John: European Travel.

In Experience, Strategy, Travel on 02/26/2010 at 11:35 am

I met John (@localcelebrity) via Sydney at dinner one night. He mentioned that he spent some time traveling through Europe, and since I’m actually a European at heart, we started talking about the places and things we’ve experienced.

John speaks German. He doesn’t really speak French. But when he went to France, he used this trick to get by with English:

John (to the person selling train tickets): “Sprechen-sie Deutsch?”
Train ticket person: “Non, non. English?”
John: “Oh, yes, I speak English. I’d like two train tickets to Amsterdam.”
Train ticket person: “What time would you like to depart?”

And just like that, he convinced a French person to voluntarily speak English. (Which rarely happens.)

He said this: “They’re obstinate about speaking English, until you present them with another language they’re even more uncomfortable speaking. Like German. And then they beg you to speak English.

I’m totally trying this the next time I go to Europe.

  1. Next time I go there I’ll try this out with Russian. Ponyemayeesh po ruski?

    • You speak Russian? I know a Russian poem. I’ll tell it to you when we hang out next. 🙂

      And yeah, that’ll intimidate the heck out of the French!

  2. Haha that is BRILLIANT, although I would undoubtedly butcher the German…

  3. Interesting, I’ve actually had the opposite experience in France. Both times I’ve gone, I would start a conversation in my limited French (taking pains to be overly polite) and most of the time, the Frenchman/woman in question would take pity on me (or not wish to hear their language butchered) and switch to English. Maybe it’s the girl factor. 🙂

    • It’s *totally* the girl factor. Who couldn’t be nice to you??

      I’m dying to try this in China next time I go. “Nihongo-ga wakari masu ka?” Hopefully they won’t think I’m asking for a fake LV.

  4. Ha! It’s so funny and SO true….and this comes from a Frenchie.
    This is especially remarkable on the part of someone who works for the SNCF (the French railroad system). Most of the time they act as if they don’t even understand French.
    ; )

  5. […] good time talking about cultural differences and I wound up telling the one gentleman from Paris my trick to getting a Parisian to speak English, he had a really good laugh and admitted he had no doubt it would […]

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