Travel Health & Safety (part 1): Consider this BEFORE Travelling to a Foreign Language Country

Travel is great. It offers up new adventures, experiences, and perspectives about the world, people, places, things, and our place in it. I’ve been fortunate enough for my travels to take me to non-English speaking countries and have learned first-hand that some of the preparatory steps taken to travel to countries where your native tongue is different from theirs are a little different from traveling to a country of the same tongue. For starters, unless you are traveling with a translator (yes there’s google translate) you will have to master (or become familiar with) basic everyday conversational phrases that will affect how you are able to function and get around safely and happily.

Beyond The Basic Phrases

With English being the dominant official language of trade, it is easy for English speakers to assume that everywhere they go they will find someone willing (and able) to communicate with them in English. Still, while many people from all over may know some English, this assumption can prove to be detrimental to the quality of your experience in a foreign-language-speaking territory. For starters, you are already limited in what you can and cannot participate in. In a worst-case scenario, you may find yourself unable to communicate your needs should a serious situation arise. Of course, no one is saying you have to master the foreign language. However, as stated above, knowing some basic communication phrases you will need when asking for directions, ordering food, and making other requests will prove to be handy when in a foreign country.

In addition to mastering everyday communication, some other recommended must-know phrases include those related to health and medical emergencies. We live in a world where so many of us have special diets and life-threatening allergies. So, for me, learning how to communicate these special needs should also be among the first phrases you master – both as listener and speaker.  Doing this came in handy when I moved to a French-speaking country for the first time. I was at the doctor’s office within 4-weeks of my stay and preparing for such a situation proved invaluable when I needed to make the appointment and explain my symptoms and even prior medical history.

Getting a “Responsable”

When I moved to France for my assistance as a young adult, I (like all other assistants) was assigned a ‘responsable’ – which is essentially a local person who is responsible to keep you in their charge.  This overseer of sorts would be who I would turn to should I need (or even want) anything. Either travelling with someone like this (such as a friend who speaks the native tongue of the country you’re visiting) or opting for a travel package at a hotel that offers up such a person will prove invaluable. Important translations and other cultural guidance that can make your experience a seamless one can be provided through this avenue.

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