A couple of years ago I was travelling an awful lot for business almost around the globe and was able to go to many different places in a very short period of time. Unfortunately I did almost only stay for a day or two and did not see much apart from the usual tourist highlights, a fancy restaurant and lots of airports (and taxis…). The only exception was when I travelled with my good friend Mark who was always a bit more adventurous than me. He is an American, which means that he is selfconfident by nature (I guess its taught in highschool there). It also helps if you speak English really well (not all Americans do). Fluent does not mean that you understand a polished negotiation in a fancy glass office. Fluent means that you understand the slang in the noisy bar outside of the metropolis. It took me a while to get to that level (I had to hang out in bars for hours…).
I never learned English in school. I graduated in English but did not understand a word. At the final exam our teacher helped us to cheat, he was as embarrased as we all were. I learned English in the year I studied abroad. Not from the locals but from other foreign students and especially from my friend Liph whose death I described in my last blog. English is the only language you need to learn. The youtube generation grows up watching clips in English, they do not need to hang out in bars as much as I did. Maybe thats why they look much more healthy than buddies at my age.
I recently started traveling quite a bit again, but to much closer destinations in Europe, mainly to the East. English gets you everywhere. The cabdriver in Zagreb speaks better English than my Highschool teacher (ok, that is not a very high bar). I recommend everyone to teach their kids English properly instead of a few languages not good enough (most of them do anyway, lots of Tiger Mums out there). I still recommend to go to paths less travelled and not to the same fancy restaurants in every city. You learn more about a country when you talk to guys in dodgy bars than to CEOs of some multinationals who speak the same corporate bs anywhere. So always sneak out and have a beer with some locals even if you look as bad as me at 6am the next morning to catch a train, plane or whatever back home.
I would really appreciate if you press the like button or even leave a comment if you feel like. I also would not mind if you can share the article.