Useful foreign phrases, Part 1: how to say, “I’m just looking” in 10 languages

useful foreign phrasesI’ve frequently pimped Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on this site, but I swear I don’t get kickbacks from the company. It’s just that I’m a big believer in not being a). A Tourist (although, let’s face it, if I’m not at home, I am indeed A Tourist) and b). helpless.

Even if you’re the biggest xenophobe on earth–which would make foreign travel a really weird and pointless pastime you might want to reconsider– it’s hard to dispute the importance of knowing how ask “Where’s the bathroom?” in certain urgent circumstances.

It’s with such experiences in mind that I came up with this fun little series. There are a handful of phrases I’ve cultivated in various languages that have served me well, in situations both good and bad. Not only are they inscribed on the dog-eared inner covers of my trusty Phrasebooks; they’re etched into my mind, so I can summon them at will. Whether you need to ward off annoying vendors, personal humiliation, potential suitors, or would-be attackers, it pays to be prepared and know what to say, when. Since things like “Yes, No, Thank you, Please, Hello,” etc. are generally not too challenging, for the purposes of this series, I’ll leave them out. That doesn’t mean they’re not very important to learn, however.

This week’s lesson: “I’m just looking.” Invaluable for politely but firmly stating your desire to see with your eyes, not your wallet. It may not stop persistent hawkers from trying to close a deal, but at least you’re showing respect by speaking in their native tongue (or an approximation thereof). And who knows? If you change your mind, that alone may help you score a better bargain.

P.S. I don’t claim to be polylingual: I’m compiling phrases based on past experience or research. If I offend anyone’s native tongue, please provide a correction in the “Comments” section. Be nice!

1. Spanish: Solo estoy mirando.

2. Italian: Sto solo guardando.

3. French: Je regarde.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Gerry Balding]useful foreign phrases4. German: Nur schauen.

5. Czech: Jen se dívám.

6. Portuguese: Estou só a olhar.

Many languages, especially those spoken in Asia and the Middle East, use written characters. Transliteration will vary, depending upon the guidebook/translator, which is why the spelling or phonetics below may be different from other sources. Since these languages are largely tonal (and may require accents or characters not available on a Western computer), look at this way: odds are you’re going to mangle the pronunciation anyway, so just do your best! It’s the thought that counts.

7. Chinese (Cantonese): Tái haa.

8. Japanese: Watashi ga mite iru dakedesu (here’s to Japan getting back on its feet and attracting travelers soon!) To make a Red Cross donation, click here.

9. Vietnamese: Tôi chỉ xem thôi.

14. Moroccan Arabic: Ghir kanshuf.

What’s the most useful phrase you’ve ever learned in a foreign language? How has it helped your travels? We want to hear from you!

[Photo credit: Flickr user wanderer_by_trade]


GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 10: Kanchanaburi


Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 40 – Click above to watch video after the jump

In the first half of Travel Talk’s grand Thai expedition, we’ve tamed elephants, explored Bangkok’s temples, eaten scorpions, taken in a Muay Thai match, and witnessed a train running directly through a bustling market. Now, we’re taking you to explore a lesser known province of Thailand for a closer look at the culture and traditions of rural Thai life.

Kanchanaburi isn’t the first place you might think to visit when planning your trip to Thailand- but in many ways, that’s its charm. We explore this peaceful oasis just outside of Bangkok. The town promises to change dramatically with the recent reopening of the Three Pagodas Border Crossing to Myanmar, and we stayed in a massive 5-star resort that’s anticipating this very change. Exploring the local landmarks, we got a chance to walk across the Bridge over River Kwai- of classic hollywood fame.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews

Special guests: Joom, Tum, Nikki- the champion bartender & Richard- Dheva manager and businessman extraordinaire
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 9: Hellfire Pass


Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 39 – Click above to watch video after the jump

In the first half of Travel Talk’s grand Thai expedition, we’ve tamed elephants, explored Bangkok’s temples, eaten scorpions, taken in a Muay Thai match, and witnessed a train running directly through a bustling market. Now, we’re taking you to explore a lesser known province of Thailand for a closer look at the culture and traditions of rural Thai life.


In order to supply their expansion into Burma during WWII, the Japanese built the so-called “Death Railway,” which claimed over 100,000 lives from the Asian labourers and Allied POWs forced to work it. We get to experience the memorial at Hellfire Pass- the most grueling section of this infamous railway, then take on some hellfire of our own with the spiciest food Thai cuisine has to offer!

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
[RSS M4V] Add the Travel Talk feed (M4V) to your RSS aggregator and have it delivered automatically.

Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Flight attendant weight restriction causes uproar

flight attendant weight restrictionThai Airways International imposed body mass index and waistline restrictions on its 6,000 flight attendants last June. According to the Bangkok Post, all flight attendants, both male and female, were given six months to comply with the weight restriction. For female attendants, a BMI of 25 and a waistline maximum of 32 inches was implemented. The male attendants had restrictions of 27.5 BMI and a 35 inch waistline. To compute BMI, check out this handy calculator.

Those that did not meet the standards are now limited to domestic flights and same day service. They will be further relegated to ground crew if they fail to comply within a year. 41 flight attendants, 28 of them male, did not meet the guidelines and have filed a complaint with the Thailand Labour Protection and Welfare Department for the regulation which “violated their human rights, hurt their feelings, and decreased their incomes.” Although less than 1% of the Thai Airways flight attendant work force was affected, the Draconian measure has stirred up a debate regarding weight restrictions for flight attendants.

The vice president of products and customer services for Thai Airways, Teerapol Chotechanapibal, had this to say about the restrictions:

“…the regulation was aimed at improving the personality of flight attendants, who were an essential part of boosting competitiveness with other airlines, while their health had an impact on services and the safety of passengers. Flight attendants had to be agile and able to evacuate passengers from a plane within 90 seconds in the event of an accident. He said airlines worldwide had implemented similar standards. Stewardesses who are 160cm (5’3″) tall must not weigh above 66kg (145 lbs) while stewards who are 165cm (5’5″) tall must not weigh over 74.8kg (165 lbs).”

Asian air lines are notorious for hiring tall and rail thin flight attendants. A couple years ago, Air India even fired ten employees for being fat. I recall walking through Incheon airport in South Korea and passing a group of Korean Air stewardesses striding along the auto-walk like a gaggle of graceful storks. While I do not mind the inherent rule that flight attendants should be fit enough to assist with potential emergency situations, seeing an explicit weight restriction (an unnecessarily strict one at that) makes the whole enterprise feel cold, calculating, and inhuman. What do you think?

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flickr image via kalleboo

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 8: Scooters & Coconuts


Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 38 – Click above to watch video after the jump

In the first half of Travel Talk’s grand Thai expedition, we’ve tamed elephants, explored Bangkok’s temples, eaten scorpions, taken in a Muay Thai match, and witnessed a train running directly through a bustling market. Now, we’re taking you to explore a lesser known province of Thailand for a closer look at the culture and traditions of rural Thai life.

Situated near the border of Myanmar, Sangkhlaburi is a great destination for those looking for alternative to Chiang Mai or the beaches of Koh Samui. Ever since our Vespa adventure in Rome, we’ve been anxious to get back on the open road; so we rented scooters and explored the rest of Sangkhlaburi. We’ll take you to the longest wooden bridge in Thailand and show you what Thai life is like down on the farm.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
[RSS M4V] Add the Travel Talk feed (M4V) to your RSS aggregator and have it delivered automatically.

Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.