Vacation rental puzzle: How to operate European appliances

TripAdvisor.comJanuary 26, 2013 

Q: I love staying in vacation rentals, but I’m often surprised at how little information about the house or apartment is provided by the owner. We’ve stayed in several apartments in Europe where the appliances were completely inexplicable to us, and no directions were anywhere to be found.

We had to search online for the product manuals! Then there was one apartment where we didn’t understand what to do with garbage. There were two different colors of garbage bags, so we assumed one was for recycling, but we had no idea what was considered recyclable, and we didn’t know where we should leave it.

We ended up carrying water bottles out of the apartment and recycling them in public containers. Isn’t it inconsiderate of property owners not to provide detailed explanations of all the appliances, what to do with trash, how to use the TV and VCR, etc.?

They simply may not be aware that appliances work quite differently in different countries. I think writing up very clear directions, and having them professionally translated, if necessary, is a smart idea. As a guest, you should speak up if you don’t understand something. When you book the apartment, explicitly ask if the person who lets you in can take time to explain how all the appliances work and what to do with trash and recycling. And once you’re there, if you have questions, call the manager.

Breakfast etiquette

Q: We recently went to England and stayed at a number of B&Bs that offered “full English” breakfasts included with the price of the room. The owners were good cooks, but we are not big breakfast eaters and would have preferred something much simpler. A few times we asked for just cereal or toast and tea, and the innkeepers seemed almost disappointed in us. Is it rude to do that?

And a few times, the person who checked us in asked us what time we wanted to eat the next morning. We weren’t prepared for that, really, especially the day after we arrived – we had no idea if jet lag might make us sleep late. Is this typical? I’m thinking perhaps we’re just not B&B people.

I don’t think it’s rude to ask for a simpler breakfast. But I would make it clear that you don’t think there’s anything wrong with the big breakfast. You could say, for example, “The full breakfast looks lovely, but we’re trying to make an 8:35 a.m. train, so we don’t think we’ll be able to enjoy it today. Could we please just have toast instead?”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the innkeepers asking you what time you want to eat breakfast. After all, they might have a small kitchen and a lot of guests, and if everyone piles into the breakfast room at 8 a.m., it’s not going to be much fun – especially for anyone who is actually trying to make an 8:35 a.m. train.

But I also think they have to give you a little leeway, especially on your first night. You could say, “Could we eat sometime between 8 and 9 a.m.? We’re jet-lagged and just aren’t sure what time we’ll be up tomorrow morning.”

You could also offer to call the front desk the next morning to let them know what time you expect to be down for breakfast, bearing in mind they’ll appreciate as much notice as possible.

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