Five phrases a traveler should never use
(Photo: David Wilson via flickr/CC Attribution)
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"Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word, before you let it fall," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Thinking before you speak is an excellent strategy for anyone, but it's especially appropriate for the traveling set. To fend off foot-in-mouth syndrome while on the road, banish the following five phrases from your lexicon.
Do You Speak English?
There are basic foreign-language expressions that every international traveler should learn before crossing borders, and this is one of them. Even if you're light-years away from fluency, a rudimentary grasp of simple phrases in the regional tongue—like "please," "hello," "thank you," "no thank you," and "where is the bathroom?"—will work wonders. Add to this list "Do you speak English?" to be stated in the applicable language. It's a show of respect. And locals will likely be more responsive and helpful to anyone who doesn't behave as if all citizens of the world ought to speak his or her native language.
Do You Have Change for a $20?
This phrase shouldn't be spoken to your bellman, tour guide, airport-shuttle driver, hotel housekeeper, or any other serviceperson not stationed behind a cash register. Travel and tipping go together like Lewis and Clark. Thus, road warriors should make a point of obtaining small bills in the local currency at the beginning of every trip. Don't put your service person in the position of awkwardly fumbling through his or her wallet in order to receive due recompense.