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Old 07-19-2017, 07:55 AM
 
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Whenever I travel abroad, I constantly worry about doing something offensive or coming across as rude without really meaning to. There are also the language issues where I'm sure the people I'm talking to are thinking "oh great, here's another incompetent American tourist who expects me to speak English fluently." One time I was trying to talk to someone and he couldn't understand me, so without really thinking I repeated what I said louder and I could tell it bothered him. I've also been in a number of embarrassing situations where I've been in a very rule-oriented country and gotten fussed at for something like jaywalking or parking in the wrong place.

I guess that's just a part of travelling, learning as you go along, and you just need to develop a thick skin.
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Old 07-19-2017, 08:13 AM
 
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Sol View Post
Whenever I travel abroad, I constantly worry about doing something offensive or coming across as rude without really meaning to. There are also the language issues where I'm sure the people I'm talking to are thinking "oh great, here's another incompetent American tourist who expects me to speak English fluently." One time I was trying to talk to someone and he couldn't understand me, so without really thinking I repeated what I said louder and I could tell it bothered him. I've also been in a number of embarrassing situations where I've been in a very rule-oriented country and gotten fussed at for something like jaywalking or parking in the wrong place.

I guess that's just a part of travelling, learning as you go along, and you just need to develop a thick skin.
I'm about to find out, but offending is the least of my worries. I just don't like traveling and trying to navigate a foreign country alone. It will be interesting for sure. Excited to get the h*ll out of my office for 2 weeks, but worried about having things stolen or not knowing where I'm going and getting lost, etc. Wanting to make sure I have fun and don't just freeze (stay in my hotel room or just randomly walk around) because I don't know what sights I want to see and end up missing out on things.
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Old 07-19-2017, 08:26 AM
 
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That's why you research social customs, how to get to where you're going, and you learn basic phrases. You can also buy a portable translator or use an app on your phone.


Be prepared and it will reduce your anxiety.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,060 posts, read 18,985,577 times
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Originally Posted by charlygal View Post
That's why you research social customs, how to get to where you're going, and you learn basic phrases. You can also buy a portable translator or use an app on your phone.


Be prepared and it will reduce your anxiety.
Quite right. But sometimes things happen.

I was by myself driving in the little hill towns in the south of France, and I speak no French. I wanted a cup of coffee and saw a sign that said CAFE. I went to the door and walked in. The place was just one room with a huge long table that probably sat 12 people. An older women came out of a back room, greeted me then said nothing. I waited about 10 seconds and said, " cafe, S'il vous plaît." She smiled a little and went to the back room.

Instead of just sitting there all alone, I walked around the room looking at the artwork and knick knacks. And that's when I spotted the six kids sitting on the floor watching TV. And realized that I had used the wrong door and planted my ass down in somebody's dining room.

She brought me coffee, smiled, said something or other in French in a kind voice, giggling at my obvious embarrassment and futile attempts to apologize. She refused payment, and each one of those kids came out and wished me bonjour.

True Story. It remains one of my best travel memories out of hundreds of great travel experiences.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:56 AM
 
12,257 posts, read 18,390,529 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Sol View Post
Whenever I travel abroad, I constantly worry about doing something offensive or coming across as rude without really meaning to. There are also the language issues where I'm sure the people I'm talking to are thinking "oh great, here's another incompetent American tourist who expects me to speak English fluently." One time I was trying to talk to someone and he couldn't understand me, so without really thinking I repeated what I said louder and I could tell it bothered him. I've also been in a number of embarrassing situations where I've been in a very rule-oriented country and gotten fussed at for something like jaywalking or parking in the wrong place.

I guess that's just a part of travelling, learning as you go along, and you just need to develop a thick skin.
English is the global language of business, don't be embarrassed about it. They know English for a reason - to get tourist business. Your local vendor is probably appreciative that you are talking understandable English. Think of what a Japanese (or other non-English) tourist thinks, talking broken English to a Mexican shopkeeper trying to respond in his version of broken English.

Otherwise learning a few words in the native language and/or being familiar with basic customs need not take longer than googling a web page and reading it for about a half hour. Yeah, don't drive on the right in New Zealand, don't wear a bikini in public in Egypt. Stuff like that isn't brain surgery. Then problem solved.
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Old 07-19-2017, 11:03 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
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Yes, research is your friend! Spend some time reading about the culture and social customs, plus talk to people from the countries you plan to visit, if you can.

It's also important to learn "please" "thank you" and some other common phrases. Don't depend on your app! It not might work when you need it most.

I've found that when you meet people half-way and do your best to be polite and fit in, good things happen, unless you are in a war zone, so don't go there, unless you are in Spec Ops with a team.
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Old 07-19-2017, 01:10 PM
 
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Do your best to understand the customs, etc but it sounds like you are far too worried about it. Just relax and be yourself. Obviously nobody likes an arrogant person but it's much more common to see the opposite extreme - Americans trying so hard to avoid the 'ugly American' stereotype (which is not even a stereotype any longer) that many go around acting like they are sorry for being American. This won't endear anyone. For example, it's common in Europe to see so-called 'enlightened' American tourists falling all over themselves to apologize for Trump and getting people to understand that they are not a supporter. No matter what your beliefs are, this just comes across really badly as it makes it all about YOU rather than them. They don't need to know your political beliefs within the first two minutes of meeting you and having such an obvious agenda of trying to teach everyone that not all Americans are the same is patronising. So this kind of behaviour actually accomplishes the exact opposite of what's intended and can leave a bad impression. I'm not saying that you act like this btw, but just sharing my observations that I think are related to your topic.

Europe is filled with countries with clashing cultures and most tourists in Europe are Europeans (the order obsessed Germans and Swiss, the apparent chaos of Italy and Spain, the notorious loud drunk Brits, the reserved French and Danes, Eastern Europeans who now travel, work and study all over Europe, etc, etc. And then you have the Chinese and Brazilians who travel like crazy to Europe. Different European cultures mean that for example, French shop keepers are used to people who enter their shops and (gasp) don't say Bonjour. Although many Europeans are less warm and outwardly friendly, they are usually very tolerant deep down and they've seen everything.

50-70 years ago, for example, a higher proportion of tourists in Europe were Americans and they were the ones with money so they stood out more. Even decades after the war, the 'masses' in Europeans did not routinely travel to other countries due to lack of middle classes with money and the post war mentality of the average person. This is ancient history and there are now European tourists all over Europe and many other places that also didn't really travel much decades ago. In Europe, American travelers generally have a good reputation and for every American stereotype, there are dozens of others - Germans who hog pool lounge chairs all day with their towels put out at 6am, Italians who cut into the queue, British football louts, etc, etc. To think people are focused on one's Americanism frankly can sound self-centred.

English is how just about ALL tourists and other travelers communicate in Europe. I think it's funny that many Americans still equate English with being American. Germans in Spain will often speak English to Spanish people. Polish people in France will usually speak English. Brits usually can't speak other languages too and will expect everyone to speak English. Generally, everyone expects everyone to speak English in Europe because most people (at least who come in contact with tourists) speak English. Those who don't have the problem -- I don't mean this in a rude or arrogant way, just that English is expected as a basic skill in very many jobs and if you can't speak English you appear (rightly or wrongly) uneducated and parochial. This is especially true for younger people.

All I'm trying to say is that people should be mindful of the cultures where they travel but don't worry about messing up. Everyone messes up and it seems that Americans are much more sensitive (or paranoid) about this than others. Europeans would rather that you just be yourself and enjoy your visit.

Last edited by just_because; 07-19-2017 at 02:02 PM..
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Old 07-19-2017, 01:44 PM
 
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
10,511 posts, read 8,751,470 times
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In many cases, you're wrong about this. At least for the Europeans that I know, who visit America, most have come away surprised and enthralled by the openness, friendliness and helpfulness of Americans at home. They want to like you. Just be yourself. You sound like a nice person. "Can you please help me with/to_______" in English will usually work just fine in Northern Europe and the centers of major cities throughout the EU with a few possible exceptions. In rural areas all over the EU and in the south and Eastern fringe of Europe, a phrase book might be useful, but a mobil phone page or map might be a bit more helpful.

I got lost in the Czech Republic in 1990, before the county re-invented itself, and in the middle of nowhere, I stopped in a small wayside bar where no one spoke any English at all, except in a nearby town where someone's brother lived. A guy at the bar, hopped in his car and I followed him to this house where the brother lived and got directions. After the country had joined the EU, I also got lost there because my map was pre-EU and all the highway numbers had changed. This time, I ended up getting directions in English from a bunch of friendly hookers in a bar in another small town. My step-brother traveled even further East to Southern Romania. He has shared similar stories.

Last edited by Frihed89; 07-19-2017 at 02:28 PM..
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Old 07-19-2017, 02:24 PM
 
9,519 posts, read 13,433,244 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Sol View Post
Whenever I travel abroad, I constantly worry about doing something offensive or coming across as rude without really meaning to. There are also the language issues where I'm sure the people I'm talking to are thinking "oh great, here's another incompetent American tourist who expects me to speak English fluently." One time I was trying to talk to someone and he couldn't understand me, so without really thinking I repeated what I said louder and I could tell it bothered him. I've also been in a number of embarrassing situations where I've been in a very rule-oriented country and gotten fussed at for something like jaywalking or parking in the wrong place.

I guess that's just a part of travelling, learning as you go along, and you just need to develop a thick skin.
I always research my destination before going so I don't offend people and also so I can avoid scams.
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Old 07-19-2017, 04:38 PM
 
32,055 posts, read 32,950,797 times
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I have never worried about offending someone while traveling abroad. One can always figure out a way to communicate basic concepts without speaking a local language if necessary.
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