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Back in 2008 I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Britain with a good friend of mine. We toured London for a little over a week with his grandmother and a few of his many siblings (he is one of 11!) before we said goodbye to them and ventured to Scotland for another 10 days.
Since we were poor (but not Top Ramen poor) college students, our trip primarily consisted of hiking, camping, and staying in hostels. The last place we stayed was at a scout camp on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
We returned one night to find that we had been joined by an entire pack of cub scouts. Like 40+ boys. Daniel and I are both Eagle Scouts, and we introduced ourselves to their leaders. They soon invited us to participate in some of the activities. My guess is that they were happy for any free help.
During one of the games I noticed one of the boys had a fresh six inch gash in the knee of his pants. Wondering if it had just happened, I asked, “how did you rip your pants?”
The response was some immediate laughter, during which I had a lightning realization: in Britain “pants” means “underwear”. I should have said trousers. The kid followed up his laughter with “these aren’t my pants. Do you want to see my pants?” No, thanks, I really don’t.
“I don’t speak Korean.”
I’ve had other travel gaffes as well. On my recent trip to Australia, I had a tight connection in Korea due to an interesting incident (SEE: United Polaris First SFO to ICN: A review). While trying to figure out how to get to my next gate, I asked a security guard near the tram for some help.
The response I got was something completely unintelligible. I quickly fumbled, “I don’t speak Korean.”
This prompted a quizzical look. Out of the next words I managed to catch “not Korean.”
Face blushing, I realized he must have answered me in English the first time. I just didn’t understand a word of it through the thick accent. He searched on his phone for the gate number while I kicked myself inside for my rude response. Half a minute later he gave me the gate number, and I was on my way, the embarrassment still hot on my cheeks.
Any more embarrassing travel stories?
I have a couple more stories as well, but I’ll save myself from reliving the chagrin.
How about you? Have you had any gaffes of culture or language when traveling?