Getting to my first post about travel tips, I’m going to be talking about languages. While it probably may seem intuitive, I have some personal takes on the topic. To start, it generally is a very good idea to know some words in the language of the country you’re traveling to. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but the key words like “hello”, “thank you”, and “please” definitely are a must; if you know other words, then that’s a bonus. Being able to say these few words communicates, pun intended, that you aren’t the “obnoxious American” stereotype, as well as opening up more paths when you’re in the country. For example, I was in Estonia earlier this summer, and I was getting lunch. I got my lunch fine by speaking English, but that’s not the point here. As I had made an effort to learn how to say hi, please, thank you, and check please, the waitress definitely appreciated the gesture and I’m quite positive that the service provided went faster. Basically, the little words that we may take for granted here in the US go a long way; I’m also happy that I could avoid talking purely in English with her.
Contrast that to the time I was up in Montreal and Quebec. To this day, I regret being the obnoxious American and having to speak in English with the Quebecers. I’ll admit that I had planned to learn some more rudimentary French prior to the trip, but somehow that didn’t happen. Yes, I did survive that trip, but I’m not proud of the fact that besides saying “oui” and “merci”, no other French was spoken. Don’t do that-it shows disrespect for the local language.
Finally, German is a handy language abroad. Shocking, right? You probably were thinking that French or Spanish would be handier to have, I bet. Well, without fail, I’ve run into German tourists the last few years while abroad; they really love to travel, is what I’ve learned. Not only have I been able to speak the German that I’ve labored to learn in school, but they helped me with the language as well, which has been sorely needed. I also impressed the people around me by being able to converse with the Germans I’ve met, which has been great for communication and egoistic purposes.
The bottom line is, knowing languages or even select words in other languages is power. And that power will take you far when traveling, making your adventures vastly more enjoyable.