#7 Try to use the local language, even if you butcher it and even if only to say "Bon jour, madame!" when you enter a store or get up to the cash register in a grocery store. I always found this got me better service, compared with the service my brother (using NOTHING but English) got. If at all possible, try (before getting on the plane) to learn how to pronounce the language of the country you're visiting and some basic phrases. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the reception you get when you make an effort to speak with locals in their language. Finally, when you want to ask or question or make a purchase, the first words out of your mouth (after "Guten tag, mein herr" or "Bon jour, monsieur") should be "Excuse me, do you speak English?" in the local language. Using the local language shows that you respect the local culture and aren't the arrogant American many Europeans believe we are, expecting without even asking that everyone else speaks English. #8 Take your own grocery bags and be prepared to bag your own groceries. (If you don't have bags, you can buy them in or just before you get in the check-out line. They're quite inexpensive in Vienna, they were €0.19 each but not all that sturdy.) If you have the room in your luggage, consider taking recyclable bags you get at US grocery stores.
You are so right about #7 especially. Wish more people had that attitude!
Please don't say, Guten Tag, mein Herr. Not sure what phrase book you read this from, but it must be a really old one. This just isn't said here in Germany. Ever. Just Guten Tag is fine. Andrew, you really should copy and paste all of these many threads and add them as replies under just one title. Having them all separated like this, will mix them up.
Re #8: one of our proudest possessions is a Marks and Spencer reusable grocery bag we picked up in London a few years back. We use it for grocery shopping at home and we take it when we go away. Pick up a couple of these light-weight reusable bags somewhere. Also, remember that some grocery stores require that you weigh and tag your produce before bringing it to the checkout. We got a major "tsk tsk"ing in Prague for not weighing bananas before we tried to check out.
When you get a "Bag for Life" from M&S or other UK supermarkets such as Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsburys or Tescos, you can have them replaced for free (that's why its a bag "for life") when they start to come apart or get holes in. BTW - how does the number 5 in the title of the thread relate to the numbers 7 and 8 in the text of the thread?
#7. I've found Italians more appreciative of attempts to use their language than anywhere else I've traveled. Even my limited skills have been greeted by a exuberant "Bella l'Italiano!" by locals. It's always nice to get off on the right foot. In most of Europe, not greeting someone before you begin a conversation is considered exceptionally rude. So even a simple, "Bonjour Madame," when you enter a store or ask a question is going to get you a much friendlier response. #8. I still bring my Civita daypack with me when I travel. I like it because it's the daypack that folds up the smallest to fit in my bag on travel days. It also makes a great grocery bag when I stop at stores.
We have always taken a net string bag and a light weight small cotton shopping bag with German words printed on the side of it. Everyone should hello, goodbye, thanks, please, count to five, and good day in the language of the country in which they are traveling. Its not hard, even for a foreign language thick head like myself.
#7 is true in Italy! A friend of mine dubbed it the Gelato Experiment. The more you speak Italian in a Gelateria, the bigger the serving of Gelato you get and the friendlier the service.