Travel tips

How to Communicate in a Foreign Country

Rebecca Doughty
By Rebecca Doughty . Updated: December 4, 2017
How to Communicate in a Foreign Country

Visiting a foreign country is always exciting, but unless you've taken the time to learn the language beforehand, chances are at some point during your trip you'll have a little communication problem. Whether you're asking for directions, booking a room or even ordering some lunch, sometimes the easiest of things can become difficult. Although nowadays most of us have smartphones and language translation apps are easily accessible, batteries die and roaming charges soar, so this isn't always an option. Here at OneHowTo we're going to give you a few tips on how to communicate in a foreign country to help you battle the language barrier next time you travel.

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Steps to follow:


Trying to communicate in a foreign country can sometimes be a overwhelming, and even a little nerve wracking. So one of the most useful items to invest in before your trip is a basic phrasebook. This is always handy to have in your bag whilst you're away and can make life much easier. By having a phrasebook, at least if you do happen to need to ask where the nearest toilet is, or tell a waiter you're vegetarian, you know that you can simply look it up. Try and learn a few of the basics such as 'hello' or 'how are you', and you'll be surprised how much local people appreciate it too!

Tip: Learn how to ask if they speak your language and remember to ask. There might not actually be a communication problem to worry about.


Getting lost in a foreign country and being unable to ask for directions is always a bit of a worry. Get yourself a map of where you're staying. This will make life much easier, particularly if you need to try and communicate asking for directions. If you're out exploring or sightseeing and can't find the place you're looking for, you don't need to worry too much about any language barriers as you can simply point to where you're heading on the map.

How to Communicate in a Foreign Country - Step 2

Gesturing itself is a great communication tool in foreign countries. Think of it as a game of charades. It might feel silly but it is often miming what you want that is the easiest for people to understand! Carrying a pen and paper can also be useful in case you need to write down hotel addresses or sites you might be looking for.

Be aware that in some countries, certain gestures can be considered rude or inappropriate. Take a look at this OneHowTo article on the meaning of hand gestures in different countries.


Just smile! Yes, it can be a little embarrassing standing there using broken sentences in a language that you don't understand, occasionally throwing in the odd English word and wildly gesturing and drawing pictures all because you want to order the noodles rather than the rice. But try and see the funny side and relax. Don't let language barriers ruin your trip or frustrate you and remember whoever you're having trouble communicating with is probably finding it just as difficult as you!

How to Communicate in a Foreign Country - Step 4

If you are able to use your smartphone in a foreign country, there are plenty of apps available that offer translations and phrases. Even something as simple as finding an online picture of what you're looking for can be useful when you're trying to communicate abroad. There are also apps now that enable you to download the map of the area you are visiting and use it offline to save data charges. But remember it is always a good idea to have another communication aid with you in case your phone lets you down!

If you want to read similar articles to How to Communicate in a Foreign Country, we recommend you visit our Travel category.

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Ahmye Dereje Kibret
if you have communicate with me. I will communicate with coffee export in Ethiopia. please, communicate with me
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How to Communicate in a Foreign Country