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How to Navigate Through a Foreign Country Without a Phrasebook

How to Navigate Through a Foreign Country Without a Phrasebook

Many people are scared to visit a country where they do not speak the language, but as daunting as it is, you can travel around these places and still have a fun time. Consider the following tips so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you know the local language and instead just enjoy your trip:

1. Use Hand Gestures and Body Language

Using hand gestures is one of the easiest ways to express what you want, and for locals to respond. Some common examples to communicate are:

-Holding up three fingers indicate you want to order 3 beers

-Using a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” to indicate your opinion

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-Using your finger to point to the exact item you want

-Shrugging to indicate you don’t understand

-Nodding or shaking your head to indicate yes and no

-Smiling or frowning to show others how you feel

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-Waving hello or goodbye to someone

-Shaking someone’s hand to thank them

-Bowing to someone to indicate respect
You can pretty much get what you need using the examples mentioned above. If you’re buying a souvenir or ordering in a restaurant, there is not much more you need to do other than pointing to an item and paying for it. If someone comes up to you on the street and tries to sell you something, all you need to really do is shake your head to indicate no—it’s as simple as that.

Be warned that there are certain hand gestures that might be offensive in some countries, so do your research before you go. For example, in some Asian countries, gesturing with the “ok” sign is actually an insult.

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2. Rely on Your Map

Many maps found in local tourist information booths will have a map in English. Take advantage of these maps and use them to explore your surroundings. Many of these maps will also have street names in the local language, so even if street signs aren’t in English, you can use your map to help you.

You can also use your map to ask for directions even if you cannot speak the language. All you need to do is point on the map, and a local can use their hands to point you in the right direction.

3. Stick to Major Tourist Attractions

Many locals have learned English in order to make a living catering to tourists. If you stick to areas where many tourists go, then you should have no problem speaking to someone in English. You might even meet other friendly tourists to chat with if you’re feeling a bit lonely.

4. Seek Out Local Expat Communities

Expat communities are great because local stores there will have English speakers, or at least signs in English. If you’re not up to trying to figure out what menu items mean, in an expat community there will be at least one restaurant that features an English menu.  Expats themselves are usually very friendly people and they will be more than happy to help you out if you approach them.

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5. Carry a Calculator

Many stores overseas do not have price tags attached to items. Instead, you will probably find that most places will require you to bargain before you can buy an item.  Most store owners will have a calculator to show you prices and such, but it doesn’t hurt to carry your own just in case. A calculator might even come on handy at local convenience stores, where you don’t need to bargain, but there are no price tags around. All you need to do is to bring the item to the shopkeeper, point to your calculator, and have them punch in how much the item costs.

6. Grab a Business Card from Where You Are Staying, or From a Nearby Store 

Even if you are  a whiz with directions, there might be an occasion where you may be lost. Before you leave your hotel or immediate area, grab a business card with the address in the local language. Just in case you don’t know where you are, you always hop in a taxi and head back to more familiar territory.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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