I believe that speaking the language of a country you are traveling to, is not that important. Nine times out of ten, you can normally find someone who speaks English. If you can not, then a guide book, drawings and a game of Charades will normally get the point across.
We also manage to learn a couple of words along the way but, unless you intend on staying in the country for ever, then is there a reason for trying to learn the whole language?
I find a quicker way is to learn body language. Body language is universal of course, but there are a couple of body language signs that will specifically relate to the culture you are trying to interact with.
Body Language in Turkey
- Tutting. When I first came to Turkey, I spent a lot of time wondering why the Turks were always in a bad mood. Everywhere I went people were tutting. I asked a friend exactly what was happening and between his laughter, he told me, that when Turkish people are tutting, they are infact saying no. If you want to try it, then tut at the same time as raising your eyebrows.
- I don’t understand. Very often when we say words, we accompany them with an action. In the western world, the word “No” is normally accompanied with a shaking of the head from side to side. In Turkey, this means “I don’t understand” so expect someone to repeat themselves if you found yourself shaking your head without realizing it.
- Kissing. Not normally done the first time you meet someone, but on the second occasion it will be done. Even if you are male traveler, don’t be surprised if some great, big fat hairy Turkish man grabs you by both arms and plants an air kiss on each check.
- Women will more or less keep their kisses and handshakes for other women only, especially if they are married. Don’t be surprised to see two males walking down the street arm in arm either. Doesn’t mean they are homosexual, they are just friends.
- Hand Signal. The thumb is placed between the index and forefinger. Sometimes accompanied with the word “al”. Yeah, if someone does this to you, then you need to think back as to what you have done to upset them. Basically means f*** you.
Have you experienced any body language signs specific to the countries you have traveled through?
Do you believe body language is important when visiting a foreign destination?