Europe is rich in languages. The main language families in the EU include Germanic, Romance, Slav, Baltic and Celtic. The EU institutions have 23 official languages but there are many other lesser-spoken ones. There is more information about the languages of Europe, the language skills of its people and Commission programmes to encourage language learning and teaching on the Commission's website on languages. You can also hear examples of how the languages sound when they are spoken.
Many Europeans speak at least one other language as well as their mother tongue and over a quarter of the adult population speak at least two foreign languages. However, during your travels in Europe, try using a few phrases of the local language when talking to local people. Here's how to say 'thank you':
There is just one prefix for making international telephone calls anywhere in the EU. It is 00.
The country codes are:
You can use your mobile phone anywhere in Europe and in many other parts of the world because of the EU’s GSM technical standard. Thanks to EU roaming rules, the cost of making calls when abroad in the EU is now 68% cheaper than in 2006 and the cost of receiving calls has gone down 81%. Meanwhile, the cost of sending roaming text messages has been cut by 60% since 2009 when price caps were introduced. Per second billing has been introduced after the first 30 seconds for calls made and from the first second for calls received.
Eurotariff maximum per minute roaming charge in euro (excluding VAT)
|1 July 2011 - 30 June 2012|
|Voice calls made abroad||€ 1.10||€ 0.35|
|Voice calls received abroad||€ 0.58||€ 0.11|
|Text sent from abroad||-||€ 0.11|
|Text received abroad||-||Free|
Operators are free to offer cheaper rates so look out for the best deals.
Customers now receive an automated message of the charges that apply for calls, texts and data roaming services such as surfing the web or downloading movies. Wholesale caps for the prices charged between operators have been introduced which should lead to reduced charges for customers. A mechanism for protecting consumers from 'bill shock' in data roaming services has been introduced which means that, following a warning, the consumer’s mobile connection to the internet while abroad is cut when their bill reaches a specified limit. If the customer does not specify a limit, a default cut off limit of €50 per month is applied.
An EU website lists the Eurotariff offered by operators in all 27 EU countries and has links to their websites. Tariffs for sending text messages or using data services can also be compared.
As a result of an EU initiative, nearly all manufacturers of data-enabled mobile phones have adhered to a new European standard providing compatibility with a common charger. Compatible mobile phones and chargers are gradually being introduced onto the European market.
Postage stamps can only be used in the country in which you buy them, even when priced in euro.
All Europe has 220-240 volt, 50 cycle alternating current. Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom have square three-pin plugs but, in general, all other EU countries have two-pin plugs. These may vary but you should be able to use your appliances, such as hairdryers and shavers, anywhere. Adaptors can usually be bought in airports and tourist resorts.