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I'm a writer, photographer, humorist, philosopher, and teacher based out of Northern California.

 

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Travel Tips- Everyday Common Phrases You MUST Know Before Traveling Abroad

Updated: Jan 25, 2018



I have a confession to make: I have a deep phobia of communication barriers. What does that mean? People not being able to understand me/not being able to understand others makes me uncomfortable as hell. It’s not just language barriers either. Sometimes it’s perspective barriers. One of the situations where I feel most uncomfortable is when talking to small children and very elderly people. Even though they might speak English perfectly well, the shifts in perspective between us make it so that we might as well speak a different language because the words we are exchanging mean completely different things from our different perspectives. 


This little known phobia of mine makes gives me a special kind of anxiety at the thought of visiting a different country, one that speaks an entirely different language (instead of a mostly different language, like England or Louisiana). This is especially worrisome because of how many foods I can’t eat. One glutinous meal, for example, and I’m spending my whole trip holding back, just, so much vomit. 


One of the things that I think a lot of us worry about when traveling to a country where English isn’t the dominant language is how are we going to communicate with the locals. Finding directions, things to do, or just talking to another human being so we don’t feel so alone. 


That’s why I picked up Lonely Planet’s Japanese Phrasebook & Dictionary.


Which is actually the real reason I’m writing...


This book is amazingly ridiculous, with mind blowing phrases that you never even knew you needed to tell people in Japanese. Phrases like, “Risutora saremashta.” [“I’ve become redundant.”](118), “(haikingu) ga suki ja arimasen.” [“I don’t like hiking.”] (122) and “(ego ga dekiru) bengoshi o omega shimas.” [“Can I have a lawyer who speaks English?”]. (161)


And then there was the section on Romance. 


Some things in this section were practical, like ways of saying, “I’m not interested,” or, “I have a girlfriend.” 


There are phrases for pickup lines, such as, “watashi no shitte iru hits ni yoku nite imas.” [“You look like someone I know.”] (Which, I think more than anything, shows the inauthenticness of that line.) 


The sub-section, “Sex” seemed to be composed of phrases that seemed to be lifted straight out of a third rate porno movie. Phrases like: “Kore wa suki.” (“Do you like this?”), “kore wa ski des” [“I like that.”], “Kondomu o tsukaimasho.” [“Let’s use a condom.”], “Chotto Matte!” [“Easy tiger!”], and my favorite, (because it perfectly encapsulates the disappointment the writer of the book anticipates the Japanese person feeling after sex with you): “kata no chikara o nuite yaro no,” which apparently translates to, “It helps to have a sense of humor.” Meaning, maybe something went off before it should have...




Like, is there any bigger mood killer than reaching for a phrasebook in the middle of sex and clumsily fumbling out your mangled Japanese to tell a person to have a sense of humor about how horribly inadequate you are in bed? 


Perhaps the most ridiculous translation in the entire phrasebook is simply this though: “kekkon shimasen ka.” Like, if you knew so little of a person’s language that you had to thumb through a guidebook, butchering every word you were saying in the process, WHY IN GOD’S NAME WOULD YOU ASK THEM TO MARRY YOU??? (And yes, that is what that means.) 



If there is an upside to this phrasebook, (other than the fact that it’s amazing and hilarious) it’s this: it’s pretty much gotten me over my phobia of not being understood in Japan. Because, as bad as not being understood might be, in the end, actually being understood can be a lot more embarrassing. 


And if anything, if the actual country of Japan is anywhere as weird as this phrasebook is, them maybe I won't have to worry about being misunderstood at all. Maybe I'll fit right in.