Tuesday, 10 September 2013

British travellers at risk of misusing hand gestures while abroad

At i-interpret4u we know from our past research that at least one third of British travellers use hand gestures to try and communicate when holidaying abroad, which is why we were interested in the latest report conducted by Trip Advisor on the misuse of hand gestures abroad.

Most of us at one point or another might have innocently used a hand gesture abroad, only to receive a look of bafflement – or worse we might have caused a grave offence to a local?  In fact 60% of us apparently admit to doing this.  Even though some of us take time to do our research before we go abroad, most of us don’t and we might not even give this a second thought.

The survey asked almost 4,000 travellers to identify what certain hand gestures mean.  Over 80% of Brits surveyed were oblivious to the fact that the ‘sign of the horns’, widely adopted by rock music fans and formed by extending the index and little fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers down with the thumb, is in fact a highly offensive gesture in France, Italy and Spain.

On the other side of the coin, while almost three-quarters (72%) of Brits find an open hand with the palm facing out aggressive, dismissive and assertive, nearly a third (31%) of Italians think it is a friendly gesture and over a quarter of Spanish (27%) see it as calming!

The results showed that other Europeans may be unwittingly offending Brits with their hand gestures. One in ten respondents in France (11%), Italy (12%) and Spain (11%) did not recognise the two-fingered salute as an insulting gesture.

Interesting stuff and it makes you think twice when making hand gestures in countries where you aren’t sure of what it might mean.  You could find yourself in hot water!


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Language barriers could be making life harder for Brits who unwittingly break the law when overseas

The Foreign Office (FO) has this week warned British travellers to check international laws before they travel to overseas destinations.  The new warnings come as the FO is concerned that laid back Britons see their passport as a ‘get out of jail free’ card even though unwittingly breaking the law abroad could result in a fine or even an arrest.

Interestingly it’s not the more obvious laws that we should be worrying about.  It’s the more obscure, odd laws that could catch us out and land us in trouble.  For instance, did you know that it’s illegal to wear camouflage clothing in Barbados, or that you will be arrested if you attempt to feed pigeons while in Venice?  If you’re caught eating or drinking near churches in Florence you’ll also find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

It’s probably true that most of us don’t think about researching local laws before we travel abroad, the same goes for local traditions and culture, add to that the potential language barrier most of us face when travelling overseas and it’s no great surprise that we are prime candidates for unwittingly breaking laws abroad.  In some locations there may even be adequate signage or notices to warn you of illegal practices, but if you can’t read the language, you’re none the wiser.

But it’s not just about researching laws; that can be time-consuming if you don’t know what you are looking for; in fact there are so many laws you could be researching forever before you find something relevant to your trip.  Attempting to learn a bit of the local language before you travel may also only go so far in helping.  But should you find yourself in deep water it could make all the difference if you are able to communicate with the local police or authorities to at least explain the situation and if nothing else, to better understand why you are being accused of breaking the law and what your next steps should be.

It’s vital to remember that laws and customs can vary greatly from country to country and what might be perfectly legal in the UK, could mean a jail sentence in another.


1.8 Million Brits expected to flock abroad this bank holiday weekend

As the final bank holiday of the year falls upon us, ABTA has launched findings this week that 1.8 million Brits are expected to head abroad this weekend in search of sun and relaxation.

The great British summer (despite its heat waves during July and August) has not deterred people from heading across the water to foreign destinations.  Are we heading off in search of new cultures, global exploration or simply to experience somewhere new?  No.

Where will we head to then?  No great surprises here if our past blogs are anything to go by; Spain remains the most popular overseas destination for us Brits to hang our ‘sun-hats’.  This is closely followed by the Balearic and Canary Islands (both with their Spanish influences and warm climates).  And, you’re not going to believe this but Barcelona is the most popular choice for city breaks this bank holiday (Spain again?)  Yes, it seems that Spain is the winning choice for so many ‘home-comfort’ searching Brits. Clearly we all yearn for somewhere warm but with the security of English-speaking people and cuisine we know and trust – we all know what paella looks like; sorted.

But don’t forget, travel five or ten minutes out of the tourist-rich destinations and you’ll probably find that most locals don’t speak a word of English – so it might be time to brush up on your Senorita’s if you plan to take the plunge and move away from the hotel poolside at any point.

But we like to think that one size doesn’t fit all.  There must be some travelling adventurers left out there?  And we don’t mean bungee jumping in Mexico or white water-rafting in Iceland either; we’re talking about the section of the population who simply like to visit new places, learn about new cultures and see a bit of the world.

Heathrow will be the busiest airport this weekend with around 425,000 passengers jetting off on their overseas travels, closely followed by Gatwick and Luton airport.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Brits enticed into moving abroad following ‘summer holiday’

A new survey from a holiday lettings company has found that 3 in 10 Brits have looked into moving abroad following a summer holiday where they have fallen in love with the country.  Whether they are browsing estate agent windows, have looked into the cost of living or even searched for jobs in the destination of choice, many are hooked on the idea of life overseas.

Around 1 in 10 are said to have actually made the leap to moving abroad following a holiday.  This has left us wondering what makes people fall in love with the idea of a life abroad?  It’s easy to fall hook, line and sinker for a destination when you are on holiday, no worries about work, money, school or daily chores.  But the reality is quite different when it becomes ‘home’ and a regular routine so people should really think seriously about this before making such a life-changing commitment.

Interestingly the most popular places for a permanent move are Spain followed by our neighbour, France.  Then the US makes third place followed by Australia and Italy.  Spain and France still have the comfort of not being too far afield, we expect most people will speak English (so languages aren’t a problem) – in fact, that may not be the case at all but still the assumption is there; equally with Italy.  And then you have our ‘language buddies’ the US and Australia – no need to brush up on your language skills there (as long as you know your ‘Sheila’s’ from your ‘good’day’s’ of course).

Maybe languages do play a factor in destination choice as well as closer destinations where the flight home to visit family isn’t quite so expensive or time consuming.  Either way, the lure of a life abroad continues to be popular with many.  We can’t help thinking that more of us should branch out a little further and start considering and visiting other destinations for our new lives abroad – maybe they aren’t the obvious choice, but if you don’t open your mind to the possibilities of the big wide world, you might be missing out!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Creature Comforts Abroad – good, bad or plain ugly?

We were interested to read an article this week in The Independent, which suggested that British holidaymakers should not expect their home comforts when holidaying abroad and that they need to drastically rethink their mind set.  Equally, the article suggested that foreign tourism boards also need to stop catering to people who simply refuse to step outside of their comfort zone.

The reality is, many British travellers are guilty of this syndrome.  It’s the fear of the unknown; anything different puts the fear of god into many of us.  It’s probably the reason why countries like Spain and France are still amongst the most popular holiday destinations with Brits.  As long as we’re just hopping over the channel and not going too far afield, we can rest safe in the knowledge that if we want to eat a good old ‘English breakfast’ or indulge in the safety of foods and brands we recognise, we can (not to mention talk to the locals, because hopefully most of them will speak English).  It’s all about home comforts, feeling safe and secure.  But that goes against everything that foreign travel is supposed to be about.  It should be about exploration, adventure, new experiences and diverse cultures.

Instead of worrying about whether somewhere will be different to our own country we should be embracing this.  Trying to fit in with the local environment wherever you travel is a key element of travelling.  So too, is the exposure to new ideas, greater perspective and a desire to challenge the way you normally think.

So why are the great British public so keen to take their own culture with them when they go on holiday abroad?  As the article goes on to mention, holidaying in popular ex-pat destinations like Spain has become increasingly like visiting a sunnier Britain with no need to utter a word of Spanish.  Probably true.  Will it change? I doubt it.

On that note, we’ll leave you with the thoughts of Telegraph journalist Jem Collins:

“If your cultural values are so rigid you refuse to accept anything other than Earl Grey and fish & chips perhaps you should rethink your choice of holiday destination. I’ve heard that Devon is quite British…”

Monday, 22 July 2013

Holidaying abroad: fun in the sun or daylight robbery?

As expected at this time of year, the last few weeks have seen many headlines connected with summer holidays abroad as we Brits lay down our towels on the sun beds and prepare for a week or two of fun in the sun.  For the most part, that’s what we expect and that’s what happens.  But stories of Brits falling ill or becoming injured abroad have left many of us concerned and bewildered as we learn that some hospitals overseas are turning people away who don’t have adequate travel insurance, or indeed are stitching people up with huge medical bills which they were completely unprepared for.

Being unable to speak the language doesn’t help either.  It’s also fair to say that in some cases, the ability to communicate at the point of needing medical care/an operation could well give the British traveller a greater sense of control of the situation, or at least give them the information they need to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with treatment or seek further advice before they are presented with a fat invoice.

But extortionate medical bills are only part of the story; there are many more ways that language-phobic Brits could find themselves being unwittingly ripped off this summer.  Problems with language barriers could also lead to being ripped off by a local taxi driver, ordering the wrong meal in an expensive restaurant or even being over-charged for goods in a shop - if you can’t communicate, you’re at an immediate disadvantage and it also means you’re an ideal target for rip-off tactics.

How can you avoid this?  There are no guarantees you can, but doing your research and ensuring you’re better-prepared than usual for any trips abroad this year and beyond is a good place to start.  Learn a few local phrases in advance of taking a holiday, take a good phrasebook, have your wits about you at all times and use your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  If necessary, use an experienced interpreter to communicate on your behalf should the need arise; and remember that communication is power.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Car problems abroad?

The number of Brit holidaymakers who plan to take their car abroad over the next 12 months has apparently increased by a third in just three years, according to new research this week from Sainsbury’s Bank car insurance.  The report claims that around 8.5 million Brits plan to drive abroad this year despite the probability that many will inadvertently break the law if they don’t know the rules of the road in the country they are visiting.

Researching and understanding some of the common road signs is quite important if you plan on driving in an unfamiliar country.  Many of the signs are quite different to the UK versions and can be confusing for the occasional traveller.  Of course, researching some of the local phrases of the country you are visiting is also worth doing if you hope to understand what certain signs say – they won’t all include imagery, some will be text only and if you can’t read the language this could cause problems such as getting lost, taking a wrong turn and driving onto dangerous/hazardous roads or even misunderstanding warnings about the environment/wildlife etc.

Motorists should also be aware that countries have different legal requirements in terms of what a motorist should carry in their car too – so it is always best to look this up before you start your journey

Of course, when you take your car abroad, there are some situations that you can’t plan for quite so easily.  What if you breakdown, have an accident or need road-side assistance?  Even worse, what if you need to call the emergency services?  Do you even know what number to call?  Could you explain to a breakdown recovery company what has happened to your car and where they should pick you up?  You may be lucky enough to be connected to someone who has a good understanding of English, but this may not always be the case. 

Always ensure your accident/emergency road-side cover is up to date, but also prepare for the worst too – imagine being stuck in an unknown location, unable to communicate in the local language.  What could you do in advance to prepare or make your life that little bit easier should such a situation arise?  Yes, you can research some phrases, you could even make sure you have access to a personal telephone interpreting service should you need to speak to someone who doesn’t speak English, and you could ensure your car is kitted out correctly with emergency supplies. Remember, you can’t just pop home if an issue occurs.  You might have the most reliable car in the world, but what’s the bet it chooses your foreign holiday location as the prime time to roll to a halt?