Travelling or moving to a foreign place can be overwhelming to say the least. You may not know the local customs and the everyday way of life, and everything that you’re used to might be turned on its head. Not to mention, depending on the country you’re in, you probably don’t know the language either.
If nothing else, there are two phrases you should always learn in the language of your given destination; Hello and Thank You.
It’s the least you can do to show that you’re friendly and you care enough to use a little bit of the local language. It takes very little effort and it will make you feel a little more confident when approaching people. We find that people are often more receptive when you start with the ‘Hello‘ that they understand and a smile, even if after that it’s a bit of a hassle to get your point across. But if the rest of your conversation consists of universal non-verbal communication (finger-pointing, head nods for yes, head shakes for no, etc.), at least you can feel confident in the beginnings and ends of your interactions.
This notion struck me as I went to the gym the other day in Dalian, China. The encounter went as follows: I walked in, said nǐ hǎo to the desk attendant and she said nǐ hǎo back. I handed her my gym card, she scanned it and gave me a locker key. Then I said xièxiè with a smile, she said bié kèqì (you’re welcome) with a smile and that was it. I walked into the gym as I would anywhere else.
I realized that most of our encounters with strangers in life are not much longer than that. Think about all the quick encounters you have throughout your day – holding the door open for someone, most Über rides, the delivery man bringing you your food or drink. All of them don’t require much more than those two phrases. An added bonus for you would be to learn Goodbye in any given language but Thank you is often a placeholder for that.
So far in our travels we’ve learned hello and thank you in:
- French (bonjour or salut and merci)
- Spanish (hola and gracias)
- Italian (ciao and grazie)
- Chinese (Mandarin) (nǐ hǎo and xièxiè)
- German (hallo and danke)
- Turkish (merhaba and teşekkürler)
- Portuguese (ola and obrigado/obrigada)
And hope to be adding many more to the list soon!
So, take the time and learn these easy and universal phrases and get involved with the daily routine and goings-on in the world wherever you are. You’ll be a better person for it.