I think that we’ve all been there – traveling in a country where we can’t properly speak the language. This can lead to some difficult situations: some embarrassing, some just plain annoying. But when all is said and done, all we can do is look back on it and laugh.
This is a classic. You’re browsing the menu, not knowing what anything is and decide to take a wild guess.
“That looks like a word similar to my own language,” we say, “it must be this or it must be that”.
And so, you choose a dish with some confidence feeling quite pleased with yourself. And then it arrives… Completely not what you were expecting and probably something you don’t like and then you have to eat it so as to not look rude!
Tip: Look out for photo menus.
When you can’t speak the language you’re probably going to get yourself lost.
It’s difficult to explain to a taxi driver where you want to go when you do not know how to pronounce the street or hotel name. This means you could very well end up in the wrong place and have to pay more to get to where you actually want to be.
Navigating the buses, trains and metro systems can also be a difficult job. Being in a new place is confusing enough, never mind not being able to read the signs.
Tip: Write the destination down on paper and show it to the driver.
3. Game of Charades
You will find that every conversation, whether it’s ordering food or drink, explaining where you are from or asking for directions, turns into a giant game of charades. Over the top hand gestures, dramatic facial expressions, mimes and pointing are what we normally resort to. This may make you look silly, but it helps you to communicate your point and looks very funny at the same time.
Tip: Try drawing what you’re trying to say on a piece of paper or show a picture from the internet on your mobile phone. This way you can avoid the improvised acting!
Of course, inevitably there are going to be complete misunderstandings whether it’s with a waiter, with a cashier, hotel reception staff or with a taxi driver. You may feel like people are treating you like you are stupid, but just remember that the situation is completely normal and is nobody’s fault.
Tip: Be patient.
However, there is a way out: Try to learn the language. If you are a non-native English speaker, brush up on your skills with an English language course in an English-speaking country.
Whatever language you want to learn, the only way to master everyday conversational language is to spend time in a country where the language is natively spoken. Whether you are moving to a country long-term or only enjoy visiting for short trips, lose the misunderstandings and charades and make travel easier and more fulfilling.