Have you ever had that dream where you hear people talking, you see their mouths forming the familiar sounds - yet you are left clueless to what they are saying? That was me, in real life, while traveling in Europe. Confused in a foreign country.
We visited Germany, Austria and Belgium during our voyage to the foreign lands. The signs swim in front of your eyes and conversations blur in your ears. Luckily for about half of the time, we were with family who have lived in Germany for about 2 years and really know the language and culture quite well. They assisted us with the basic 101 of how things work and also quickly explained some differences in the culture. So, that helped!
Both me and my husband are very adaptable and we quickly got the hang of things.
We used Google Translate - A LOT! It was a lifesaver at times when we needed to read labels or just to understand what an information sign was saying. Even to decipher restaurant menus!
Public transportation is EVERYTHING. Once we understood it, we were catching trains and busses like true Europeans (just to brag, we didn't get lost once!). It is convenient and easy and if you purchase a ticket valid for one week instead of one day, it is also financially a better option. We chose the week ticket that covers all transportation (busses, trams, trains) around the whole city.
Europe equals stunning architecture and views for days! Everything is so "close" you can easily travel around between cities and small towns. We took a Flixbus to Salzburg, Austria. Man, what a ride! You get luxury transportation - with wifi - for a comfortable price. By bus, you get to see the countryside a lot better than by high speed trains. We really got our money's worth. They drop you at the "Park and ride" area just outside Salzburg. They also meet you right there again to take you back to your city. The busses are clearly marked so you get on the right bus!
From here, you can take a tram into the city. Again, as the language barriers jump up - we asked other locals for some assistance operating the ticket machine. Google translate saved us once again by seeing which ticket we had to buy.
Whenever some of the locals spoke to us, we gave a sheepy smile and just said - " English?". After a while, especially if our family had explained the words before, we could start to understand slightly. We knew some of the general questions like when someone asks if this char is available - then we could at least respond or just vigorously shake our heads (hahaha).
My thoughts on our foreign vacation are summarised as: Who cares about the language if I can paddle in the Eibsee at the foot of the Alps? Who cares to use Google translate here and there while drooling over castles and detailed structures and towering cathedrals? The answer is - I definitely do NOT care! All in all, I am still absolutely in love with travelling despite some communication barriers. With excitement I will definitely start planning my next trip soon. If you feel scared about the language - equip yourself with a small pocket dictionary, Google translate and remember WHY you are there - to experience that language and culture. To explore the differences from home and there. To me, it makes it so worth it!
Bon voyage mes amies!