Traveling around Europe you very quickly learn that being Australian has its advantages… and its disadvantages.
Most people seem to love having a drink and a chat with the token Aussie, even if it is only to practice their own English and ask if we really ride kangaroos to school. It quickly becomes evident, though, that Australians are known to be some of the biggest drinkers in the world (cheers!). Second only to the Irish, apparently.
But being Australian also means that most people consider you to be approachable and friendly.
A big disadvantage of being an Aussie, though, is the lack of having a second language. Don’t get me wrong, there are many Australians that can speak a second language, whether it is because they learnt it at school or their family speaks it at home. However, I would also hazard a guess that there are many more Australians who would not be able to muster more than “hello”, “thank you” and “sorry” in another language.
There is, though, the bloke my uncle claims to know who can say: “I’ll have a beer, my friend will pay” in more than 20 different languages.
I sadly fall into the category of speaking no other languages, so my first tour of Europe was certainly an eye opener.
In many European countries the locals are happy to listen for a minute while you struggle through a translation, trying to order food or find out where the nearest train station is. If you are lucky, many locals will also know a bit of English or may even speak English better than the average Shazza or Bazza. The big cities are usually fine, but sometimes you will find someone who does not want to give you the time of day, or simply cannot understand a single word you are trying to mime.
It was when we were trying to order three days’ worth of skis and snowboards in Andorra that hubby and I really hit a bump in the road. Mr Shopkeeper was adamant that he did not want to overcharge us but when we realised that there was no common language between us, being overcharged was unavoidable. Mr Shopkeeper kept asking us for our “second language” and we could only embarrassedly mumble “none” under our breath.
This guy spoke five different languages, none of which was English. Eventually, exhausted over the entire encounter after a long day of travelling, we went to pay for our gear and were astounded when Mr Shopkeeper called out my last name excitedly.
He had established the last name in my passport was the same as his favourite James Bond actor, and quickly baptised me as “Bond”. Some things are obviously big enough to cross over the language barrier.
Back at work in London, when I was the token Aussie in an office full of many different languages, there was only one thing I could do – teach them the common tongue of ‘Straya, of course! Educating them in the finer art of slurring “G’Day, mate!” and drawling out a “howzitgoin’?” was my gift to international linguistics and diplomacy.
Check out Jacqui’s travel blog, Never Ending Honeymoon