Musings, Travel

Please and Thank You

Traveling the world can be one of the most exciting things you will ever do, but the excitement comes with potential challenges. One of the biggest obstacles you could face is language. As you travel to far-off lands, you will quickly discover that English isn’t exactly spoken everywhere (you’d be surprised by how many think that is so!). Oh, sure, if you stick to the tourist destinations, you will find the language hurdle is often nonexistent, but venture slightly farther out and you may find yourself trying to ask questions using your charades or Pictionary skills. 

Imagine hopping into a cab to head back to your hotel after you’ve wandered so far you are now officially lost … and the cab driver speaks NO English. Or you found that street market you were looking for, knowing you can barter with a small piece of paper and a pencil because numbers are universal; you write down a number, the seller crosses it out and writes a counter proposal until you come to an agreement. But now you’ve bought that tablecloth for your mom and you have no idea how to care for it … and you don’t know how to ask.

And, of course, there is the ultimate dilemma … where is the nearest bathroom?

Sometimes it’s easier than others to figure out which door to enter.

Here’s some advice about communicating in a foreign country: 

First, learn two words – please and thank you. Those simple words will work wonders. I’ve seen people who claimed to not be able to speak any English suddenly become quite fluent just by showing them I am trying to use their language. Being able to count to ten also helps a lot.

Second: Always carry a small piece of paper or business card with your hotel address on it. Ask the concierge or front desk to write it down for you. Not everyone writes addresses like we do: 111 Elm Street, Anywhere, Arizona, 12345. gets all flipped around and becomes Elm Street 111, 06122, Touristberg. Make it easy for your cab driver to know where you’re going … or the bus driver … or the person who is willing to show you where you are on your pocket map.

You can’t give directions if you can’t pronounce the address.

Third: Most other places in the world say something related to “toilet room” for bathroom. In fact, a bathroom is a place you go to take a bath and may not even have a toilet in it. In many parts of Europe, “WC” indicates the room you may be looking for. The charades for this question can be fairly embarrassing. 

Finally: It’s become the stuff of comedy scenes, but try to remember that being louder doesn’t help. Americans tend to be loud anyway, don’t make it worse by shouting in English. 

Are you ready to try your hand at negotiating the price?

It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re lost or confused, but stay calm and think creatively. Being off the beaten path can leave you with incredible memories. I’ve been invited into a family home for a meal, received a personalized tour of a neighborhood when someone walked me back to my route and even found one-of-a-kind gifts to take home because I got lost.

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Learning a few words before you hit the road can make exploring a lot more fun.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2021 — Unless otherwise indicated, no compensation was received for this blog.

1 thought on “Please and Thank You”

  1. Your words are so wise! I was taught at an early age that it’s impolite not to try and speak the language of the country I am in. I found that once I tried, the folks became very helpful… even the French who really insist you speak French! The crazy thing was, no matter how hard I tried, the native person insisted on speaking English to me. Lol. Learning to say hello is also a great word to learn. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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