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
-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
-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.
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.
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.