Have you ever tried to have an in depth conversation about world events with a one-year-old? It’s so cute. They mumble and struggle. You can kind of tell what they need with their body movements and gestures and you can see they are searching for a word, but they just can’t get there.
That’s what it can be like when you are in another part of the world and you don’t know the first thing about their language. You’re the one-year-old and the person from whom you are trying to extract detailed information about where to go, what to do and where (please, please please) is the nearest bathroom, just stares at you and tries to understand. They can kind of tell that you want something or need something by your movements and gestures (especially the bathroom one if you bounce around and grab your private parts), but you just can’t get there. You just end up mumbling and struggling. Oh, and you’re not as cute as a one-year-old.
Denverites are the nicest, most conscientious and most helpful people in the world. Believe it. Maybe it comes from being in the center of the country, a place where many languages are spoken and heard, or simply because it is a destination for so many tourists when they want to go skiing. But, even the nicest American can get frustrated and short tempered if a traveler tries to engage in conversation and doesn’t even attempt a word in English. It’s common courtesy, right? Well, the same applies when you travel to other remote parts of the world.
For the most part, people in other countries are sweet, helpful and engaging. They all want to share their knowledge and stories with you. But you have to try. Do a bit of research. Get a phrase book. Use some sort of language software. Put that smart phone to use in some other way than playing Angry Birds. Need to find the closest pharmacy in Goa, India? I’m pretty sure there’s an app for that.
So many say Parisians are such snobs, but try a simple ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Merci,’ even if your accent sounds more southern bell than South of France, and you will most likely be treated with respect and love. And, you’ll probably find the best ski runs on the Alps, the tastiest croissant and that bathroom you’ve needed for the last few hours.
Just like you would love to have a tourist come to you and try to use your words, all you have to do is simply try to use theirs. Just channel your inner one-year-old and try not to grab your crotch too much, at least until they know you are trying to find a restroom. Then, I guess, it’s okay.