How to Communicate When Traveling Abroad

Being in a new country can be a challenge. Since you are not familiar with the new environment many questions will arise such as, where to go to the bathroom, best restaurants to eat, and directions for getting around to your destinations. Language and culture can sometimes be a barrier to effective communication, so here are a few tips to help get your questions answered when traveling abroad:

  • Learn the culture:

Each country differs when it comes to manners and etiquette. While some countries believe in asking someone how their day is going, others may simply want you to say “good day”, and a few are ok with you getting straight to the point and asking your question. If possible do your research to find out how to approach someone appropriately before you take your trip.

  • Learn how to ask common questions in the native language:

“How are you?” “Where is the bathroom?” “What bus/train do I take to get to (insert destination)?” (etc.) are common questions you may need to ask when abroad. Learn how to ask those questions in the native language of the country you are visiting to help with language barriers.

  • Plan out what you will be doing ahead of time:

Piggy backing off of tip number three, it is helpful to know what questions you will need to ask often if you plan your trip out ahead of time. Plan how you will be getting around, is it by bus or train? Know what destinations you may need directions to. Make the decision on how you will get food etc.

  • Learn how to say you don’t speak their native language:

Telling people up front you are not fluent in their language can help when they respond with the answers of your questions. If they hear you ask a question in their language they may assume you speak it fluently and respond with just talking rather than using hand gestures and other methods to help you understand.

  • Find out who is safe to talk to:

Be aware of your surroundings and learn when and where you should ask for help from a stranger. Talking with law enforcement can be your best option, but it is still important to learn whom you can talk to if they are not around.

  • Download language translator apps:

Language translation apps, such as Google translator, are great for asking questions on the spot. Here is a list of apps that can be helpful when on the go.

For more tips on communicating in your country of interest, contact one of our expert consultants.


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