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Asking Questions in a Foreign Land: 5 Things You Need to Know

Urban Backpacking
Asking Questions in a Foreign Land: 5 Things You Need to Know
on July, 01 2014
Urban Backpacking

Image credit: Urban backpacking taken by Ras67 under Public Domain.

When it is your first time to visit a particular country, you might not find the places or things that you want to find. Worse, if you started walking around, you might have forgotten your way back to your hotel. Though you have electronic devices and maps that will help you get through this problem, there are instances in which the best possible way to find your way around is to ask a local resident.

If you are visiting an English-speaking country or you can speak their language, it won’t be a problem. You can just ask anyone and get an answer. However, if you don’t speak the same language, what should you do? Here are some tips that could help:

1.   Be mindful of the cultural practices in other countries. Do not just go about asking anyone. It is safer to ask a man rather that a woman in most foreign countries, especially when you are traveling in Asia. In most countries it is not proper for a woman to be speaking with a foreigner, let alone a man. There are also certain countries where the locals shy away from foreigners. Look for someone older or someone more likely to know the area such as a store owner, a person driving a car, or someone that conducts business in the area.

2.   Before going to a particular country, at least learn how to say “Do you speak English?” in their language. If they respond, then you can go ahead and continue speaking in English. You should also ask if it is fine if you ask several questions or if they are in a hurry. Proper etiquette should be observed at all times and being polite to whomever you are speaking with is one of them.

3.   Make your questions short and direct to the point. Don’t keep on asking them the same question. Don’t go into a lot of details as this could be annoying. If possible, don’t just ask one person. You can ask at least three people so that you can confirm what the first one said.

4.   Be discerning when approaching a local. Although most people in tourist destinations are used to foreigners and love interacting with them, there are also people that are just waiting to scam strangers.

5.   Before you leave your hotel, make sure that you have their number, their name written in the local language and other emergency numbers. Ask for directions and what to do in case of emergency. Ask for the location of the tourist bureau. Or better yet, ask them to recommend a city guide that speaks your language, which will facilitate things and you do not have to ask people in the street.

It can be stressful to be in a foreign land for the first time. However, if you know what to do, it won’t be a big problem. Good luck!

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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