos, CA USA Tue 09/20/2005
locked in the toilet
My husband and I along with a friend were visiting Zell am Zee, Austria. While walking around town the girls decided to visit the "WC". We were about 2 blocks from the train station at the lake. So walking to the station seemed the best deal. Of course there was a charge so Laura went in first than she held the door for me. Ed was outside looking at the veiws. Laura went out to join him. As they were standing there Ed says" this place is like a fairy tale, listen you can hear yodeling out of the mountains!" After 10 minutes they decided to come find me and found out were the yelling was coming from. I was trapped!
Avondale, PA USA Sat 09/10/2005
Mishaps in France
I have two embarassing incidents that happened to me and my friends while in France. We were part of a study abroad program, and were taken to Paris for the weekend. None of us spoke French, but we were able to still communicate with the people. Yet, we had gone to a McDonald's to safe some money and time, and the girl behind the counter taking my order didn't speak a word of English. She continually asked me questions in French, which I responded with: I don't know what you're saying. Finally, a lady behind me began talking to the girl in French, and then they both looked at me and laughed. I was mortified, imagining they were laughing at the American who didn't know any French! Needless to say, I've decided that the next time I visit Paris, I absolutely have to have a basic understanding of French! The other incident occured when my friends and I visited the Palace of Versaii. We were waiting in line for about an hour, then when we got up, we were asked to put our cameras through a security device. Since we all had expensive, digital cameras full of pictures from the past 2 weeks, we didn't want to risk our film getting ruined. We asked if they could just walk our camers through, and they said no. So, we said we'd leave. Two of my friends stood waiting, as my other friend and I gathered our stuff. As we were turning, the woman yelled after us saying we were rude and telling us she'd call security if we tried to get in another part of the palace. I was extremely embarrased that we had caused such an uproar, and then we had to push our way back through the crowd and explain to our teachers why we didn't see the palace! *So, I suggest wherever you are going, if they speak a foreign language, learn the necessary words/phrases to communicate well!
Chicago, IL USA Wed 09/07/2005
Well I was in brisbane where i now live, and it was at this thing called "the Ekka" and i really needed to pee.. but the normal toilets were all taken. i tehn walked to the portaloos they were all taken too! i was by now getting really desperate... then i saw that there was one toilet not in use at the time anyway i went in and the lock was broken... so i asked a friend to hold the door closed. anyway as a joke they decided to push it off the little platfor it was on and then telt the door open....the top heavy port_a_loo tiped!!!! it was HORRABLE i just wanted to die. it was like being in a washing machine with... waste.it took what felt like a hour for the guys to turn it up so i could open the door and by that tiem i was drenched... a guy at the gate let me use a shower in the office thing and gave me some spare clothes from the lost propety.... worst of all when i got back to the hotel the cleaning lady was there!
Brisbane, Queensland Australia Tue 08/16/2005
I had heard from different sources that when in Europe many times women will use the male restrooms when the womenīs restroom is filled up. When in Rome I asked my darling sister to please keep watch while I used the menīs restroom. As I was sitting on the pot doing my thing, and also multi-tasking by rumaging through my money belt a lovely Italian man busted in on me! My sister had ditched me when the womenīs restroom became available! Thanks a lot Pokey Puppy!
Longwood, FL USA Sat 08/13/2005
Watch where you pee
My tour group had spent a few hours at a wine tasting in Yalta. Before we left, everyone asked where the bathroom was, to which the cheerful hostess replied, "Oh, we don't have one." Go figure. We all began the race back to the hotel, a lengthy walk or a ride on a city bus. Everyone but me and my roommate took the bus. We decided we'd walk faster. Two thirds of the way there I couldn't hold it any longer. Nearby was a small bar and behind it, a separate building for the toilets. They were locked (at a BAR in the evening?) As it was quite dark, heavily treed, and appeared to be deserted, I decided to back into the trees and pee there. My roommate decided she'd better go as well. See where this is going? Turns out there was a patio out back that we didn't notice, with several men at tables. At least they were kind enough not to make a scene. As we walked past, there wasn't a sound coming from the patio-- just stares as we scurried by, totally embarrassed and hoping we wouldn't be followed!
Austin, Texas USA Fri 08/05/2005
About a month ago I travelled with a group of students from my school to Avignon, France. Well I was with two of my friends and we were walking through the town square on a Saturday. Well there were mimes performing in the town square. As my friends and I were walking through the square my friend points at a "statue". The "statue" was completely still so I didn't think that it was anything extraordinary. Well the "statue" points a finger at my friend and we start screaming and running. The French people in the cafes surrounding the town square cracked-up laughing. I was mortified!
Atlanta, Georgia USA Wed 08/03/2005
We were staying in a B&B in England, that happened to be a residence over a bar. We looked in the bar, had a beer or 3, watched the guys playing pool for a while, then went upstairs to our room. I was enjoying a lovely long hot shower in the first private bathroom we'd had in more than a week, when our host came pounding on the bathroom door. "Check the shower curtain - there's water dripping on the pool table!" Sure enough, I hadn't tucked the shower curtain in closely enough around the tub and water was flowing out, down the tub, through the floor and ceiling and out into the bar. I guess it gives new meaning to the word pool table if you have to play through a puddle!
USA Tue 07/26/2005
The lady's story about the "lost" money belt happened to me as well, In Santorini. I was wearing a skirt, with money belt under the waistband. When I bent over,to pick something up, I soon realized my bely was on the ground. From now on, I cut off the snap and tie it in tight knots. I put it on over my head!
Dallas, TX USA Mon 07/25/2005
Locking Out Our Hosts
My Wife and I stayed at a private home of an older couple in Schaffhausen Switzerland.They gave us the key to the front door, but asked us to hang the key in the hall when we were "home." The front door had to be locked with the key from the inside at night.I noticed the next night, when we came in, that they had left their key in the door after locking it for the night.So the next night I locked the door when we came in and left the key in the lock like I had seen them do.We went up to our room.A short time later the front door bell rang.We ignored it, figuring one of our hosts would answer it. A few seconds later it rang again.I didnt want to answer the door since it wasnt our house.The third time it rang with great urgency.I went down and answered the door.It was our hosts and their three-year-old granddaughter.They were locked out of their own house, unable to insert their key in the lock because our key was on the inside. Ooops! Needless to say I apologized numerous times both then and the following morning.
Livermore, Ca USA Sun 07/17/2005
Just Plain Funny...
My wife and I visited London with our young children (ages 7 and 5) . We went to Madame Tussaud's and saw four wax musicians around a couch (The Beatles). I asked my kids if they knew who the 4 were and my son blurted out, very loudly, "The Monkeys." Everyone around us just cracked up
USA Thu 07/14/2005
Sarcasm...not a universal language
I made an ass of myself at a restaurant in Venice. My husband and I were feeling the pain of the high Venice prices on our low budget, so we hopped into a pizza place to share a pie.
You could tell the waiter was perturbed that with my water, my husband's wine, and a shared pizza, that the tab would not be large, and neither was his tip. In fact, he was rather surly the entire time. I just tried to smile and be polite.
But, when EVERY table around us received a complimentary basket of bread, and by the end of our meal, we had not, I couldn't help but make a snarky comment to my husband. I thought I had said it out of earshot. I just said, "I guess we're not good enough for bread." I didn't even want to bread, I was quite full. I'm just quite sarcastic and found the snub interesting more than offensive.
But the waiter heard, and 15 seconds later he plopped down a basket of bread in the center of our table, along with our bill.
Ouch, gotta watch my mouth.
Chicago, IL USA Wed 07/13/2005
Card Keys - Ooh La La
I checked into a hotel in Paris. This hotel used card keys to get in the room. I really had to go pee so when I entered my room, I immediately ran to the bathroom next to the door and pulled my skirt down. After I was done I walked towards the bed with my skirt still down to my ankles doing the penguin walk. In the corner of my eye I noticed something move. I looked up and there was a gentleman laying on the bed reading a book peering over his book staring straight at me. I screamed, " What are you doing in my room? " He screamed back, "No, What are you doing in MY room ?" I hastily pulled up my skirt and ran down to the front desk. They assigned me to a room that had already been occupied. They gave me free breakfast during my stay but I believe the other gentleman had a better deal from my free show.
Arnold, CA USA Mon 07/11/2005
In My Underwear
I rented a bungalow in The Nethlerlands for two weeks. On the second night it was unusually warm. I was walking around in my underwear and nothing else. About 11 pm I decided I step out on the outside porch as it was still very warm outside and the property was completely private. Well, I stood outside taking in the warm air and all of sudden a strong breeze came by and blew the door shut locking the door behind me! So there I was in my underwear 11 pm in the dark. The bungalow park closed at 6 pm and the associated hotel that had the extra key was 2 miles away! Then a calm came over me. My thought was "This is The Netherlands. They won't care if I walk down the road at 11pm in my underwear and into a hotel. As a matter fact from what I have heard they probably encourage this kind of behavior (actually they don't really)". Then I remembered, the front door was unlocked, or so I hoped. It was, to my relief.
Westport, CT USA Thu 07/07/2005
I agree that bathroom adventures are usually the most embarassing, and the most funny later. Louis, you are right about the structure of some public bathrooms in Europe--while feeling very private, they can seem claustrophobic. And to us Americans, they offer little in the way of checking if a stall is vacant or not, but I found out that you don't always have to look for feet to know if a stall is available. I was at a soccer party with very nice public bathrooms in a kind of trailer (not porta-potties), and all the doors to the stalls were closed. I walked up and down past them, and not being able to see if they were occupied because the doors and walls of these stalls went to the floor, I stood there waiting for someone to come out. A girl said something in German to me and pointed at the door handle--although I didn't understand her, I saw what she meant--if there is a little green line by the handle, the stall is vacant, if the line is red, it's occupied (I guess like our porta-potties are supposed to do). My bladder was bursting and there were three vacant stalls--I felt pretty dumb!
USA Tue 07/05/2005
Locked in the Bathroom
I was to meet my friend who I hadn't seen in 5 years at a hotel in the city. His plane was delayed by five hours so I had a lot of time at the hotel. I had to use the bathroom in the lobby but it was kind of out of the way bathroom, not used that much, which is good, I thought. Inside the bathroom were two stalls that had not bottom or top spaces - know what I mean? Well, I went to the bathroom and when I tried to gopen the door it wouldn't open. I was locked in a 3 x 3 x 8 ft box with no ventilation. I panicked (not always the smart thing to do)and was banging on the door yelling "Help, help, help". Then I jiggeled the lock and the door open but just at the moment the janitor stuck his head in the main door wondering what was going on. I said to him "It's all right, it's cool". I will never use a stall where I can not crawl under or over!
Houston, TX USA Tue 07/05/2005
Magical one moment, Horrifying the next
One afternoon while strolling back to our hotel from the Eiffel Tower, I couldn't help but smile at the magic of April in Paris. Locals with baguettes, the language, the flowers. Then a bus pulled up along the curb, allowing the locals to disembark after their long working day. My 10 year old son and I watched as a gentleman came off carrying a bouquet of tulips. As I thought "Wow - how French", he stepped up to the nearest trees and began to urinate on it as we passed by. I looked at my son, and he looked at me in disbelief, then we both busted out laughing. Did not change my mind though - it's still a magical place!
Denville, NJ USA Tue 07/05/2005
If sophistication doesn't work, try the obvious
Anyone who travels often knows that bathroom facilities vary greatly from place to place. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is where more embarrasing stories take place than many people care to admit. Me, I don't mind admitting at all. I've had plenty, but one stands out in particular...
Showering on my first night in Rome (only second time in Europe), I noticed that the tub wasn't draining. The metal stopper was 'down' and, having no obvious way to pull it up, I assumed there must be some kind of 'James Bond' gadgetry to open the drain. I pushed and pulled and turned just about everything in the shower - several times, no less.
Finally giving up, I finished my shower, and stepped out of the ankle-deep water to discover my husband on the phone with the front desk. They were checking in on us - how nice! - and was everything ok?
Yes, everything was fine, but how do you open the bathtub drain? The answer, after a brief pause: "By hand." Hmm...I never thought to just work it out with my fingers.
As for the phone call, it seems that the long 'useless' cord in the shower had nothing at all to do with the plumbing. I had mistakenly alerted the desk of an emergency.
What a smirk we got from the clerk every day after that!
Wiesbaden, Germany Germany Mon 07/04/2005
In Paris, there are the famous "silver bullets", which are the public toilets. There is a small fee to use it. My husband put the change in, used the toilet, and I immediately went in after him, so that we wouldn't pay twice. As soon as I shut the door, and started to use the restroom, a fine mist of deodorizing spray began pouring from the ceiling to disinfect the toilet for the next customer. Needless to say, I was horrified and wet. The Parisians were laughing their heads off. I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life. My husband never lets me live that one down.
San Diego, CA USA Sat 06/11/2005
don't assume you're not being understood
This wasn't really my embarassing moment but it was funny. We were in Haarlem's square and a bride and groom were leaving town hall after the marriage. They left on two camels! As we were walking out of the square a couple with us commented that the bride and groom looked like they had "been around the blocks a few times." A gentleman next to me said "Oh don't even open that can of worms, I'm the groom's brother." It looked like he had his mom on his hand. Everyone laughed but remember just about everyone speaks English!!
Lawrence, MA USA Mon 06/06/2005
Foaming at the mouth
Years ago while living in Munich, Germany, I wanted to be able to say "I am only looking" so I could get store clerks off my back.
I asked a German friend and he told me what to say - "Ich schaue nur."
I used the phrase shortly thereafter but noticed some giggles all around. I discovered later that I mis-pronounced 'shaue' as "schaume" - so I was saying "I'm only foaming."
NYUK, NYUK, NYUK!!!
Richmond, VA USA Wed 06/01/2005
Restaurant follies in Mexico City
In the late 1980s I was visiting Mexico City with my sister, a female friend and her young son. At that time it was still frowned upon for women to go out at night unescorted by men, but we were young and American and laughed at such silly conventions. One night we were having dinner in a fairly formal Argentine restaurant, enjoying their "parrillada," which is a mixed grill, and drinking rather a lot of sangria and other cocktails. Well, at Mexico City's high altitude you feel the effects of alcohol much faster than at sea level, so soon we were laughing and talking loudly, much to the chagrin of the haughty maitre d', who kept shushing us. At one point, my friend's son spilled his drink, and I looked around rather tipsily for something to clean it up. I saw what I thought were a stack of folded napkins on a buffet behind me, and grabbed one, sort of flinging it toward the table. Instantly, about a dozen flour tortillas went flying into the air like frisbees, hitting people on the head and landing on our plates and drinks. Instead of being embarrassed, we all roared with laughter -- and at that point were very coldly asked to leave. Oh, well -- it was funny at the time!
Los Angeles, CA USA Sun 05/22/2005
What flavor does that come in?
At a large open air market in Ventimiglia, I saw some dark long triangular packages that looked kind of like a Toblerone bar. I was prepared an Italian phrase to ask what flavors they came in. I got a reply in French, that I had no clue about. After spending a couple of minutes deciphering the label I realized that it was marijuana. I had never seen any in the USA, and certainly wasn't expecting it at such a public location. I was so startled I basically ran away, then looked back over my shoulder to see the French salesman laughing at me.
Berkeley, CA USA Sat 05/14/2005
Where can I wash my...
I think my favorite all time travel blunder was one my husband pulled while we were in Istanbul, Turkey a year ago. We decided to find a laundry place, and the hotel told us to head down the street, bear to the left, and we'd find it. Well after much wandering through the quieter residential areas of Sultanahmet, a man and his son were playing soccer in the street and my husband asked in his best Turkish "Where is the laundry"? The man looked funny at him, and pointed the opposite direction. As we headed up the street, we met a woman who came out of her restaurant -- she was Romanian, married to a Turk, and spoke perfect English. Brian asked her "Where is the laundry" and she laughed. She said "Are you American?" and we said yes...she said, "Well, you should know that you're asking "Where can I wash my dresses?" My husband about fell over laughing. No wonder we got that look from the local.
Denver, CO USA Thu 05/12/2005
Many years ago my family traveled to Europe, sailing on a freighter which took about 10 passengers. It was a Scottish ship and crew. Early in the crossing, my mother, sitting at the captain's table at dinner, asked the person next to her what language the officer was speaking. Of course, he was speaking English but his accent was so thick she was unable to understand a single word.
Los Angeles, CA USA Wed 05/11/2005
re: And the German word for "ladies room"?
I did the same thing! Somewhere my basic-basic German language book must have skipped this important word distinction. I actually just guessed and peeked into the first door (after first looking around to make sure no one was watching me), saw urinals along the wall, and went into the other restroom. Now Damen and Herren are two words I will never forget!
USA Wed 05/11/2005
Mi Primer Angie
I went on a trip to Cancun with my buddy and my first cousin, a female. I then proceeded to try out my spanish on anyone willing try and speak with me. I would begin by introducing "mi Amigo, Ernie, Y mi primer, Angie" or in english my friend, Ernie, and my first, Angie"..."prima" in spanish is cousin, and "primer" is first...
San Diego, ca USA Thu 05/05/2005
Our Most Embarassing
OK, Not me, but my wife....
We do our best to travel Rick Steve's style, and have never been let down. In fact, it has always made for some magical moments... we have met friends years ago that we visited in February this year- and who will visit us (for the 3rd time!) in June!
So, anyway, one of our big things is to try and fit in- to go local. So we were going into one of Mozart's houses in Salzberg- 1999 I think- and I bought the tickets and the radio-guide, and the ticket woman asked me, "En Deutsch?" (Which I took as a compliment)
My wife replied, "No, we do not speak Dutch."
My most embarrasing? Playing (and loosing- you will ALWAYS loose!) 3 card Monte in Pigale.
SLC, UT USA Mon 05/02/2005
Language difficulties in Scotland
We were in Edinburgh for several nights and had planned to rent a car for a daytrip into the countryside to the North. When we realized that our first experience with driving on the left would be exiting from the Avis garage into a very busy traffic circle, we decided to cancel the reservation and save the introduction to left-handed driving until later in the trip. Instead, we decided to take the train. We stopped in at the information booth at Waverly Station to find out just what the possibilities were for a day trip. The poor woman tried to be so helpful and I was looking at my railroad schedule trying to follow what she was saying. Unfortunately, every route that she suggested involved a train change at "Starline". I looked and looked and couldn't find any trains that went to Starline. After several minutes off our being confused and having her repeat what she was saying, a light bulb went on and I exclaimed "Oh! You mean Sterling!". If looks could kill, I would have been dead on the spot. I was too embarrassed to ask for further help from her. Fortunately, with that first station in place, we could easily find the route that she'd been describing. As it ended up, a trestle fire west of the station made it pretty much impossible to get to "Starline" that day so we had another day of sightseeing in Edinburgh.
Lafayette, CA USA Wed 04/13/2005
And the German word for "ladies room"?
I was in Germany for the very first time, and was having coffee with friends at a cafe in Berlin. I had to use the ladies room, so I followed the signs marked "Toiletten" to a hallway in the back, where I found two doors. One was marked with a "D", and the other with a "H". I knew some rudimentary German, but had no idea which one was for ladies. I was too embarrassed to ask, so figuring I had a 50/50 chance, I chose "D" - and was luckily proved correct! Now I know that "D" stands for Damen (ladies) and "H" for Herren (gentlemen).
Las Vegas, NV USA Wed 04/13/2005
Bathroom barge ins
My friend went to use the bathroom on our flight, imagine his surprise when he pushed open the door and found our stewardess using the bathroom. Not to mention, because the bathrooms are so tiny, the door slapped her in the head. Usually when this happens you walk away and never see this person again. We had to see her for two more hours on our flight. Needless to say, we didn't ask for anything or buzz a steward for the rest of the flight. Of all the people to forget to latch the door. d'oh.
Locust Grove, GA USA Tue 04/12/2005
Worse in Paris
Why is it more embarrasing to do stupid things in Paris? Probably because Parisienne women are almost perfect all the time? Had my skirt stuck in my underwear after getting out of one of those porta-johns on the Champs Elysees and I just wanted to die, since my husband and daughter were walking ahead of me and it took them about two long blocks before they noticed. My husband did suggest that that look could catch on and become a fashion rage, but I doubt it.
Rome, NY USA Mon 04/04/2005
My uncle got into an argument with another American tourist about U.S. politics on a tour to Normandy while my family was visiting France. I was mortified, and it was extremely uncomfortable for everyone else on the tour.
Holland, MI USA Tue 03/29/2005
London Bridge Not Only Thing Falling Down
On the first day of my first trip to Europe, I was happily enjoying a walk through SOHO and surrounding neighborhoods when I stopped in for lunch at Belgo. Waiting patiently for a table, a host asked if I would wait in the bar. I agreed and proceeded to slip (not graciously I might add) and trip over the 2 or 3 steps (all metal) down into the bar, twisting my ankle. While I imagined the hosts and bartender were engulfed with fear, I could only think how my whole trip may be experienced via crutches. Thankfully I healed enough within a couple of days to fully enjoy an amazing journey through England and France. And I got to visit an average English emergency room where I was mended by a fabulous and gorgeous French medical student.
San Francisco, CA USA Fri 03/25/2005
women using men's bathrooms
A few years ago the bathrooms at the Musee D'Orsay had long lines for the women. Being the only man waiting I cut through the crowd to the men's room. I confidently swung open the door, and the woman sitting on the toilet let out a yelp! Why didn't she lock the door if she was using a men's room? She left and I went in, and my wife got to hear the attendant ball the woman out for using the men's room and not locking it!
Columbus, Ohio USA Tue 03/22/2005
A Simple Few Beers
While in Athens on a business trip, an associate and I decided one late evening to go out for a beer before retiring. We came upon a kind gentleman who recommended a bar down the street. We proceeded down some steps into the place below street level where people were drinking and listening to music.
Sitting at our table enjoying our beers, minding our own business, the hostess then suddenly brought over some "female companionship" for each of us. Startled, not wanting to be rude, we just went with the flow. We talked for a little while, when they each asked for a glass of champagne.
After finishing our beers, we politely excused ourselves to go back to our hotel. To our surprise, the bill came to $340 for the champagne and "friends". I wanted to protest but my friend pointed out it would be wiser to just pay. Beware when going out for a simple few beers...
Fairfield, CA USA Sun 03/20/2005
Restaurant money confusion.
Several years ago, we were staying in a hotel in Paris for several days and got into the habit of eating in a certain restaurent. One night, it was dry when we arrived, but began to rain. We ligered after eating wondering how to get "home" without getting soaked. The bill was on the table. Suddenly the rain stopped, so I slapped down some cash to cover the bill, plus a generous tip & we headed for the door, only to be stopped by the propriatetress, very angry! I had by mistake, put down 20 Franc bills, rather than 100 Franc! The color was almost the same in the low light - an honest mistake. The bartender who spoke English said he understood completely, but we could never bring ourselves to eat there again! I hope the new Euros are color-coded better!!
Morgan Hill, CA USA Thu 03/03/2005
On wine in Paris
Last year on a day trip to Paris (my first) my group and myself decided to take a break after walking for hours. We stopped in a bistro just down from Notre Dame and wanted to order wine, bread, and cheese. So, me being the only one who really drank wine, decided to order for the group. When the waiter came to the table I politely asked for white zinfandale. He gave me the strangest look, I assumed it was my terrible french accent, and then told me "no, chardennay." I said sure, thinking whatever..Hey were in Paris we will drink whatever you have..lol Only after returning home did I find out that it wasn't my bad accent that got the funny looks from the waiter, but the fact that white zinfandal is a california wine and wouldn't be served in Paris...Oh, the blush that I had...Atleast I will never see him again..But, I am sure he remembers the stupid Californian..lol =)
Antioch, Ca USA Fri 02/25/2005
When ya gotta go...
Several years ago I stayed out late in Paris with a friend, drinking wine and celebrating. It was June, and there was a music festival, so everyone was partying in the streets. We couldn't find an open public toilet (and some were disgusting) so we ended up going in an alley. Then we went down to the metro, but I realized I didn't have my money belt on anymore. We ran back up the steps and all the way down to the alley (which seemed quite a ways) and my money belt, with my passport, money, and charge cards, was still lying in the alley where it had fallen. We couldn't believe it! We looked up, and the alley happened to be right next to a church. I couldn't decide if it was that fact that helped me get my belt back, or if I was a sinner who would go to hell for using the alley as a toilet.
Decatur, IL USA Mon 02/21/2005
Ice Cream trucks in Taipei?
While doing research in Taiwan last year, we were sitting in the apartment we were staying inand I could swear I heard the bells of what we in America would think an Ice Cream Truck. I asked my Taiwanese collegues and they bust out laughing! Turns out the trucks were the garbage trucks. Garbage pickup is in the evening around Taipei and people know to bring out their garbage when they hear the music.
OK USA Sat 02/12/2005
Not a panhandler
A few years ago in Paris we were travelling on the underground with our two small (at the time) children, including a 2 year old in a stroller. 2 stops before we were to exit a group of about 6 blind teenagers got on together, perhaps a class from a school for the blind. I started to get nervous, how am I going to herd my small band including stroller through these people who can't see? Visions of half the group stuck on the train. So a stop before ours I started trying to let them know in my horribly broken french, something like "excuse me, I speak poor french, but 2 children, stroller, exit" They acted as if I wasn't there, finally a kindly local saw the situation and helped bridge the gap. It wasn't until days later, playing it over in my mind that I realized that I must have sounded like I was panhandling them!
Bellingham, WA USA Thu 01/27/2005
Almost Stripped at the Embassy
During our last trip to Rome, my wife's purse was stolen, and our passports went with it. We went to the American Embassy to replace them, and my wife cleared the metal detectors with flying colors, but I kept setting 'em off.
I had to remove my shoes, belt, camera, keys, watch... and then my shirt and socks. The rather bemused guards were just about to have me remove my pants, when I found one of those airline "handi-wipes" in my pocket. Its pouch was made of tin foil. I removed it, and got to keep my pants on.
After all that, the Embassy staff was wonderfully helpful AND efficient in replacing our passports. Comes with having a lot of practice, I guess!
A corollary story: While we were in the Embassy, another couple arrived for the same reason. The man insisted that at least HIS wallet was safe in his back pants pocket... and that's where it would stay, "so that they wouldn't lose any more money!" Wonder if he got to keep it?
Boston, MA USA Fri 01/21/2005
While visiting the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum in 2003, I turned quickly and my vest zipper snapped against the glass enclosed jewel and gold exhibit. Immediately a deafening and ear piercing alarm sounded. The room and I were immediately surrounded by security guards. I explained what I did and they were very kind and professional stating the alarm is turned off at a remote station outside of the museum. Sometimes it happens quickly and sometimes not - we just have to wait. In the seemingly long interim, I died of embarrassment as visitors stared at me with their hands over there ears and everyone's afternoon was interrupted by my stupidity.
mary ann crawford
san diego, casee USA Fri 01/07/2005