Hello? How do you say Hello in this language?!

Classic tourist story, no seriously, this is what happened to me on more than one occasion.

Over the few times I have decided to leave our great country of Canada to run in another country I never once attempted to learn any words of the country’s language I was visiting… not the smartest move.

When I first went to Iceland I was so caught-up in training and fundraising for my campaign that I forgot to check-in on what language is spoken by the Icelandic people – it’s labelled as North Germanic, which after trying to speak to someone while there is a blend of Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and German. Do you know how hard it is to order a coffee and sandwich when the person on the other side of the counter does not speak YOUR language?!

Yes, that does sound ignorant of me, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because I was ignorant. I wasn’t thinking and assumed everyone spoke English in Iceland… a good percentage of the population does, but it was just ignorant of me to think that everyone would be able to. Needless to say, I clued in to my stupidity quickly and was very apologetic for not being able to speak the native language, and the person serving me was understanding.

The second time this happened was in Spain… and I was a little bit drunk… okay, I was drunk. It was the night after running the half-marathon, I was out with a number of my fellow runners celebrating a great run and time at the event, and we wanted to get a taxi to head back to our hotel. We hopped in to the taxi and I asked the driver to go back to our hotel, can’t remember the name of the hotel, but apparently it was the same name as a bar in an area we did not want to be in. It all came down to me not asking the driver to go to a specific place and being vague thinking the driver would simply understand. It was not fun when we stupidly got out of the taxi, let the taxi leave, and we had no idea where we were; luckily, a sympathetic local who spoke a little English told us to get out of the area as soon as possible… guess we looked like targets!

So, be smart and not like me. Learn the language, you don’t need to be fluent, just have an idea of certain things to say such as “hello,” “thank you,” and “two beers, please.”



3 thoughts on “Hello? How do you say Hello in this language?!

  1. You’re funny! In my limited travels to Europe, I’ve always been humbled by just how many people speak not just English but any number of other European languages. The flip side of your experience is trying to bludgeon forward with my limited French, and having everyone instantly switch over to English to save their ears.


  2. Very thoughtful post! Forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations, like when you don’t speak the language of the country you are in, can be a good learning experience. It can also result in getting lost, ordering something you don’t like/are allergic to and making your connection in the airport. Either way, you end up with a great story!


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