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learn to read numbers in Europe...

In Europe they write numbers a little differently than here in the States. Add to that a particular individual's poor penmanship and what appears on your restaurant bill could be even more confusing.

Such was the case at a restaurant in Istanbul a few years back. We ordered two entrees and some beverages which totaled 41 lira. However, the number "4" looked nothing like a "4" and instead, looked exactly like a "6" (I wish i could post photos here to show you what I'm talking about). I handed the waiter 70 lira and started to leave, treating the extra 9 lira as tip on what I thought was a 61 lira bill. The waiter gave me a strange look and paused for a moment before heading back into the kitchen. It was only after I left that I thought what an expensive meal that was. I take full responsibility for not looking at the individual items and adding them up to check the total, but surely the waiter must have though something was wrong when a tourist was tipping him 29 lira on a 41 lira bill (70%!!).

I don't consider this a "scam" by any stretch but as a reminder to you all, DO read and re-read the numbers and perform a sanity check on the order of magnitude of the totals in relation to what is considered reasonable.

On the bright side, the food was in fact, very good though.

Posted by
20972 posts

That is true. But your tipping is consistent with the recommendation of a certain travel researcher (not Mr. Steves) who believes in a over the top tipping practice. After all the poor people of Europe need to make a living. Except that your ruined it for the next cheap skate tourist who only leaves 10%. At least it was inexpensive lesson.

Posted by
17867 posts

I don't think Istanbul is representative of Europe. I've spent half a year traveling in Western Europe, and I know of only one case of numbers being a problem for North Americans.

In Europe, the number one is written like a "droopy" seven, while the number seven has a crossbar. I've heard of cases of an American filling in the dates on their rail pass for the 27th day of the month, and the conductor claiming it was a one and the actual validity date was the 21st, and making them make a new entry for the 27th, thus losing a day of their pass.

Posted by
518 posts

The "4" on my bill really did look like a "6." The way it was written was such: when you write the number four you have to pick up your pen/pencil after the first two strokes, to then execute the vertical down stroke. In this case, the first two strokes were not written as two separate strokes at all, instead, it was written as one continuous loop (and therefore, looking like the big counterclockwise loop of the the number 6). The separate vertical down stroke was basically a continuation of this loop (and therefore, the smaller loop of the 6). I can't imagine someone with even the sloppiest handwriting writing a four like this.

Posted by
2166 posts

Reminds me of the time back in 96 (before we traveled abroad) where we had a high school exchange student coming for the school year, late August. Based on the early handwritten letters, we though he was coming August 27. We were scheduled away the week with the 27th (scheduled much earlier), and were making plans for a program person to get him at the airport and house him for 5 nights. Imagine our surprise when we found out we needed to pick him up on the 21st, and take him on vacation. A lesson on the European "1" and "7"

Posted by
7821 posts

You also need to remember that the decimal point and comma are used in reverse. Where we would use a decimal to write a bill of 23.45 €, Europe uses a comma. So if your hotel bill was 1,125.00 €, they would write 1.125,00 €.

Script is different too. When writing letters, it is always best to use block letters and not script. My family has had so many cards, letters and packages returned to them that they have sent us because the post office here couldn't read the address or name properly. This has cost them money of course, but still they continue.

Dates too are different. Day, month and year are correct.