I've spent a number of years in Germany, and traveled around a number of European countries. There are a number of observations I can generally make over the use of English.
First, if you run into a couple of young Germans....say fifteen to twenty-five years old.....the odds are that most can converse with decent but marginal English. The over-forty crowd? If they deal with Americans (in a local base environment)....you tend to find maybe half the population can flip over and use the English language to some degree.
Second, the only country in Europe that continually surprised me with the ability to use English....was Denmark. It didn't matter if I stepped into a bakery, or into a pharmacy....most all Danes speak at least marginal English. The reason? After a while, I came to realize that they put US movies onto the Danish state-run TV network....without the dubbing process, and simply put sub-titles at the bottom. I think Danes have simply progressed with some English in school, and the movie situation improved their ability.
Third, the worst country to go into and find no ability to communicate in English? I'd rate Spain as number one. Oh, not islands where English tourists roam and most all Spaniards there speak some decent English.....but locations like Barcelona. You have to roam around and look for mostly teens or college kids....if you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask a question and no ability to speak Spanish.
So you are left with this situation....you'd best arm yourself with a phrase book for that country's language. Figure that you needs at least ten good phrases and build off that. I will admit...the most popular phrases you ought to study on.....are "where is hotel such and such" and "have you a rest room nearby".
Luckily for everyone....GPS technology has taken one of the biggest problems out of international travel....that of getting lost and asking stupid questions and getting stupid answers....and made it into a simple task to getting from point A to point B.
Europeans learning more languages than Americans? Most German schools will utilize one to two language classes. English is typically one of the two taught. The expectations aren't dramatic or that high. I would make the comment that the instructions booklets are laid out better than what an American kid might expect on a foreign language.
So I will end this commentary with this view. If visiting any European country for a week or two....you'd best have some small phrase book that fits into your backpack or purse. If you need an English speaker....always look for a younger individual (better odds of communication). And if you stay around for a while....you will eventually need a thousand word vocabulary to survive. Finally, I will admit that watching TV probably does help in the very beginning....to pick up on phrases and pronunciation