3 Tips for Negotiating in Unfamiliar Languages on Your Travels

The nature of travel means that negotiating comes up quite a bit – so that knowing how to negotiate, particularly in an unfamiliar language, is a highly useful skill to have.

So here are 3 helpful tips for you.

Stay Calm and Patient

One of the first things you want to do is learn how to stay cool if you’re going to keep things positive, especially when language hurdles pop up. Patience is your secret weapon for a successful chat, even if it takes a beat longer.

So, take a deep breath, and talk slowly. If things get a bit tangled, repeat or spin your words. Steer clear of frustration—it really helps prevent any crossed wires.

Imagine you’re sorting out some issues for your hotel room – perhaps trying to get them to fix the heating system, or maybe you’d just like some clean towels – and the language gets a bit tricky. Often the important thing is to stay chill – it can really smooth things out.

Learn Basic Phrases

Next, it’s a very good idea to learn as many key phrases as you can.

Often, you can pick up these phrases using language apps, phrasebooks, or some quick online digging. Aim for greetings, polite chit-chat, and of course the lingo for haggling and prices.

Say you’re checking out a cool market for souvenirs. Start with a warm local greeting, then hit the vendor with a friendly “How much does this cost?” or a laid-back “Can we chat about the price?” Showing an effort with the language can amp up the good vibes for a smoother negotiation. Or, heading somewhere in a cab? Greet the driver, then throw in a casual “How much to [your destination]?” Chances are learning these basic phrases and getting better at clearer conversations might even score you a better deal.

Use Visuals and Numbers

Visuals and numbers should definitely be a key go-to when words get lost in translation. It means you can keep the conversation going on some level no matter what language you’re dealing with.

Just whip out a notepad or your phone, flash some pics, or jot down numbers. And hand gestures for quantities or a simple thumbs up/down can really seal the deal.

Say you’re negotiating fruit prices. Show the vendor a snapshot of how much you want or jot down the number you’re fine with. It’s a visual game-changer that can really speed up the whole negotiation. Or maybe you’re eyeing a handmade masterpiece. Use your fingers to count out quantities, and flash a pic of something similar. This approach bridges the language gap and chances are you and the seller are more easily on the same wavelength, more or less.

While it’s not the easiest thing in the world, it’s possible to get your point across, even if you’re not very familiar with the language of the other party. Trying out these tips on your travels is a good start.


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