28 January 2013

If you're like the archetypal British traveller, when you go abroad you rely largely on pointing and gesturing to communicate with the locals. And when that doesn't work, TALKING REALLY LOUDLY.

Now, we're not saying you should be able to speako the lingo like a local, but there are 10 things that will really help you out when you're away. Here they are, in rough order of importance.

  1. Hello. Obvious? Yes, but still worth mentioning. If you don't learn anything else, at least learn to say 'hello' in the local language - this instantly makes you look like you've at least made an effort, and the natives will usually warm to you because of it.
  2. Thank you. Again, simple, kind words that endear you to people. Incidentally, some people could do with remembering to say this in their own language. 
  3. Excuse me. Especially useful when travelling in a busy city on whatever the crowded form of public transport is there. People will generally ignore you if they don't understand what you're saying, so if you say 'excuse me' (the polite equivalent of 'get the hell out of my way'), you're more able to get through the crowd (and less likely to miss your stop).
  4. Sorry. If you are travelling through a culture that's very different from your own, and/or if you're insensitive, you're bound to make a faux pas at some point. Saying 'sorry' in the local language will help to repair the damage.
  5. How much? In haggling cultures, it makes you look less like a tourist and like you know what you're doing (therefore less likely to get ripped off).
  6. Numbers. Otherwise, when you ask 'how much' and they answer in the same language, you will look like a numpty if you don't understand.
  7. Where is the toilet? If only because it will save you trying to explain what you need through the medium of sign language.
  8. Cheers (or similar expressions of celebration). Instant camaraderie.
  9. No. Arguably more important than 'yes', especially if you're female and/or don't want to buy stuff. 'Go away' is useful for the same reason.
  10. I speak [language]. Very useful if you think people are talking about you. 


What words or phrases do you think are important when you're abroad? Tell us in the comments below!