Isn’t one of the reasons we travel to meet people from other cultures? It’s the best way to gain new perspectives and an appreciation of the world. Kurt and I met the woman above on a bus traveling to Marigot in St. Maarten. Friendly and helpful, she told us about a local market to visit and enlightened us on some Caribbean customs.
Using Embarrassing, Inappropriate or Offensive Words
It’s easy to say the wrong thing when you’re in another country and dealing with a language barrier. Suzanne Miller, director of Nursing for St. Luke’s Wood River Hospital in Ketchum Idaho, knows this well.
While in college, Miller studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she had a mix-up with the Spanish word “embarazada,” which of course, sounds like embarrassed. However, it doesn’t mean embarrassed — at all.
“For two weeks, I didn’t eat my meals because they always included refried beans. Finally, my host mother asked me [in Spanish] “Do you not like my cooking?’ So then I said [in Spanish], ‘I’m so, so embarazada, because I don’t like beans.’ My roommate, Jen, was fluent in Spanish and told me, ‘You just told Señora that you are very, very pregnant.’ Senora was stunned at first but Jen eventually cleared it up.” — Suzanne Miller.
To avoid issues with communication, many US travelers head to the UK, Australia and New Zealand because these countries share the same language as the US. Or do they? Can you say the wrong thing in your native tongue when you are traveling in an English-speaking country? Absolutely! Slang varies from dialect to dialect.
Even pre-911, this was a really bad idea. I brought pepper spray to Europe in the spring of 1995. It was an extra rookie move since I didn’t even think much about it at the time. In an age when a bottle of more than three ounces of shampoo or a tube of toothpaste will be confiscated before you even get to your departure gate, it is pretty ludicrous when telling this story today.