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For a better travel experience in a foreign country, learn as much of the local/native language as you can

Posted by on September 29, 2011

Knowing the local language… this makes for a better experiences in that country of whatever reason you went there for since the locals’s way of life including their language was made to be comfortable for them, not for foreigners. And this includes the food which a lot of people have issues with. For example, countries in the Andes eat guinea pigs for food which many Westerners look at as being barbaric but you have to understand that people over there eat those flurry critters as their only source of protein. Their ancestors did not have cows, chickens, or pigs to utilize as food sources and birds and fish were not at all in abundance like in today’s Western countries. The biggest animal that they used for food was the llama which some people today have problems thinking about eating. And yes, I have eaten llama meat before. It’s like beef but with more a game-like taste.

This same application also works for why Europeans consume so much alcohol such as beer and wine. In the old times, water was a scarce commodity that it was unsafe to drink from rivers and lakes as they were either polluted or difficult to purify. Rainwater was really the only safe source of water and that usually lasted for a few days until microbes and/or other bacteria would find its way into it. That’s why alcohol purified the drinks Europeans had and resulted in many people using it as their only means of hydration.

But it’s not just the food and drinks you have to understand the most. It’s the language that is very important as well being in a foreign country. Can you order food and drink in that language? I’ve been to many countries where the people cannot or will not speak English as they are too poor to learn the language and/or did not learn anything at all in school. That’s why it is very important to learn the foreign language of where you’re going to.

It’s like if a foreigner came into the US, England, or Australia and started asking you questions in his language which you don’t understand. You’re now resorted to use hand and face gestures to get things communicated. Well, that’s what foreigners will do if they don’t understand English and you’re an Anglo-based citizen speaking English in their country. But if you’re willing to learn the language prior to going to a foreign country, you will gain a lot of respect from the foreigners as now you have a way of communicating to them. Sure, a few words like “hello” and “thanks” can go a long way of opening a few doors, but speaking complete sentences can blow the doors wide open. Take my example of going out of the tourist zone in Cozumel, Mexico. I went out to eat tacos at 60 cents apiece and met some of the locals who explained to me that there are many places like that which serve mainly locals but are definitely willing to serve foreigners if they ever came at reduced prices to boot.

It’s all really up to you on how much of a better experience do you want: a decent one where you might remember bits and pieces or a mind-blowing one that you’ll remember the rest of your life. This is why planning is important. Most people do not plan to fail, but their actions result in them failing to plan and thus they will fail. Take full responsibility for your entire vacation experience.