Travel can be daunting: culture shock mixes with excitement and the exhaustion from long flights and stopovers. Then there’s the subtle fear of the unknown if you’re a solo traveller or heading off on your first trip. One question I have been asked a few times is if I have any tips that can make your travels easier?
As it turns out, I do, and I can guarantee these tips will make your journeys run smoother. Chances are people will be more helpful and you might even get a better deal in a few places too.
Three simple things
“Hello”, “Please”, “Thank you”
You know how your parents taught you to always be polite? That still applies when you travel. Taking the time to learn these four words in the local language can make a world of difference in your travels.
Why it works
You’re a guest in this country, and you should always try to be polite to your hosts. By saying please and thank you in the local language it means that people understand you’re being polite if they don’t speak English. It’s all well and good thanking people, but if they don’t understand you why bother in the first place?
It shows you care
By learning a few words in the local language it shows your hosts that you have put in the effort to learn more about them and their culture. You’re not merely wandering around with a camera glued to your face before you move on to the next destination on your RTW ticket.
People like it when you try, and even if you make a hash of it the effort you’ve made in your attempt is generally acknowledged. By practising a few words and phrases before you arrive you stand out (in a good way) as “not just another tourist”.
As far as I can see, there aren’t any legitimate reasons as to why you shouldn’t put in the effort and learn at least “hello”, “please”, and “thank you”. Travel is about experiencing other cultures and places, and attempting a new language helps fulfil that.
“But I’m horrible at languages.” So am I (ask my high school French teacher). Learning a few words doesn’t require much skill, or effort – no one’s asking you to become fluent. If you don’t have time to punch four words into Google Translate when you’re waiting for your flight, how do you have time to travel in the first place?
Do you make a point of learning local phrases before you travel? What have your experiences been – have you seen the benefits of it like me, or have you been laughed at (or worse) for butchering someone’s mother tongue? Leave your stories below!