If language is wine upon the lips, as writer Virginia Woolf once said, North Americans have been sober for a very long time. Many of us – only fluent in English – are beyond the help of even the Rosetta Stone.
No surprise then in Europe, stubborn Anglophones discover they’re served steamed radish instead of coq au vin, are directed to crumbling churches rather than the beach and receive dingy single rooms over comfortable doubles. Learning a smattering of another language opens the same doors will be slammed in your face if you don’t try at all.
Next comes asking the right questions. If all you can say is “Buongiorno” and “Obrigada,” you may be the most polite tourist locals have encountered all day, but it won’t help get where you want to go.
Regardless of where in Europe you’re headed, a basic handling of certain phrases and questions will dramatically alter your experience of a destination. Not only will you enjoy your desired lunch or room, but your efforts will be appreciated by non-English speakers, who will be much friendlier.
Don’t worry if your accent isn't perfect or you stumble over words: the fact that you’re respectful comes through loud and clear, and even if someone responds in their native language, they’ll be patient in helping you find what you’re looking for.
Travel bloggers Kash Bhattacharya (BudgetTraveller.org), Dalene Heck (HeckticTravels.com), and Debra Corbeil (ThePlanetD.com) have travelled extensively in Europe, and agree that navigating other languages goes a long way. Here, they’ve shared the questions and phrases they think every traveller should have ready to translate, wherever they go in the continent:
European train and bus stations are stressful places: you have to be paranoid about your belongings and the number of exasperated people running around can be overwhelming. The Planet D’s Debra Corbeil recommends learning how to say "I would like to buy a ticket to..." That way, the most crucial aspect of the transaction is taken care of.
Ahead of your departure day, Budget Traveller’s Bhattacharya says asking, "how can I get to the airport from the hotel?" will save you the trouble of figuring out this all-important route at the very last minute.
Hecktic Travels’ Dalene Heck says the best ice breaker on the road is "Cheers". “Learning this quick phrase will often score points with whichever local you happen to say it to,” she says.
To get the goods on the hidden spots around your accommodation, Bhattacharya recommends knowing "where is the best bar or restaurant near the hotel/hostel?", as well as where do locals go out at night. And if you’re travelling solo, he says it’s important to ask "can I walk the streets alone at night?"
Most travellers will tell you meal times – particularly dinner – are trickiest. At the end of a long day on your feet, all you want is to get everything you ordered and avoid getting ripped off.
Before ordering, Corbeil prioritizes water, since some restaurants take advantage if you’re not specific about what you want. She advises, “whenever you order water, we always seem to get expensive bottled water when we don't need it.” To avoid this, she recommends mastering "can I have tap water please?"
Heck, meanwhile, has learned a little cunning is key to getting the meal you want. She uses "I’m allergic to…" frequently to avoid some foods. “Because I can be quite a picky eater at times – I don't like mushrooms or seafood – I have learned this phrase so it will be easier for me to explain why I don't want to eat something,” she says. “Even if it is a little white lie, it's not hurting anyone, and it’s saving me from gagging on people.”
She adds saying "It’s delicious" is also a nice gesture. “[My partner] Pete always likes to learn this in order to pass on proper compliments on the food we're eating,” Heck says. “Courtesy and kind words are always appreciated.”
If you prefer not to dine out all the time, Bhattacharya says it’s important to ask, "where is the nearest supermarket?"
Since there are a lot of rooms in Europe with two single beds as opposed to a double for couples, Corbeil advises it’s wise to know how to order the exact accommodations you want by saying, "Can I have a room with one double bed?"
Other useful questions to know when inquiring about a room include "how must is it per night or per person?" and "does it include breakfast?"
Out And About
If you’re missing your caffeine fix on the road, Bhattacharya says he makes it a point to ask "where is the best coffee in town?" And if you’re keen on getting a good panoramic photo, he suggests making note of "where can you get the best view of the city?"
During a night out, you might take for granted the things you can easily find at home, such as an ATM, so Bhattacharya recommends knowing how to say "where is the nearest cash machine?"
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Up Next: Europe's Best Nude Beaches
Action Pact In Sweden
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Nude, Not Lewd, In Portugal
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Bare Necessities Of Germany
While Germany many not have as much coastline as some other European countries, it has some terrific nude beaches. On the island of Sylt, one of the Frisian Islands (located in the North Sea), tourists and locals alike flock to “the St. Tropez of Germany.” <a href="http://locations.splocs.com/kitesurf/loc/sylt___buhne_16.html" target="_blank">Buhne 16 </a>is where the naturists hang out. Those used to Caribbean water temperatures might find the scene here a bit nippy, so bring a thick, plush towel for post-swim warm-ups.
Length Matters In Corsica
As one of Europe’s longest naturist beach, <a href="http://www.nude-france.com/Linguizzetta.htm" target="_blank">Linguizzetta</a> is a perfect stop while on Corsica, France. There are wild llamas, butterscotch-coloured rock formations and a eucalyptus forest, providing other things to look at if you’re tempted to stare. Over the summer, it’s packed with French and Italians, drawn to its bucolic vibe.
More Stud Than Dud In Dorset
So much for the perception of the Brits being prim and proper… Studland (seriously) Beach in Dorset proves otherwise. Managed by the National Trust, it’s routinely listed among the best beaches in Britain. The section called Knoll Beach is well loved for its fine sand and sprawling nature reserve. It’s well marked with coloured posts. When you get hungry and too timid to get out of the water (shrinkage George Costanza style?), then wait for the floating ice cream vendor that sails along the beach.
Discrete In Crete
Filaki Beach is the only “official” nude beach on the Greek island of Crete, but shunning swim wear is accepted widely everywhere. This particular beach isn’t the picture perfect sand that you see in the Caribbean. It’s made up instead of small pebbles that can be a bit rough of tender tootsies. But it’s a friendly welcoming spot not far from the Vritomartis Naturist Resort, handy for those waiting to spend more time here.
Daring In Denmark
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Party Hearty In Ibiza
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Come For A "Oui" Stay Near Bordeaux
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Where Irish Eyes Are Smiling
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Extroverts Unite In St. Tropez
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Olé! Keep Clothes Away iIn Spain
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Cheap Thrills In Croatia
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Crystal Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia
Known as Halifax’s formal nude ocean beach, Crystal Crescent is located in the aptly-named Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park which is close to Sambro, Nova Scotia. The beach offers great scenery and can get quite busy on weekends with up to 300 visitors. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigtzr45/" target="_blank">bigtzr45</a>
Oka Park, Quebec
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Hanlan’s Point Beach, Ontario
Located on the Toronto Island, the southern portion of Hanlan’s Beach has been officially designated as a sandy, clothing-optional beach for 14 years. The beach is maintained by the City of Toronto’s Parks Department and rules are enforced so that only a designated beach portion is clothing-optional and clothes must be worn everywhere else.
Beaconia Beach, Manitoba
On the southeastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, you will find Beaconia Beach. The beach is often visited by clothed families, so it is recommended that naturists walk about 15 minutes south of the parking lot prior to undressing.
Patricia Beach, Manitoba
This beach is located within a provincial park, and is recognized as a clothing optional beach on both weekdays and weekends. That being said, tourists are recommended to walk further north on weekends to avoid commotion with local residents or the RCMP.
Paradise Beach, Saskatchewan
Located on the Saskatchewan River, Paradise Beach is a well recognized clothing-optional beach despite does not have an association to advocate for naturalists. Also worth noting is the beach is patrolled by local police to maintain the family-friendly atmosphere. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdnboyfotos/" target="_blank">BFRE</a>
Wreck Beach, British Columbia
As the second largest clothing-optional beach in North America, Wreck Beach receives over 100,000 annual visitors. The beach is located in Pacific Spirit Regional Park on the shore of the Georgia Strait and the north arm of the Fraser River.
More Nude Beaches Around North America
Haulover Beach, Florida
Gunnison Beach, New Jersey
Rooster Rock Beach, Oregon
Hippie Hollow, Texas
Baker Beach, California
San Gregorio Beach, California
Robert Moses & Lighthouse Beaches, Fire Island, New York
Collin's Beach, Sauvie Island, Oregon