From the moment the taxi driver pulls over to look at the hand-scrawled address you can’t pronounce, to the moment the hotelier calls your tour company for you because you’re afraid they won’t speak English — you are indebted. As a traveler, you always are.
It would be great if you could speak the language. It would surely enrich your trip. But it’s unlikely you do. If you’ve traveled much, what I’m going to say won’t surprise you. If you haven’t, and you’re worried about language differences, listen up — you only need to learn two words. You can wave, point, gesture and smile for the rest. But there are two words you must say:
When someone takes the time to show you that you’re heading in the opposite direction of your destination…say thank you.
When the waitor brings you the English menu and compares it to one in their language to understand what you’re pointing at…say thank you.
When the tour guide offers you a tiny bit of the tour in broken English…say thank you.
And then, when they visit you, when they don’t understand your customs and culture, and when they speak slowly and deliberately…smile, and say you are welcome.