Fun Facts: Things to Learn Before You Travel

We’re approaching traveling season, and while you might be busy organizing your flights and hotels, it’s also worth making sure that your language knowledge is ready to help you on your vacation. Here are some handy hints on what you should be prepared for:

A big part of any trip (or it is for me at least!) is experiencing local cuisine. After all, how can you say that you’ve really lived like a local if you haven’t eaten like one? A great destination for pizza-lovers will surely be the USA, where 350 slices of pizza are eaten every second.

Kaplan students enjoying local food in Seattle
Kaplan students enjoying local food in Seattle

Learning names for certain food items help you know what to order in a restaurant, but it will also help you know what to avoid in countries where eating habits are very different to those in your home country!

On vacation you are likely to be spending a lot of money while eating out and buying souvenirs. Learning all the numbers up to 100 (or even higher!) is bound to make you a master at negotiating.

In fact, you will have to work even harder if you are going to China, where they have a very unique way of counting with their hands to represent the written form of each number's character.

In English we say that flattery will get you far, and what better way to prove this than to compliment the locals? For example, letting restaurant staff know how much you enjoyed your food is a great way to express your gratitude. However, be careful if you are thinking about leaving a tip for your waiter because in Japan it is actually considered rude to do so!

Where is…?
In May 2012, a group of Spanish football supporters boarded a flight to Budapest, Hungary, to see their beloved team play in the Europa League final. The only problem was that the game was actually being played in Bucharest, Romania! A little bit more knowledge of how to ask for and understand directions would have helped them, and will definitely save you while abroad.

Students at Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge - A landmark you wouldn't want to miss while in London

When going abroad, it’s not just important to ensure that you’re understood, but also that you’re doing so in a polite and respectful way. Learning ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the language of your destination will get you far, and the effort you make to use the language will certainly be appreciated by local speakers.

It’s also important to consider that some subjects of conversation may be perfectly acceptable in some countries but not in others. For example, the topic of income is discussed quite openly in some Asian countries, but is likely to make Europeans feel uncomfortable. To avoid committing any faux pas it’s important to read up on some of these before going on vacation!

And for emergencies… Where is the bathroom?

Traveling is an enriching experience, so don’t be afraid to try new things. As we often say in English, “When in Rome…”, so be sure to do as the locals do! (Bonus fact - You can find a city called Rome on every continent in the world)

What language advice would you give to people going abroad for the first time? Share your advice in the comments below!


flattery - complimentary remarks

gratitude - a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation

faux pas - an embarrassing social mistake

"When in Rome..." - to behave how the people around you behave

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