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Do You Speak English?

Reading through your ‘Travel” section of the archives reminded me of how my own dear family decided to act on a European vacation we went on!

The vacation was to be a week-long cruise starting in Barcelona and going to parts of Italy and France with my mother’s family – Gramma, Aunt Carol, Aunt Lisa, and her son Bob who was two years older than I, as well as my younger brother, mom, and dad. Since my mother and father met during an exchange program in Austria, Dad decided that we four would spend an extra week in southern Germany and Austria before heading to Barcelona. I had been taking German classes for four years at this point, my brother had just started a German class, and my dad majored in German, so I was quite excited for that portion.

To prepare, I did some research on how Americans should conduct themselves overseas to avoid being “rude Americans” or standing out as targets for pickpockets or thieves. Suggestions I found included learning some basic phrases and names of food you like, and dressing a little fancier – no athletic gear worn as normal clothes, no white socks with shorts and sneakers, no backpacks or fanny packs, no cameras worn on the neck, no baseball caps, dark wash jeans, and no chewing gum or being loud. Since Dad was being very paranoid about having money or phones stolen, I relayed the suggestions to him and printed out some basic food phrases in the various language, as well as phrases like “Don’t touch me,” and “No thank you” in case we were approached by shady characters (we were taking public transportation at times and Dad was rife with horror stories about them).

The German part of our trip went off relatively without a hitch. Dad, thrilled to be back in one of his favorite places, struck up conversations in German with every waiter and taxi driver we came across just to prove he could. I made sure to order everything in German, ask questions in the shops in German, and speak in English only when spoken to first. The only problem was Dad’s attire – everything on the “don’t” list, plus a bright blue hiking backpack with neon orange clips that he clipped over his shirts and wore everywhere. Overall, though, we had a great time in Germany and Austria and even met up with Dad’s old host family for an impromptu snack when we were in the neighborhood!

We eventually arrived in Barcelona and met up with the aunts, Bob, and Gramma outside of our hotel. We were in an older, more historical section, and Gramma wanted to go see a certain cathedral. Upon entering the hotel, the first words out of Aunt Carol’s mouth were, “DOES ANYONE HERE SPEAK ENGLISH?!” She repeated her question to the lady at the front desk, who answered, “Nope, Spanish,” with more than a hint of sarcasm. After the initial embarrassment, we asked the lady if there were any good tourist attractions that were okay for walking-challenged Gramma, and we mentioned the cathedral. “No, no!” she cried. “That will be so boring for your children. So old! You should see the MAGIC FOUNTAIN!” She helpfully gave us directions. Naturally, as we walked there, we had to stop every ten feet and make Carol, Lisa and Gramma were still behind us and not just randomly standing in the middle of the walkway taking pictures of the buildings, the people, the pigeons, the signs, the ground, the trash cans, the homeless man peeing in the street…

When we arrived at the fountain, I decided the concierge lady had pulled a little prank on the rude Americans. The fountain was there, and it was a very nice large fountain lit by many colors, but surrounding it was the Barcelona Gay Pride Festival. There were open-air urinals, rainbow everything, many people being affectionate, plenty of alcohol, and an enormous stage with an elaborate drag show being put on. My conservative Gramma was speechless, only uttering “Well…look at the very pretty men…” I was about to die trying to suppress my laughter as my relatives all stared blankly forward or at the ground and marched towards the fountain!

The rest of our trip had a similar theme of “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!” Taxi drivers in Barcelona had long conversations with each other outside the taxi with the meter running, since we had no way of communicating with them in Spanish. English menus were demanded in Italy and France, often with the waiters’ faces drooping into a glower. Photo opportunities were apparently everywhere, even in the middle of crowded squares! We weren’t as bad as some of the stories on this blog, but I was still more than a little embarrassed that my family wasn’t even trying to fit in or do their best to interpret the menus. Luckily, nothing was stolen from us.

My Dad has invited me to come on another European cruise with my immediate family over the summer, this time with a week in Germany preceding a cruise around Sweden, Russia, and more northern countries. Unless he learns to speak a lot of Swedish and Russian before then, I think I will pass! 0910-15

{ 76 comments }
{ 76 comments… add one }
  • LadyV April 17, 2018, 3:16 am

    This started out so well, and then went straight downhill. OP and family did well in Germany because they already spoke the language. It would have made everyone’s lives easier if they had people in the family learn a few basic phrases in the language of the other countries they went to. It wouldn’t have to be every person knowing every language – one person could learn some Spanish, one some Italian, and so on. I don’t know about other countries, but when I was in Germany, I found that people appreciated the fact that I was trying to speak the language – and even taught me new words!

    Side note: I wouldn’t immediately assign evil intention to the concierge – she may have legitimately not known about the Pride Festival.

  • m April 17, 2018, 3:24 am

    This is a cute letter so I hate to have to disagree, but (and this is a big “but”) I do.

    Full disclosure, I’m a French woman living in Paris. European capitals have made tourism their bread and butter. My city is the most visited city in the world, followed closely by our friends in Barcelona, Lisbon, Prague and obviously the Greek islands. Yet, most of these cities/islands continue to be very contemptuous of most if not all tourists: loud Chinese, rude Americans, photography-obsessed Japanese. Every cliché you can think of, I’ve heard it from someone in my circle of friends and acquaintances. It’s snobbish and hypocritical to the extreme. If you don’t like all these people, stop trying to make money off of them!

    Furthermore, the English language has become the lingua franca of our generation whether we like it or not. This is not only the case for English-speakers visiting Europe, but for Europeans travelling to European cities other than their own. The Spaniards and Dutch who come to my city will address me in English and I have no problem with that. People can’t be expected to learn the language of every country they visit and to be frank, it’s easier for me to answer an American tourist’s question in English than to have to decipher their very approximate French :). I appreciate the effort and encourage everyone to learn new languages, but no one should be expected to learn a foreign language for a 2-week trip (often spread out between several countries no less).

    Finally, I really don’t think the lady at reception was playing a joke on you. 1) because the Catalan are a special breed in that when given a choice between speaking Spanish or English, most of them would prefer to speak English (or Catalan, but let’s be honest, that is one tough language to learn for a foreigner); 2) the magic fountain in Montjuic is awesome. It has the Museum of Catalan art right next to it and perhaps she was also directing you to the Montjuic amusement park which is a blast for people of all ages, but most especially children.

    In conclusion, thank you for trying to be considerate. I’m sure everyone you encountered was thrilled to hear you speak German and Spanish. It’s always nice that someone takes the time to learn something about your culture and language is the gateway to that, but that is a bonus, not a requirement. I hope you enjoyed your time here and feel free to return. We’re slowly learning to be more accommodating and polite (and when I say “we”, I mean the general public. Our wait staff are still the worst, but at least they’re indiscriminately so).

    • Iris April 17, 2018, 6:16 pm

      That’s not just you, though. In my experience everywhere hates tourists but loves their money.

      For me, this comes down to basic etiquette. It’s rude to stand in the middle of a thoroughfare and block it, even if you are taking photos. It’s not rude to not speak someone’s language, but it’s certainly rude to shout at them. These rules are not suspended simply because you are not in ‘your’ country.

      FWIW on my one brief trip to Paris I found the wait staff’s attitude of “I’m here to do my job, here is your food, it is delicious, now I will take your money, beyond that I don’t care about you at all” refreshing. I don’t need a new friend, I need you to do your job properly. Then again, I also very much enjoyed meeting the very charming family of tourists from the US who gave us some great restaurant recommendations so maybe I just had a lucky trip.

  • Marie April 17, 2018, 3:42 am

    Wow, OP makes it look like Europe is a dangerous place where you should speak the local languages, or you’ll be robbed or scammed on the spot.

    Let me clear something up, as a European who has been to many European countries in tourist attire: if you are respectful and behave yourself, other people will do the same to you. Yes, there’s a chance of pickpockets. Don’t tell me you don’t have pickpockets in New York. No, you don’t have to learn the local languages unless you plan on going to very rural areas. Most Europeans speak at least 2 languages, one of them being English. OP mentions going to Sweden and having to learn Swedish, while Sweden is known in Europe for their high skills in English.

    Yes, you should be vigilant, and in some cities you want to avoid certain areas, like Milan or Barcelona. Just like you don’t walk around in certain areas in Detroit, or Cape Town, or in Hong Kong. On the other hand, I’ve felt completely safe walking around Berlin at night, just like in Amsterdam, Reykjavík, or in Tokyo, or in Istanbul.
    Just be polite, respectful, don’t yell (indeed: don’t be loud, OP is spot on there), and you’ll be fine.

    Regarding the lady that send OP to Gay Pride: it’s possible she was being nasty. It’s also possible she thought you were actually there to see Gay Pride. Those events usually attract a lot of tourists who will ask hotels where to go to see the Pride show/parade. When travelling, always make sure to check first if there are any events you should be aware of. This can be a Gay Pride festival, but also things such as Ramadan when travelling to a Muslim country, or Diwali when travelling to India, etc.

    • at work April 17, 2018, 4:21 pm

      Thank you for all of this

  • Dominic April 17, 2018, 6:30 am

    On my first trip to Europe (coincidentally also Germany), afterwards I visited American cousins who at the time were living in Belgium. They took me on a day trip to Bruges, and we met up with two older couples who were friends of theirs from back home and also traveling in Europe at the time. Most of our morning went fine, but when it came time to decide where to go for lunch, no one knew where a good restaurant was. We were standing on a crowded street corner amidst a group of people waiting to cross the street, and the one friend of my cousin asked in a loud voice, “Does anybody speak English? We are looking for a good restaurant.” I could have died and wanted to shrink into the sidewalk. On the other hand, we were actually directed to an excellent restaurant and enjoyed the famed mussels served there. It was embarrassing, though it had a good result in the end. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    We’re traveling to Europe this summer and will be in Italy and the Netherlands, so I’ve been brushing up on a few polite phrases. Someone I mentioned this to stated, “Nobody speaks Dutch. Why bother?”

    Because it’s polite to try, that’s why.

    • admin April 17, 2018, 2:14 pm

      My daughter travels internationally every year and last year’s trip was to Thailand and Laos. She was traveling alone to spend time with a cousin in Laos. The female Thai Airlines agent, when she found out daughter was traveling alone, proceeded to teach her a few Thai phrases such as “Thank you”, Good morning”, and “Please” so she would be “polite”.

      Speaking of polite, same daughter had a rough plane trip from Japan to Thailand due to a typhoon causing turbulence. Daughter was the only Caucasian on the plane, traveling alone and she got very motion sick. The only one to get sick as far as she could tell. So while she was vigorously barfing into a vomit bag, crying, a Japanese mom rubbed her back, handed her tissues and assured her in Japanese (daughter couldn’t understand but the tone conveyed). People around her were handing her tissues and wipes or politely ignoring the drama happening on the aisle seat. Very sweet.

      • Saucygirl April 17, 2018, 3:15 pm

        I traveled to Thailand when pregnant and got very sick during the flight. The nicest flight attendants ever kept coming to check on me, bringing ginger ale and broth with out me ever asking for it. People were so nice

    • Mechtilde April 17, 2018, 3:07 pm

      As an Englishwoman who can manage a few Dutch phrases I can promise you that anyone you speak to in the Netherlands will be delighted, and touched by the effort you have made.

    • Ashley April 18, 2018, 6:49 am

      “Nobody speaks Dutch. Why bother?”

      *eye roll* You mean no one in the Netherlands speaks Dutch? lol You are right, it’s polite to try. Locals will likely appreciate that you are at least making an effort.

      I agree with some of the original post – you definitely want to be a conscientious tourist. But I wouldn’t NOT visit a country just because I’m not fluent in the language.

    • Marie April 18, 2018, 7:27 am

      Welcome to the Netherlands! 🙂
      I would however recommend not trying to learn Dutch, except perhaps “Dankuwel” (thank you said politely). The Dutch speak excellent English, and in some places in Amsterdam the wait staff will be foreign students that don’t even speak Dutch themselves.
      We’re also very prone to immediately switch to English as soon as we notice you’re not a native speaker (the Germans do the same). This is not trying to impolite to your attempt, but to accomodate you and make communication easier. It can come off as rude though, but now you know that’s not our intention! 🙂
      We just really don’t expect anyone to learn our crazy language if they’re only here on vacation.

    • Mabel May 7, 2018, 5:23 pm

      I concur. I tried to learn a few phrases in Welsh before I went to Wales. Although the rules of Welsh pronunciation are very straightforward, it’s not an easy language to learn, so the only phrase I could remember in the moment was “Thank you” (Diolch).

      At Tintern Abbey, I said it to the gift shop clerk after she checked me out. Her face just lit up. She said, “Oh that’s lovely; most people don’t even try!” I think she was especially impressed since I’m American, LOL.

  • Elizabeth April 17, 2018, 6:42 am

    It’s sweet to be conscientious, OP, but you’re overthinking it. Most of Europe speaks a bit of English and are happy or even excited to practice it, assuming we’re asked politely instead of yelled or commanded at. It’s fine to ask if there’s an English menu so long as you’re graceful if there isn’t, and fine to ask questions, show pictures, mime if you don’t understand something. Don’t skip a northern trip just because your dad doesn’t learn Swedish. The Swedish would be more insulted if you assumed they *didn’t* speak English. Their English is impeccable!

    What does offend us is the obsession with crime. I nodded along, amazed at an American lady describing her purse to me once. “It’s got kevlar so they can’t slash the side, a scrambler so they can’t steal your cards, this hidden pocket for….” Um, who’s this ‘they’? Is it me? Vienna is one of the safest cities on the planet, full stop. I wanted to ask her if she knew that people live here, ever day, full time and manage to not constantly have their stuff stolen even in the absence of kevlar. Of course be as careful as you would anywhere in a crowded space, but the insinuation that all of Europe is a hotbed of crime insults us far more than speaking English at us does. And yes, it’s annoying when tourists block the street or are oblivious, but I don’t mind tourists looking and acting like tourists. They’re tourists!

    People are people and will react to kindness and a smile even if they don’t understand you. Don’t worry so much, enjoy Europe! Greetings from Austria, happy you enjoyed your time here!

    • Rattus April 18, 2018, 7:50 am

      I don’t think that anyone (well, most people) believes that any given country is a hotbed of thieves, however thieves of any nation are skilled at determining who is likely to be carrying a lot of cash – tourists. As someone who was once pickpocketed (actually pickbagged) in New York, I now own a variety of the Pacsafe bags and backpacks described, and as far as I’m concerned they are a good choice to take on the road.

      • SS April 18, 2018, 9:56 am

        Barcelona does have a reputation for having the highest pickpocket rate, especially on the subway/public transit. So I made sure to only take a bag/purse that was difficult to pickpocket from and carried it in a way that had all the zippered compartments facing inwards toward my body. That said, I found the Barcelona subway experience to be very refreshing. Because of the pickpocket rate, NO ONE had their nose buried in their cellphone and almost no one had their ears plugged with earphones so they were all aware of their surroundings.

  • Kirsten April 17, 2018, 6:45 am

    I don’t understand why you didn’t take a phrase book to say hello/goodbye/please/thank you and to ask basic questions and order meals. I speak a little French and Spanish, and can say hello/goodbye/please/thank you in Greek and German but my comprehension isn’t great, and in my experience, that’s generally enough for local people to understand that I’m trying a bit, and to help me out in English. I was in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium once and managed to communicate in basic French. A tiny bit of effort earns a lot of goodwill.

  • Aleko April 17, 2018, 7:03 am

    No, please don’t do yourself out of such an interesting trip! If it’s just your “immediate family”, presumably that doesn’t include Carol, Lisa and Gramma, who clearly are the real embarrassment. One thing about people in the Scandinavian countries and Russia is that unlike, say, the French they don’t *expect* anyone from abroad to be able to speak their language, and if you can learn a polite greeting and a few basic phrases, people will be delighted.

    If you are obliged to travel abroad again with Carol, Lisa and Gramma, there’s probably no way to stop them behaving as they do: anyone who isn’t capable of sensing for themselves that “DOES ANYONE HERE SPEAK ENGLISH?!” sounds ignorant and rude, is not going to get it when you try to explain this to them. However, you can minimise the damage if you learn to say “I’m sorry, we don’t speak [local language]” in the local language with an apologetic smile. People all over the world realise that civilised people can have dumb rude relatives!

    As far as your dad’s clothes and baggage are concerned, as my own father used to say: “Embarrassing your children is part of a parent’s job – if they aren’t ashamed to be seen with you, you aren’t doing it right”. And as for signalling “American tourist” to thieves, the fact is that any professional pickpocket or similar can probably peg your family as well-off foreigners (even if not your specific nationality) at fifty paces whatever you wear. Just chill about what he chooses to wear.

    BTW, in my experience asking for English-language menus is quite unnecessary anyway: if a restaurant has them, as soon as the waiters realise you are English-speakers they will bring them for you whether you want them or not. Personally, if I have any smattering of the language at all I’d far rather have a local-language menu and ask the waiter to explain anything I don’t recognise, because very often the English-language version has been so badly translated that it is a lot harder to understand! (I think the most startling one I ever had was at a roadside inn in southwest Austria where several main courses were described as being served “with light-bulbs’. Granted, ‘Zwiebel’, the German word for onion, also means plant bulbs in general, so I could understand ‘Rindereintopf mit Zwiebeln’ coming out as ‘cattle stew with bulbs’. But … *light*-bulbs?)

    • Miss Jagger April 18, 2018, 11:59 am

      This is not related to travel, but I have to say, I love your third paragraph! As I have always thought, a proper dad is an embarrassing dad. And what do you know? My husband rocks a floppy sun hat and jean shorts (I know, I know) with no shame and he is one awesome father! There have been talks of him purchasing a poncho but that is another story…

  • keloe April 17, 2018, 7:33 am

    My parents’ friend, who lives in Sweden, says if you meet anyone there who doesn’t speak English, they are probably foreigners. Having visited her, I can confirm. Scandinavian countries are famous for their early English learning programs. Unless you are planning to some far-away rural areas, you should be perfectly fine. Russia might be more difficult, but I imagine English in big cities is not a problem.

    In most tourist areas of Europe, restaurants either have single multilingual menus or local and English menus and will deliver the English menu as soon as they realise they have foreign guests. While it is nice to learn to pronounce local dishes, there is absolutely nothing rude in asking politely for an English menu. You want to know what you eat, after all.
    In Russia you will really need English menus – learning the Cyryllic alphabet just for one trip seems a bit excessive, unless you really like languages.

    Barcelona is absolutely swarming with tourists, so I really don’t think your family’s behaviour as described would phase most hotel employees. With the fountains – she might legitimately not realise the pride event was that day – the fountains show is on particular hours, if the timing was right, I would recommend it too (must have been quite late in the day?) Or she might have been having you on, hard to say. The actual Barcelona Cathedral really is quite boring, though. If you meant the Sagrada Familia, the lines are very long there – maybe she thought your grandma was not up to the wait, or it was too late? Unless you just wanted to see it from the outside.

    Europeans travel a lot too, and they don’t expect everyone to speak every language. In the frequently-visited areas they are perfectly prepared to deal with language barriers. English is perfectly fine for communication, trust me.

    The bottom line is – you don’t need to apologise for being American. As long as you don’t expect special treatment on account of being American, you will be fine.

  • LuJessMin April 17, 2018, 7:51 am

    While it is nice to be able to say a few phrases in the language of the country you’re in, politeness will go a long way in helping. There are apps that will translate English to whatever language you need too.

  • NostalgicGal April 17, 2018, 7:58 am

    Today there are many translation applications and such that can be put our portable devices… one can function. With native locals if you even TRY to converse in their language will often have a lot of patience for you because you at least tried. I assume that if I go to a country where the native language is NOT English, that I will have to carry on in whatever the local language IS, and it’s up to ME to deal. Part of going to another country IS to immerse yourself and language is part of it…

    Hoping the next trip goes easier for OP. Look into arming everyone with some ways to deal with the language as they meet it.

  • pennywit April 17, 2018, 8:15 am

    no cameras worn on the neck

    Why this one? It seems to me that if I’m carrying and using my DSLR camera, I’m definitely going to use a neck strap because replacing the thing is expensive if I drop it.

    • keloe April 17, 2018, 2:43 pm

      I always use the neck strap for my camera. And I travel quite a lot. How else would I carry it? Having it in my bad/backpack and taking it out of it, and then out of the camera case, every time I want to take a picture would be waaay too much hassle and a greater risk of dropping it.
      I could sling the strap on my shoulder, and occasionally do, but it feels more unsafe. Not as much as “someone will grab it any moment” (though they could), but as in “it can slide off and break”.

    • NostalgicGal April 17, 2018, 10:22 pm

      I invested in a very good one and invested in a top of the line neck strap that is hard to break or cut so I’m less likely to have it stolen off my neck. I could still be held up for it, but. No snatchNrun. However, the really top end ones can weigh several POUNDS with the battery pack in and a decent lens attached. So mixed bag. If you choose to wear a camera take a few extra steps to make it harder to be relieved of it, and to protect it. Being a pendant around your neck isn’t the kindest place to carry a camera at times…

      It’s because it’s easier to steal, and it does mark you as maybe having a lot of cash depending on the rig you’re wearing. So a target to be pick pocketed or have a strap cut to purse, bag, or your camera and being relieved of what you have.

      • pennywit April 18, 2018, 11:41 am

        It’s because it’s easier to steal, and it does mark you as maybe having a lot of cash depending on the rig you’re wearing.

        This is where an old-fashioned heavy tripod comes in handy.

  • Yuchin Robb April 17, 2018, 9:08 am

    The last paragraph will dim the day light for all the tourist industries in non-English speaking countries. I also have to ask whether OP will visit China before s\he can manage fluent Mandarin? Is it a European thing?
    As a person selling stuff for living, when a customer approaches me asking habla espaniel? My response is always: losiente, un poco. I take it upon myself for failing to manage Spanish. Store owners in Japan hire mandarin speaking staff to help Chinese tourists.
    Well on the other hand, the US is a big and immensely beautiful country and I’m OK to spend all my vacation money domestically.

    • keloe April 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

      “The last paragraph will dim the day light for all the tourist industries in non-English speaking countries. I also have to ask whether OP will visit China before s\he can manage fluent Mandarin? Is it a European thing?”

      Absolutely not. I have been to Germany and Austria several times without speaking any German whatsoever, apart from “Hello” and “Thank you”. My Italian vocabulary is hardly more extensive, but I always had fun there. And I had lovely time in Sweden without even knowing “Hello” in Swedish.
      Even the legendary Parisian waiters will not kick you out of the cafe for not speaking French. It is as you say – you have money to spend, they want you to spend it in their business, so will happily communicate in any way possible in order to encourage you to do so. Even if their English is not best, it’s amazing what you can achieve with a smile and friendly approach.

      Making an effort to learn how to say “Hello”, “Thank you” etc. is generally a good idea, though. People appreciate it.

      • Marie April 18, 2018, 1:05 pm

        Fun fact: “Hello” in Swedish is “Hej”, proncounced just like “Hey” in English.

    • SS April 17, 2018, 4:37 pm

      Just a minor suggestion… “lo siente” means “You are sorry” or “He/She/It is sorry”. I think you mean to say “lo siento” meaning “I am sorry”. So you are telling people that they are sorry, rather than you are sorry. 😀

      • Yuchin Robb April 19, 2018, 7:41 am

        Thank you for letting me know! Apparently my Spanish speaking customers were tremendously nice to me!

    • Iris April 17, 2018, 6:25 pm

      I don’t think there is an expectation that you will know the language of the place you are visiting but I do think it is presumptuous if you expect them to be able to speak yours. For me, I like to know “Hello” “Thank you” “Excuse me” and some form of “Go away” or “No thank you” but that’s for my own level of comfort.

      On the other hand, I have a family member who has been blessed to be able to travel extensively internationally, and has the worst natural ability at languages of anyone, ever. He has a complicated sign language system which he says has never failed him. The point is he doesn’t rock up to a market in rural China and stand there and shout “WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH?” He acknowledges that it is unlikely that anyone will speak English and solves the problem himself.

  • Maggie April 17, 2018, 9:18 am

    I’d be tempted to ask Aunt Carol if she ever bothered to learn a foreign language in order to accommodate tourists who speak that language. My guess the answer would be no.

  • Jenny D April 17, 2018, 9:19 am

    Let me reassure you that if you come to Sweden you won’t have to worry about the language – pretty much everyone here speaks English, and most will enjoy showing it off to tourists. I have some friends who’ve moved here from the US and UK who are a little irritated that it takes them longer to learn Swedish because everybody keeps talking in English with them, so they don’t get as much practice as they’d like. It’s much the same in Norway, Denmark and Finland.f

  • Keekeedee April 17, 2018, 9:42 am

    I don’t think the issue is whether or not you speak the language if the countries you are visiting. It is the attitude you have when trying to communicate. Obviously not everyone in other countries is going to speak English, just dont get annoyed and mad at the people living there. Travelling with a cell phone helps a lot with a translation app or google translate.

  • Caverat April 17, 2018, 9:53 am

    This feels like embarrassed teenage hyperbole to me. I doubt grandma was taking pictures of a homeless man peeing and then too embarrassed to look up at a pride festival. I doubt auntie was shouting for an English speaker in every stop rather than asking politely.
    I know the American tourist trope is a thing and a fun joke. I know some people really do have ridiculous expectations when abroad. but I feel like there should also be no expectation that a visitor to another country should blend in, not take photos, be able to guess at every menu (what about allergies?) and otherwise look at though they were born there.
    To me this reads as a pretentious 16-year-old who can’t believe her family is OMG so cringy. I hope she doesn’t pass on all opportunities to travel, not everyone can have that incredible a life. It would be a shame to squander it.

    • Kay_L April 17, 2018, 2:22 pm

      That was my impression as well.

      I wouldn’t be inclined to have her on another trip if I were Granma or Aunt Carol.

    • Kate 2 April 18, 2018, 1:47 pm

      Eh, I can believe it. Some people think homosexuality is “dirty” or “sinful”, but would love to get evidence of a homeless man peeing in public as “proof” of “how dirty and disgusting Europe is and everything is better in America”.

  • Dee April 17, 2018, 10:39 am

    I don’t understand – the way this letter is written, the immediate family was polite and eager to participate in the local offerings, so why, then, are you refusing to travel with them again, OP? The extended family sound like boors, yes, but other than that, you made it sound as if all went well with your mom, dad and sibling. So what’s the problem?

    It almost seems like you were micromanaging to the extent it wasn’t necessary. I can’t imagine being upset seeing tourists around here wearing odd clothing so why would it bother other tourist locales? And there’s nothing wrong with practicing the language when visiting a foreign country, as long as you are polite about it.

    I honestly thought you were going to say you planned to pretend to be Canadians, which is a strategy that, while still popular, is highly offensive to Canadians. But you didn’t, and I can’t see anything wrong about just going to another country and being yourself, as long as you are considerate and mannerly. If your natural self is not polite then that’s a problem that needs to addressed no matter what society you’re in.

    I think you should chill a whole lot and either decide to go traveling and enjoy yourself or stay home where you can control your environment. But don’t rain on your father’s parade unnecessarily.

    • ErindV April 17, 2018, 2:32 pm

      Your comment about Americans pretending to be Canadians gave me a flashback to living in Europe for a year during the GWB/War in Iraq era. The number of times people would hear my accent, mistake me for an American, and then offer up immediate and wide-eyed apologies upon clarification that I was actually Canadian was comical. Not quite so comical as the looks of horror/bewilderment that came over the face of any native French speaker who was subjected to my *very* rusty attempts to recall my high school level French which was both nearly unintelligible, I’m sure, and in the Quebecois accent.

    • Jared Bascomb April 17, 2018, 6:01 pm

      I must confess that the only time we “pretended” to be Canadian was when were waiting for our tour boat in Amsterdam to depart. There was a whole group of USians up front and Canadians in the back. A US man was walking up the gangway to get some food from a dockside vendor and his wife brayed , “Git me another one of them BRAT-wursts! And put some SOUR-kraut on it!”
      We re-seated ourselves nearer to the Canadians.

  • Lisa April 17, 2018, 10:46 am

    Yes, yelling “Does anyone speak English?’ is rude but I don’t see how taking photos or dressing less than fashionably gets anyone thrown into eHell.

    • Jared Bascomb April 17, 2018, 7:57 pm

      It’s not about dressing “fashionably” but more about dressing appropriately.
      The rule is to blend in. Most Europeans don’t wear shorts, tanktops, etc. And if you want to go into a church, you need to dress more conservatively.

      • admin April 18, 2018, 7:38 am

        In Laos women cannot enter temples without a traditional Lao skirt on. There are venders who rent them to tourists outside the temple.

      • Kate 2 April 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

        Mmm . . . Churches are one thing, but plenty of European and Asian tourists who come here don’t dress to fit in. Buying a bunch of new clothes just isn’t necessary.

      • Kirsten April 18, 2018, 5:11 pm

        Europe is a continent of 44 countries plus various Dependencies. Saying that most Europeans don’t wear shorts etc is like saying most Americans don’t wear boots.

  • Pame April 17, 2018, 11:03 am

    Honestly, the OP sounds a little judgmental about her family. While I do agree that when you are traveling that trying to learn some basic phrases for the language is proper. But if she was so embarrassed she should have stepped up and said she’d the interpreter for the family. And why can’t she do the same with a trip to Russia or Sweden? With phone apps today, you can easily take a photo of a menu and have it translated.

    I’m also surprised that in Barcelona the hotel receptionist spoke Spanish and not Catalan. We had a waiter in a restaurant who was very rude to my DD and me when we tried to speak Spanish to him. Another waiter took over our table who did speak Spanish and some English and explained to us that the waiter was insulted that we assumed he spoke Spanish. We soon learned to never assume anyone in Barcelona spoke Spanish.

    As far as her Dad’s backpack… if it is what he had and was comfortable to use, then who is anyone else to judge?

    The OP sounds like one of those people who want to apologize for being a tourist. While I completely agree we should all be polite tourists, there is nothing wrong with being one. Lots of places depend on the visitor and tourist trade. While I’d love to be able to afford to visit places for 3 months or more and fully immerse myself in a culture, it’s not logistically or financially feasible.

  • PJ April 17, 2018, 11:04 am

    Why not still go on these trips, but do your own thing during the day with your household, and just meet back up with the rest of the group on the ship? After all, you want to go to the tourist sites and take pleasure in feeling like you don’t come across like a tourist, while your family just wants to see the sites and don’t care how they look.

    There are strange/ignorant tourists everywhere who don’t cause harm, like your grandmother. She didn’t direct verbal abuse at the people at the fountain; despite her thoughts. I get that she may have been making herself a target for crime, but it sounds like her biggest failure was embarrassing you.

    I’m grateful that in my few travels, only some of the people disliked me immediately just because I was an American tourist. Most were neutral, and some were especially kind. While I studied for only a matter of weeks to pick up bits of their languages, they were gracious as I worked to communicate. I’m glad that this welcoming spirit of people I’ve encountered while traveling has served to counteract the stereotype that we must protect ourselves from those ‘awful’ Europeans.

  • staceyizme April 17, 2018, 11:06 am

    It’s kind of hard when those that you are with don’t show reasonable behavior. But-there was nothing to have stopped you from studying up a bit more on the languages or to have kept you from smoothing things over. (Or from being prepared in small but practical ways that can smooth over difficulties in any language, sympathetic expressions, more generous tips or showing a little humor in the face of your family’s antics. Sometimes that’s all that can be managed.)

  • Gumby April 17, 2018, 11:16 am

    But, your immediate family is your mom, dad, and brother, right? It seems like the main troublemakers were the extended family on your mother’s side so… why not go?

    You can always try some gentle encouragement on how to be an international traveler if the ‘everyone speaks English because I do’ extends to immediate family. For example, you could watch a Rick Steves video on the areas you’ll be visiting. Or another travel program that is specific to the locations and includes tips on what the cultural norms are at the various destinations.

    On the attire thing… it might stand out but it isn’t actually rude. I’d probably not mention it to my dad. (He makes what I consider questionable fashion choices at home; I don’t expect him to change his style for travel. Besides, it’s his fashion sense and his body and thus up to him what he puts on it.) The only exception might be visiting places where the attire is actually inappropriate – cathedrals, etc. sometimes have something of a dress code.

    Aside: I took a year of conversational German before a trip I took in 2000 (the main point of which was to visit Oberammergau). Because we were in a tour group, everyone spoke to us in English. Everyone! Which is probably good because I was not great at German. I carefully wrote out a thank you note for our host family the one night we stayed in a private home and I’m fairly certain I mixed up 2 or 3 of the words and it made no sense. But I tried!

    • keloe April 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

      “The only exception might be visiting places where the attire is actually inappropriate – cathedrals, etc. sometimes have something of a dress code.”

      Yes. In some places (like parts Italy) visiting cathedrals requires clothes with shouldres and knees covered. There are pictures by the doors and the guards will not let you in if you are not dressed properly.
      In other countries there might not be official tules regarding dressing for visiting places of worship, but it is generally better to stay on the conservative side of things, or you might get some odd looks. By conservative I mean like in Italy – covering shoulders and knees, so a t-shirt with a knee-length skirt or pants would be fine. No need to look for a nun’s habit.

  • lkb April 17, 2018, 11:18 am

    I guess I’m not quite seeing how the rest of the family was so very rude, other than the shouting “Does Anyone Here Speak English?” But even that is a common thing — people speaking loudly to make up for the language difficulty. (Of course, it doesn’t help but I understand it is a common thing people do, in many languages.)

    The OP doesn’t say how old he/she was at the time of the trip but it almost feels like he/she was a teenager at the “I’m embarrassed to be with my family” stage. People on a trip take pictures of odd things. People wear what they want to wear on vacation.

    Why didn’t the OP help out with some Spanish phrases or offer to help translate the menus or model how to politely ask the taxi driver to move along or the waiter for correct service? Or ask for directions to the Cathedral that Gramma wanted to see?

    Lastly, stifling laughter at their discomfiture walking through a festival the rest of the family found offensive comes off as a bit rude in and of itself. Rather than sympathizing with their plight and dismay, the OP thought it great to smirk at their expense.

    Indeed, it probably would be best if the OP stayed home the next trip.

  • Princess Buttercup April 17, 2018, 11:25 am

    I’ve always said that if I were going to a foreign country I’d want to either learn as many basic needed phrases as possible or hire an interpreter.
    Now days there are translation apps for your phone but I’d find it a bit insane to go somewhere strange knowing you have no way to communicate to anyone for anything.

  • Ripple April 17, 2018, 11:30 am

    Don’t pass on the trip. Just don’t ask if anyone speaks English, because a lot of them will. It’s the asking if anyone speaks English that offended people. I took a cruise including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and St. Petersburg and had no problem communicating, even though I don’t speak any of those languages.

  • Suzanne April 17, 2018, 12:11 pm

    As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’m trying to understand how sending someone to a pride festival is a joke? Throughout the world, even for straight folk, these festivals are a lot of fun!

  • lakey April 17, 2018, 12:17 pm

    Asking for English menus is out of line. A lot of your other examples don’t seem so bad. Asking if people speak English would have been bad if your aunt had said it loudly or irritably, but if she said it politely, not terrible. I took a tour through a number of European countries. No one ever seemed annoyed if I asked questions in English. I took a phrasebook and when I would use it, they would speak to me in English, probably because it was easier for the. They do like it if you use a few common phrases. It gets rude when you assume that people are supposed to speak English, accept American money, or do everything the way Americans do.
    It is common courtesy to not stand around in the middle of sidewalks in busy cities.

    I think you’re being a bit hard on your dad.

    • YersiniaP April 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

      “Asking for English menus is out of line”

      Not really.
      A lot of restaurants in Vienna and other larger towns here in Austria have English menus which they will gladly bring you if you ask for them.
      Or they’ll notice you are speaking English and will offer you the English menu before you even ask.
      Same thing in several places in the Czech Republic that I visited with an American friend of mine a few years ago.

      Asking for an English menu politely is never out of line, in my opinion, but getting huffy and condescending when none are available certainly is.

  • rindlrad April 17, 2018, 12:23 pm

    While I would agree that people visiting a foreign country should not screech out, “Doesn’t anybody here speak MY LANGUAGE!?!” There is nothing wrong with foreign visitors calmly and politely asking, “Do you speak _____?” If the person indicates that they don’t, say thank you, in that person’s language, and move on.

    Rick Steves, who has a popular PBS travel show here in my area and owns a company that provides travel packages/guides/advice, says that it is perfectly ok to ask if someone speaks your language if you don’t speak the language of the country you are visiting. Of course, he also suggests you learn some basic phrases in the local language to help you get around and to show respect for the people of the country you are visiting.

    I’d love the name of the hotel in Barcelona so I can avoid it like the plague. I hope you shared your experience with the “Front Desk person” on social media so other foreign travelers can book more customer service friendly accommodations. Sending an elderly person on long walk when you have been told she is walking challenged is not a “little prank.” It was unprofessional and mean spirited.

  • Ultrapongo April 17, 2018, 12:40 pm

    Once upon a time I was in Carcassonne (a little bit of a tourist trap, but well worth a visit) in southern France, and wanted to buy a souvenir video, and I asked for “le video souvenir”. The store guy replied “You want ze English version?” He did not like to listen to my French…
    It is a nice courtesy to learn a few phrases in the “target” language, but at least in Sweden most people speak good English. In fact, if you try to speak Swedish, people will change to English and feel more comfortable speaking English.
    As far as I know, we Europeans don’t hate you Americans. We might laugh a little at people looking as the stereotype American Tourist, but we really love you. Or like you. At least, we can stand you.

    • staceyizme April 17, 2018, 2:50 pm

      Forgive me if I point out that Europe is no more of a cultural monolith than America. Some people are more tolerant (or more considerate) than others and Europeans probably have as much amplitude in any graph of those traits as Americans.

      • Kirsten April 18, 2018, 5:13 pm

        Europe is less of a cultural monolith, given that the USA is one country and Europe is over 40 countries.

        • Ultrapongo April 20, 2018, 2:33 pm

          Yes, in Europe each country has their own language (at least there are quite a few languages), while the entire America (North and South) has five colonial languages, aside from the indigneuos languages. So Europe is more of a coat of many colors than America. I just wanted to point out that OP should not worry too much about going back to Europe. Well, as long you don’t mention POTUS. He is popular among some people, not so much among others.

    • SS April 18, 2018, 11:39 am

      Haha… similar to my spouse when we were in a French-speaking part of Canada. We walked in to the restaurant and responded with the normal response of “deux” when asked how many people we had in our party(we learned quickly to recognize that first question at restaurants). The waiter immediately switched to flawless English, grabbed the English menus and cheerfully said “Oh, you don’t speak French, do you?”

  • Inga April 17, 2018, 1:22 pm

    You are making a way too big deal out of the language thing – and I suspect maybe seing offended faces where there are none. While it is of course great that you attempted to speak the local languages as much as you could, most people will not expect that you know their language. Many European languages are only spoken in one country, so it’s perfectly natural and not at all offensive that foreign visitors don’t speak the language. Further, a great number of Europeans, especially those working in tourism, do speak English, and are used to dealing with English-speaking customers daily.

    I am European myself, and speak five European languages, but that does not include several of the major languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish. So when I go to these countries, I speak English. I have not experienced anyone being visibly offended. Just like I am not offended when anyone approaches me in my country in English.

    The only exception I can think of is if you (or aunt) come off as arrogant (“English is the only language that matters!”) or ignorant/judgemental (“Surely no one in this uncivilised place will have the basic education needed to speak English”) in your quest for an English-speaking person. THAT would offend people, but it would be because of the attitude, not because of not knowing the local language. Be nice, and that shouldn’t be a problem.

    Also, please don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the Nordic countries and Russia just because your father won’t learn the languages. Pretty much everyone in all the Nordic countries speak English. Russia is a bit more tricky to move around in without knowing Russian, but there are also many tourists in St. Petersburg (which I assume would be your Russian stop), so people are used to non-Russian speakers there as well.

    Lastly, please try to be a bit more forgiving towards your family. I do understand the embarassment, and I have probably giggled at the sight of super obvious and overly excited tourists myself, but really, there is no shame in being a tourist! So let the embarassment go and focus on enjoying your new experiences instead!

  • Kali April 17, 2018, 1:55 pm

    I don’t see why directing you somewhere near the Gay Pride Festival needs to be a prank. I’m from the UK and I highly doubt I’d even register that it might be a problem for you.

  • Barbara Foster April 17, 2018, 2:41 pm

    I’m not exactly a world traveller, but I’ve found that looking shy and saying something like “Hi there! Can you help me?” will get most people in tourist areas to break out their own English, rather than listen to me mangle theirs (with probably the success rate of the Monty Python sketch).

    It shouldn’t be considered rude to ask if anyone can assist you in your own language, if you don’t speak whatever is local. If you can’t speak French/Catalan/Japanese, then you can’t. What’s rude is assuming that the local inhabitants *should* be able to speak English, and are being obstructionist in not doing so.

  • AS April 17, 2018, 5:02 pm

    The world has shrunk making traveling abroad more accessible to people; but the diversity of the world has not changed. You should not be expected to know every single language of every country you visit. Also, what would you do if you go to a multi-lingual country like , for example, India? Will you be learning the language of every single state you plan to visit? (No, Hindi does not work everywhere!).

    What is important is not that you have to learn the language of every country that you want to visit (though trying to learn is a good thing), but not to be a jerk, and looking down upon people because they don’t speak English (which, unfortunately, a few people do; and that is not exclusive to English speakers only). Even if you have made the effort to learn the language, there is no guarantee that a local would understand your accent, especially if they are not expecting you to speak the language.

    Don’t let not knowing a language deter you from the experience of visiting a different country. Be nice to the locals, and try to learn. You *are* are tourist. Don’t try to to over-do the blending in thing from the get go, because you cannot do that just by reading books and online articles, or even hearing experiences of others, You need to really experience, and have the feel for it. You seem to be a cognizant tourist; continue being one, enjoy the experiences. Make friends with people, and you may find another tourist who knows the local language as well as English, and he/she may be willing to hang out with you and would be happy to translate. A lot of people have made life-long friends by befriending other tourists from other countries, while doing tourist activities together.

    (I have lived in 3 different continents, and traveled a bit; so I’m mostly speaking from experience).

  • LuJessMin April 17, 2018, 6:30 pm

    Regarding the clothes, I figure anyone looking at me could tell I was American, so I wore tshirts from my home state (Oklahoma), which often led to interesting conversations, mostly “Where’s Oklahoma? You know, that state above Texas? Oh, the ones with the tornados?”

  • Jared Bascomb April 17, 2018, 6:34 pm

    I have to agree with many of the commenters – especially our European contributors – that use of the English language isn’t a problem, and that what really matters is attitude.
    As one European commenter stated, English is now the lingua franca: it’s the only way a Dane can communicate with both an Italian and a USian, something that I experienced in a train compartment in Germany!
    Another travel anecdote: I was on the U-Bahn in Berlin and there were some station closures along the line that caused some transfer problems. A young Frenchwoman next to me huffed (in English), “You would think that they would put the notices up in German *and* English!”

    You don’t need to speak anything but the basics in most of Europe. Smaller towns, perhaps, and depending on the location. Just be polite, learn how to say “Hello/Good [time of day]”, “Please”, “Thank you”, and perhaps “I don’t speak [language]” in the local language and you’ll be fine. I learned those in Czech for a three-day stay in Prague – I was not about to embark on learning Czech! – and the restaurant staff immediately spoke in English as soon as I said, “Dobry den”.

  • Lara April 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

    I’m an American who was born and raised in other countries. While living there, we had the opportunity to observe tourists from many countries. We did sometimes cringe at the loud Americans across the restaurant, but I can tell you with certainty that Americans are not the only rude tourists. Nor are they the worst dressed ones. (In fact, that was usually one way you could tell an American tourist from a European tourist–their clothes usually matched. If you’re European and reading this, I mean no offense at all, that was just our experience where we lived, some 25 years ago now.)

    Anyway, reading this story from that perspective, I have to say that most of what you describe as rude behavior does not seem very rude to me. I don’t see how it’s rude to dress comfortably (as long as you are within reasonable standards of modesty for their culture), or to take pictures of the sights (as long as you aren’t getting in people’s way or invading their privacy). After all, you came thousands of miles to see wonderful things. Of course your family members wanted to take pictures!

    As others have said, it’s not rude to ask if people speak English as long as you do it politely, and as far as it concerns the concierge in the hotel, assisting tourists is her job. If she was really so petty as to pull a joke on you just because your aunt asked rather loudly if she spoke English, then she shouldn’t be working there. Anyone working in customer service can tell you that people get much, much ruder than this on a regular basis.

    In regards to getting robbed, this can be an issue in some places, but the main thing is always not to flash a lot of cash around. Even in the States, that’s good advice. Tourists tend to be particularly vulnerable because they do often carry large amounts of cash on them (though that’s probably less true these days as credit cards are more universally accepted). But just leave most it behind or wear it under your shirt.

    Anyway, my conclusion–it’s okay to look and act like you’re a tourist. You are. Just be a polite tourist (and tip).

  • YersiniaP April 18, 2018, 9:27 am

    Just adding to the chorus of many commenters here in verifying that most Europeans know enough English to get by.
    We learn it in school for several years and many of us are perfectly capable of speaking it, and don’t mind helping out a tourist addressing us in English.

    That said, of course it is very rude of tourists to feel entitled to being helped in English, even if most of the populace of any given European country knows some English.

    But I find OP’s assumption that you are only a “good” tourist if you can handle the local language sufficiently, a bit insulting.
    And also damn impractical.

    I have been to about 20 to 25 countries so far, and no one can expect me to know the language of each of them!
    I know German as my mother tongue, English almost just as well because I grew up in London, very rudimentary Russian from school, some even more rudimentary French from courses I took for fun at uni ages ago, as well as enough Italian and Czech to be able to read a menu and ask for directions.

    And I got by splendidly anywhere I went!
    I would honestly think someone quite rude who tried telling me I cannot go to Sweden before I learn how to speak Swedish. (Or I should not have gone rather, since I already did…)

  • WendyB April 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

    I think the key here is this: OP worked with her parents and brother on being prepared, but completely neglected the other family members in this. I think the solution could have been to take the entire family aside and say, “Listen, we want these people to think we’re the nice people we are, right? So, there are some things we need to be doing, beginning here…” Everyone gets the papers with the phrases in each language, just like mom, dad and brother, OR one person is designated as the family communicator.

    I hope you will give this second trip a shot, OP…maybe with additional forethought it won’t be so bad.

  • NicoleDSK April 19, 2018, 10:02 am

    As a frequent European traveller I find this odd.

    Yes people will be nicer if you ask “Do you speak English “ in the local language but as long as you ask politely they are not gonna get hostile unless something else is going on.

  • JB April 20, 2018, 2:24 pm

    I have better lucky saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak (insert language here), would you be able to help me?”, instead of “Do you speak English”? That transfers the responsibility for understanding to me, since I’m the one who needs help and doesn’t speak the language. It’s gone over better than it sounding like I expect the world to bend to me. : )

    I also do try to learn a few phrases of the language so I can demonstrate that I’m trying and happy to be where-ever I have traveled.

  • noodle April 21, 2018, 7:09 pm

    I’m a little late to the game here and haven’t been to Europe, but I have spent a lot of time in China. Back then we had phrase books and pocket dictionaries and in my experience people were more than happy to be patient if they saw you at least making an effort. By no means did I ever get fluent in Chinese but even using a combination of words and pointing got me by and it went a long way.

    The post doesn’t say when this was but now there are phone apps that instantly translate that I would have loved to have when I was overseas. This might really help the OP’s family.

  • Janet April 23, 2018, 9:30 am

    I’ve traveled to Europe a few times. I’ve never had any issues, and watch out for myself.

    When I was in Denmark visiting a long friend, she and I went many places together & most people that clerks in stores or other places had no issues speaking English as my friend would tell them I was from the states. When I first flew in, she said write down my address for the taxi driver as the name of her street is not easy to say and give the slip of paper to the driver. The driver took it, and he did talk to me in accented English during the drive. I should have learned a few basic phrases but since I had her and a few others who were multi lingual, there were no issues communicating.

    When I went to France as part of a pilgrimage group, I did learn a few basic phrases and did my best to use them when going into stores or restaurants etc which was certainly appreciated . Most places especially the church related ones, the people know some English to communicate with visitors who come from the USA, Canada, UK, etc.

  • Kitty October 2, 2018, 6:13 pm

    I am so confused. I live in Germany, and I use a “fanny pack” to hold my stuff because I don’t like having to lug around a purse when the fanny pack is smaller and more compact to hold everything I need. No “atheltic gear as normal clothes”? I’ve seen people in Germany walking around in pants clearly intended to be athletic, including those floppy, loose jogging pants that *I* would believe are more appropriate for sleeping attire.

    I don’t understand why, since you already went to whole hog of looking up information how to behave in Germany, you didn’t do the same for the other countries. In fact, Italian and French are somewhat similar in their sentence structure, and even having words that, while perhaps spelled or pronounced slightly differently from each other, mean the same thing. This could apply to Spanish to an extent, too, though that does change aspects and word meanings.

    I don’t find it strange to ask for menus in English in restaurants. Especially if you are at touristy places; it’s quite common for them to have menus in various languages for foreigners or tourists. And the Gay Pride Parade thing sounds like it would be a fun thing to observe as a tourist, except maybe for the open urinals. And exactly how “intense” the public displays of affection are.

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