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Old 05-18-2004, 01:32 PM   #1
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Hi All,

I am a new member and aspire to travel alone in Europe in Sep/Oct timeframe. I have been wanting to travel Europe, but never found friends who wanted to go too. The stories on this forum are truly inspirational and I think I will take the plunge of travelling by myself. Thanks for all the posts/stories guys!

I dont have specific itenary in mind (I want to see all the countries in europe eventually! . I live in Seattle,WA,USA and so obviously speak English. Besides that I know 2 other asian languages, which won't be of any help in Europe anyway. This is my trip alone to anywhere (though I traveled in USA and Indian subcontient with friends) and am just wondering if it would be easy on me to visit a english speaking country as a first step. I would like to see Czech republic, Hungary, Greece etc..., but kind of scared that I dont know the language and I am alone. I know its just the mental barrier I need to get out of, but wanted to know you opinions/comments from the fellow backpackers.

Thanks much!
Mani
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Old 05-19-2004, 10:59 AM   #2
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Hi Mani, WELCOME to the boards! I'm in Seattle too!

If you want to travel to a country and you don't speak the language, don't worry-- you're not alone. It helps to try to learn a few basic phrases, heck, we even have a board devoted to that here. (Although I don't think we have any current threads on Hungarian or Czech. ) If you haven't been to Europe before, then yes, it might be easier if you fly into the UK and start your trip off there. You don't *have* to do this though. Go where your heart desires. Go to the library or bookstore (anyplace you can sit down and thumb through books) and check out different guide books about places you're interested in. Heck, I do that for fun even if I don't have a trip planned! Cruise around the boards and ask as many questions as you like. I'm sure someone here will know the answer.

What part of Seattle are you in by the way?
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Old 05-19-2004, 04:24 PM   #3
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There's something Rick Steves say that might be useful for this problem. Try to plan your trip in order of ascending cultural hariness. Start with a country that is most likely to have english speakers somewhere and go from there. As you're in Europe you will acclimate to not being able to understand people (it's really weird in the beginning). So if you're going to only go to Eastern and Central european countries, I'd say maybe start off in Greece. It's always good to start in a place w/ latin or greek based words because, since English is latin and greek based, you might be more likely to recognize words than you would in, say, the Czech Republic

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Old 05-20-2004, 10:59 PM   #4
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I guess I screwed up on my first solo tour, then. I started in Poland, went to Ukraine and Czech and then headed west. Speaking only English, French and the yes/no/please/thank you core in a couple other languages. I suppose it would have been easier to start in English, but I figured I was going to be so disoriented anyway, it would be better to start with the hard stuff when I had lots of energy and enthusiasm. Don't know if I would do the same now, but I think so - it would have been hard to go from western Europe to the USSR (which it was when I travelled), towards the end of my trip. I was tired and enjoyed being able to think in a familiar language, read the signs and sit on a train with padded seats. If I'd saved the tough stuff til last, I think I wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I did when I attacked with all my energy.

I'm psyched to be going back to Poland this summer, want to share my favourite places with my family, and check out a couple of new areas.

We're living in Europe these days, and getting to do a fair bit of travel - really, English is spoken in most of the major centres, as well as in the smaller towns in most countries. Certainly throughout Scandinavia, you may never meet a non-English speaker. Here in Lithuania, they start teaching English in primary school, so anyone younger than 25 in the cities has at least a working knowledge of the language, and many older people do, too. If you're really freaked out about going somewhere and being completely unable to communicate, pick up one of those "pocket translators" - not the electronic kind, the little fold out card with pictures of trains, hotels, food, drink, etc that you can just point to and the other person can look at the picture and point you in the right direction. I've carried one in my wallet since we went to Korea some years ago. Don't use it often now, but I would have if I'd had one on my first trip, when I spent more time wandering aimlessly through little hamlets where I couldn't speak the language.

Learning a few key phrases is critical, though, especially in places like Hungary where the language isn't well known outside the country, and isn't even Indo-European. People really do appreciate the effort. Also, based on our experience in formerly Soviet-occupied and influenced countries, while everyone in the region learned Russian at school, don't assume that if you pick up some Russian phrases as a "go-anywhere" language that will get you through lots of different countries, people will warmly receive you! It was an occupation, and people don't like that! Better to start with a "hello" in the local language, followed by a helpless shrug and "Do you speak English?" than a confident "Hi, how ya doin'"...in Russian.

Incidentally, I'd add "Do you speak English" to your list of phrases to learn in whatever languages you think you'll need!
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Old 06-17-2004, 05:58 AM   #5
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hey, i too plan to go to europe in sep to oct time frame. i dont know were im going other than im flying into rome(fco) and taking it from there. i have a friend in naples...you and me are in the same boat my friend. well if you here anything that is helpfull let me know
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Old 06-18-2004, 06:27 AM   #6
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Welcome to the boards thefinalcut.

If you think you'll be like a fish out of water in a country that speaks a language thats foreign to you then I'd say start of in the UK or The Netherlands.

Having said that my first stop was Greece and while I had some language difficulties, on the whole I found it easy enough to communicate...even if that meant using hand gestures

As SV said though, try and learn a few basic phrases. For one it'll help you out and secondly I look at it as courtesy to at the very least attempt to learn the local language (hard if you're tripping through a heap of countries with different languages though).

In any case I don't think you'll have too much trouble in the grand scheme of things.

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Old 06-19-2004, 10:56 PM   #7
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The easiest place to start, not counting the U.K. and Ireland, where English is the native language would be The Netherlands. When I lived in The Netherlands, I don't think I met one resident there that did not speak English. They speak it better than most Americans. There are other countires like Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany where English is pretty much spoken anywhere. The biggest countries you will run into the language barrier is Spain, France, and Italy. For example, even though Madrid is a huge city, the majority don't speak English, but it is fairly easy to pick up some basic Spanish. You should have no trouble in Prague with Enlgish speakers, but Budapest was hit or miss.
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