Five Essential Phrases for European Travel

Europe, Traveling Solo & Together — By on March 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm
By Nicole Trilivas 
Special to Lost Girls 
European tea
Sure Europe is conveniently packed together making crossing boarders a breeze, but that also means switching languages at the drop of a beret—er, hat. Then of course there are the countries like Switzerland where there are four national languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh), making things even trickier.

Learning just five basic words in the language(s) of the places you’re visiting will not only help you out in a bind (not everyone speaks English), but also makes a nice display of effort, which could lead to better experiences overall.


This is important when purchasing tickets, ordering food, shopping, etc. Just point to what you want and say, “one,” followed by the next word on the list (“please”). This is particularly helpful when food is displayed in cases, menus, and at markets.


Politeness is paramount—especially when you’re the one disadvantaged by not knowing the language. Following most of these words with an undemanding “please” will soften your request (“one, please;” bathroom, please;” “yes, please;” etc.)


Does this one really need an explanation? Never mind learning the “where is” part, just ask: “Bathroom?” With this one, body language and miming should only be used as a last resort.


As a traveler in Europe where local cuisine is one of the top tourist attractions, you’ll be eating out a lot. Don’t let fear lure you into tourist restaurants or chains just because they have English menus. Use your “one, please” phase, and also learn the word for “the bill.” Remember Europeans know how to lounge: unlike in America where being service oriented sometimes means having the bill brought along with dessert, Europeans love to spend hours lolling all day with a café au lait. Knowing this word could keep you on schedule. (Or you can just ignore this one, sit back, and order another macaron.)

Thank You

Parents teach us to say “thank you” at young age, and maintaining the practice while traveling is no exception. Learning this phrase goes a long way, especially in countries with lesser-known languages such as in Eastern Europe. A simple “thank you” turns you into a most polite cultural ambassador.

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