Travelling, customs and communication

Once we have chosen a destination, we have already begun our journey … whether we are talking about prior planning to travel to faraway places or simply about an on-the-spot decision to go somewhere nearby.


Between you and me, the more experienced a traveller you are, the farther you dare to go. You start on the well-known way to the market on a scourging hot day in Bucharest, then at some point, you turn left towards Gara de Nord and you hop on the train to Sinaia or, after you have packed a fair amount of courage, you end up considering an impromptu visit to Dublin just the right thing for a relaxing weekend. Yet, there are places, for instance certain regions in Asia, that require special preparation, other than luggage, shots, tourist guides or plane tickets.

We are going to talk about communication. Both verbal and non-verbal communication are essential ingredients for an enchanting journey. And in order to mingle and fully feel the vibe of the visited place, you need to know how to communicate. As long as you have the time and the skills, learning a few words in the language of the country chosen as destination is the best thing to do. If not, to make things easier, we recommend using English as a means of communication. Also, reading a few lines about the local customs can keep us safe from some possibly awkward moments.

Did you know that English is known to possess the vastest vocabulary? For instance, there are 50 words for “crazy”, more that 80 words for “drunk” and over 231 adjectives that can be used to talk about the weather.

There are some differences between the British vocabulary and the American one. Here are some US/UK alternatives worthy to be memorised:

· gas / petrol · highway / motorway, main road · one-way (ticket) / single · sidewalk / pavement · subway / underground · vacation / holiday · potato chips / crisps · candy / sweets · cookie / biscuit · take out / takeaway · elevator/ lift · downtown / town · yard / garden · movie / film · movie theater / cinema · restroom / toilet, lavatory · two weeks / fortnight · back and field / athletics · principal / headmaster · quiz / test · antenna / aerial · jail / prison · closet / wardrobe · zipper / zip · pharmacy / chemist ·

Many other nuances of the English language can become familiar to you at Centrul de Limbi Străine Flying Colours, where you have the chance of meeting modern, passionate teachers who can also offer travelling tips, such as:

When in Britain and shopping, we should avoid answering ”I’am just looking, Thanks!”, as for the British shopping is considered civic duty. Also, when we are introduced to a Briton, it would be desirable to refrain from invading their personal space and from rushing to kiss them! Expect quite the opposite in Spain and be ready to shake hands with everybody and have a “beso” planted on each cheek. Also, don’t be surprised if they hug you. Even if the British have a reputation as formal, cold people, don’t be taken aback if they call you Dear, Love, Darling, Precious, Treasure, Bunny, Dearest heart, Poppet, Handsome, Little sausage!

Let’s not forget that Please, Sorry and Thank you! are the most widely used English words, and that phrases such as After you · Allow me · Could you …? will come in very handy.

Whenever we have to follow something difficult in English, we can make use of some very polite and effective phrases, such as · Could you repeat that, please? · I’m sorry, I’m not with you · Come again ·

In Germany, when we drink beer, we say Prost!, that is Noroc! or Cheers! when we clink glasses to make a toast. Also, we don’t show up late to meetings, we don’t offer lilacs or carnations, as they are considered suited to the long departed.

In France, don’t expect to get ice when you order something to drink, as it is customary in the US where all drinks are served either very cold or on the rocks. So, you have to say from the very beginning if you go for ice or no ice. It is good to know that in the US, Coca-Cola is served in very large glasses. Some of them even have the capacity of 1 litre, three quarters of which is ice. They are in the habit of chewing or nibbling on ice cubes even during formal meetings.

In Spain, get ready to have breakfast a little later as very few restaurants are open before 10 am. Keep calm and cool even if they are late to take your order. The Spanish approach time in a very relaxed manner. Yet, bear in mind that the evening meal is very important here. Don’t complain if they are smoking all around you! The Spanish firmly believe that those who complain about having people smoke around them are actually afraid of life. In Spain, as well as in Italy, you can serve your coffee in any café or on any street corner because it is excellent no matter where it is prepared. Forget about Starbucks. However, you’ll be longing for it in Japan or Hong Kong.

If you are in Italy and you want to wrap a present, don’t choose black or gold paper as this is actually used for funerary services. The same goes for chrysanthemums.

In Greece, don’t be surprised by those who hug and kiss you on both cheeks although you only met a minute before … it’s the Mediterranean attitude. And hold your horses!

In Switzerland and Poland greet people in the traditional way – three serious kisses on the cheeks. Don’t offer white or yellow chrysanthemums or lilacs. In Denmark, you’ll have to take off your shoes and help the host clean the table and wash the dishes.

Brace yourselves for a cultural shock in Japan as they are excessively polite and kind and they expect the same from you. Don’t despair- you’ll soon get used to it and, what’s more, upon your return, you’ll be surprised to see that you actually miss what seemed so weird at first.

In Muslim countries, don’t schedule anything for Friday. It’s a day off. Also, during Ramadan, it is not advisable to eat in the street, at least not before sunset.


In the end, after you have travelled the world, if you are still worried about your accent in English, you can but practise pronuncing these “useful” and “easy” phrases:

· Mother and father left Rotherham last Thursday, wandered hither and hither, then thumbed a lift to Thirsk.
· Larry rarely allows Lily and Rory a lift in the lorry, but Laura regularly lets Roland lie languidly on her lilo.
· While Archie shimmied with Sheila, Sacha cha cha cha-ed with Shirley.
· One windy Wednesday, wealthy widow Wendy Williams went to visit Westminster vet Victoria Vince to view her lovely violets.

This article has been written with the aid of Centrul de limbi străine Flying Colours.

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