I Can’t Find the Screws! Language as a Barrier

The problem

Often times in life we are fearful of situations in which we may not understand some written material or understand what is being said due to comprehension or a language barrier.

Imagine being in a hardware store in Thailand. As you search the aisles in desperation for the screw section. Above you are signs in Thai and not an English word in sight. All around you are curious faces, with some of them that may have never seen a white person but you can’t even entertain the thought of a conversation because of your quest to find a screw. As you stand bewildered in front of the store, looking across a sea of shelves and a display of the best quality electric meat smokers, finally a clerk approaches you a manages to muster the words “hello, I help you?”

With a look of glee, you realize you may have found your savior in a smock. As you proceed to gleefully describe what you are looking for at 100 miles an hour, you realize that the clerk has a blank look and your explanation has been in vain. So with the shopkeep in front of you and the screws, you need hiding in the labyrinth of a store how do you find a way to get what you need.

The Solution

If you were a prepared traveler then you would not have had to face such issues. So if you are in a foreign country and want to buy something as obscure as a screw, here are XS tips to help you combat those sticky and somewhat isolating situations that can be posed by international travel.

1.) Have a hotel employee write you a list in the language of what you need for ease of transaction.

2.) Learn some of the languages before you go on the trip. The internet is full of free courses, all it will cost you is time. Many locals are impressed when travelers take the time to learn the language and might even reward you with an extra shrimp or two at the local market.

3.) Use google translate or hire/buy a translating machine. These machines are cheap and will help you keep your independence on the trip

4.) show the clerk a picture of the screw you need. Pictorial, like math, is a universal language.

5.) Hire a language guide. Language guides are good because not only is the barrier broken, but they can get you the local rates!

In our scenario, you, the weary traveler finally found the screws you needed and left on your merry way because you followed this advice and were victorious in the quest to the hardware store. If you are considering international travel, perhaps you might consider staying at an all-inclusive where you won’t have to go out in search of screws.