“Do you speak English?” the girl asked the German speaking waiter immediately after she and her friend set foot in the restaurant.
“No” came his curt reply, after which the girls promptly decided that they needed to find another restaurant.
We sat nearby at a table, immensely enjoying our authentic German lunch and the lovely atmosphere of the nearly empty restaurant, complete with old wooden beams running across the ceiling.
I smiled inwardly as the waiter told the girls that he didn’t speak English, as he had just been speaking quite passable English to us a few minutes before and was very helpful in aiding us with ordering as the menu was all in German.
By stepping into the restaurant with conditions and an expectations, the girls shut the door for themselves on what might have been a great authentic German dining experience.
As we travel around, we see many tourists from many countries that are frankly rude, arrogant and insensitive to local culture. Warning – This may sound like a rant, but conditions in another country are not going to be exactly as the country that you came from. That is why you travel to visit ANOTHER country. If all you want is an Americanized interpretation of another country, visit Disney World and you will probably be happy with that.
We have seen many tourists like these girls in our journeys. Instead of having enriching, engaging experiences in these countries, these tourists tend to have many problems. Things are really difficult for them as they travel in the world.
Instead of thinking that perhaps they might be the cause of their own problems and try changing their attitudes, they end up thinking that the people in that country are just really rude, and that it isn’t a nice place to visit (I am really convinced that this is a big part of the reason that many people think that the French are rude.)
They then go off and tell everyone that they meet about how rude the people in “Suchandsuchacountry” were to them, and this is where cultural stereotypes get started.
This causes other people to potentially change their travel plans because they remember that so and so told them a long time ago that the people in X country were rude, and they miss a beautiful place because of it.
International Travel Tips for Getting Along Well in a Foreign Country:
- Next time you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, take a moment to sit and assess the situation and then ask for help using “Please” and “Thank you” in the local language to open the doors of communication. Most people in other countries are happy and willing to help you, even if they don’t speak your language. Overcoming language barriers is not hard to do with a little preparation.
- “Please” and “Thank you” are the two most important words that you can learn in any language. Learn them wherever you go and use them liberally.
- Try as you travel in the world to fit in as much as you can with the local culture. Any effort that you make at using the local language will usually be greatly rewarded, so do not feel self conscious if you only know a few words or are unsure of your pronunciation The quickest way to make a new friend is to ask them how to say something in their language (and you will learn some new vocabulary!)
Travel can and is an amazing experience, but it requires being a little flexible to get the most out of it. Make your expectations of a new country less rigid, and you will be better able to appreciate the wonderful things that you find there, instead of getting caught up on what you thought that you would find but didn’t.
Have you ever SEEN people like this in another country? Have you ever BEEN this person in another country? What tips can you share for adapting to new cultures?