Besides the usual “hello”, “please” and “thank you”s, here is my tried and tested list of words that have served me well whenever I travel. The following list may not get you to your destination but these are the ones that will find you friends. Very impressed local friends. At first sight they might not seem very applicable but trust me, you will use them more than you expect. Much more often that “go straight and turn right” (which can be replaced with hand movements) for example. To help you digest the list I’ve also included situations that may offer you the opportunity to use them.
Nice to meet you!
When you make your first friend. This is always the very first phrase I learn in any country. Once you’ve surprised your first local buddy, you can start asking him or her how to say the rest on this list.
When you are treating your new host to that coffee and she insists on paying. Also works in the reverse – when you can’t get the bill before your host (believe me, it’s not possible in Iran at all – people jump over tables just to get to the till faster than you) tell them “Next time!”
When your host takes you to the museum and for some odd reason it’s closed. Console your embarrassed hosts and hush those effusive apologies in their own language!
When you want to take that photo of a cute French girl gliding by in Paris and you are losing your hungry friend walking at 100km/h ahead of you looking for lunch.
When you apply for a visa and the officer asks you why you are still unmarried.
When your friend scores that parking spot or finds you a straw in a packed restaurant.
When your friend tells you how much money he has or how crazy his mother is.
When you astound your new friends with your surprising one liners. Keeps them on their toes!
I don't believe you!
When your local buddies in a new country start telling you how it is customary for everyone to dance around the table before dinner. In public. Sometimes it’s true but I don’t dance.
When someone tells you how exhausted/sleepy/hungry/happy she is. Or how amazed she is with the view/food/music/locals.
When your lottery ticket doesn’t match any of the winning numbers. Or when you realise your new best friend at the hostel is leaving the next day (which is pretty much all the time).
None of your business!
When you are buying a cake tin in a shop (to bake something awesome for a surprise breakfast) and your host asks you why you bought such a small pot. Or when they ask you why you own so many things in purple.
Here you go!
When you have a present for your host or when a drunkard grabs you and you swipe them your right hook in return.
When your new friends insist on treating you to a local delicacy and they stare at you in rapt anticipation.
When people ask you if you want that second serving of pie/beer/local delicacy that you just raved about. And if not, you say…
When eager mothers start to stuff you with everything on the table.
Oh my god!
When it rains in Dubai. Or when you realise that awesome new friend in East Europe is your Singaporean high school classmate’s Australian housemate’s good friend’s brother.