Chapter 8

Language Crash Course

Nin hao, hola, namaste, ahlen, ola, nomaskaar, zdravstvuite, konnichi wa, guten tag. They all mean one thing: hello.

There are hundreds of other ways to greet a person. Even if you try not to, you are going to learn something by going abroad, and that is most likely why you went. The best way to start is very simple: learn to say hello in the native language. Then learn to say goodbye, thank you and please. Challenge yourself to learn a different word or phrase every day.

give it the ol’ college try

It may be frustrating at first, but showing effort and trying to assimilate will show your hosts that you are trying your best to learn something. The people of that country will be much more willing to help you in return. Your hosts may help you out and speak English with you, but never assume that they will know English. Most people in the world (91%) do not speak English. Sometimes people of other countries like to practice their English. We should be just as eager to practice our foreign language skills with them.

actions speak louder than words

Probably the most common mistake while traveling abroad is the use of gestures. Some gestures that are positive here might be highly offensive in other countries. The safest gesture is the smile. Look happy. Look like you are glad to be there. A simple smile can be a greeting, an apology for a small problem or a thank you for a small favor. Smiles go a long way.

gestures and body language

You would probably never consider pointing feet at somebody offensive. In Thailand, you must keep your feet to yourself. Do not prop them up on anything and never point them at another person. You are not even supposed to step over anybody’s foot. In the States, we don’t think much about feet, but in Thailand and in other countries you should be constantly aware of them.