Here are 10 phrases everyone needs to know when traveling to a foreign country. You never know when you will need them, and a little preparation might be worth it.
Part of the fun of traveling a foreign country is interacting with the locals. If you don’t speak the language, there could be some barriers, but don’t let that deter you. English is taught in many countries, and lots of people already speak at least a little bit, especially younger people.
So unless you are planning to permanently move to another country, learning a whole other language just to visit once is not practical, and for those who travel often, you won’t have time to learn an entire language every time you visit a new country.
Regardless, there are a few words and phrases that I recommend learning in the language of your destination. They will be helpful to you, and locals will be pleased that you have made an effort.
This goes without saying. When you go to a foreign country, saying hello is a very simple way to initiate a conversation with a local. And in some countries (like France) it is considered impolite to enter an establishment without greeting the host or hostess. Go the extra mile and say it in their native language.
And when you have enjoyed your meal or your service, a smile and Goodbye is a polite way to part ways.
Perhaps the most important of everything on the list, a little please and thank you go a long way. Use them liberally! These little words are at the core of proper etiquette regardless of where you wander.
When you bump into someone or someone is in your path, this is a simple way to make your intentions clear. In many countries it is Pardon or some form. Check your country before you go!
I would like ____.
Of course you are going to need to eat at some point, so when you order your food, you will need to know how to politely request your desired meal. In some countries you would say, I want ___, but many times there is a more polite way to say I would like ___. And don’t forget to follow it up with a please!
When ordering from a menu, you can always just point, but water is a basic necessity of life, and often is needed not just in a restaurant so this is one to have handy.
How do you say ___?
This is a personal favorite of mine. I love to get friendly with the locals and engage them in conversation. Many times I will ask the name of things. And then if they don’t speak English, I reciprocate with the English term.
Where is ____?
This is a handy little phrase. It is not uncommon to get turned around or lost, and being able to ask about the location of something is helpful. You can even fill in the sentence with the English word if you don’t know the correct term. Even if you don’t completely understand the reply, you will definitely understand the gesture in the correct direction.
Where is the bathroom?
As long as we are asking the locations of things, the most important thing to be able to locate is the bathroom. This is especially true if you are traveling with children. Don’t be caught without this one.
Can you help me?
If you find yourself in a pickle, it is important to be able to ask for help. Eventually someone will be able to help or at least point you toward someone who can.
Do you speak English?
If you need help and are struggling to communicate, ask if they speak English. If you are in a big city, chances are they do or they know someone who does. Smaller, more remote villages, you may have to look a little harder to find an English speaker.
And if all else fails, pull out your smartphone and pull up Google Translate. It is a free app that will help you translate longer sentences. While it is not a perfect translation tool, it is better than nothing, and you can use it back and forth with the person you are speaking with.
But make sure that you have downloaded it before your trip and have set it up to work offline in case you don’t have cell service or you didn’t splurge for international roaming.
Also, you can pre-search these phrases and save them in the Google Translate app for future reference!
There you have it! Don’t worry about learning a whole new language. With these basic phrases, you are ready to mix and mingle with the locals!