It’s generally recommended that you learn a few key phrases in the native language of wherever you’re travelling. If you’re going to look and act like a bumbling tourist, at least be a polite bumbling tourist who’s made an effort. The obvious phrases are things like “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Where is the bathroom”, “Please stop mugging me”, and so on, but there are a few extras that you should memorize before heading out that might come in handy.

What do you recommend?

This is great for when you’re stuck in a restaurant and just want someone else to pick the food for you. That’s what you like, Mr. Waiter? Awesome! Bring me one of whatever that is!

FRENCH: Qu’est-ce que vous recommandez?
SPANISH: ¿Qué me recomienda?
PORTUGUESE: O que você recomenda?
DUTCH: Wat kunt u mij aanbevelen?
GERMAN: Was empfehlen Sie?
FINNISH: Mitä suosittelette?

I’m sorry

At some point you’re going to bang into someone on a train or step on someone’s foot or spill a pint of beer on someone’s shirt. Learn this so you can apologize in hopes that they don’t punch you in the face.

FRENCH: Pardon OR Excusez-moi.
SPANISH: Lo siento.
DUTCH: Het spijt me.
GERMAN: Es tut mir leid.
FINNISH: Olen pahoillani.
GREEK: Lypámai (Λυπάμαι)

I don’t understand/I don’t know

I’ve found that I tend to get asked for directions a lot while wandering around foreign cities, leaving me stuck shrugging at random strangers and hoping that they eventually find their way without my useless advice. This is real useful in these situations, especially when paired with “sorry.”

FRENCH: Je ne sais pas.
PORTUGUESE: Eu não sei.
DUTCH: Ik weet het niet.
GERMAN: Ich weiß nicht.
FINNISH: En tiedä.
GREEK: Den katalavaíno̱ (Δεν καταλαβαίνω)

One beer, please.

Nothing is worse than getting up to the bar and realizing that you have to mime and point at the bottles going, “ONE. ONE OF THAT.” Figure out the word for your favourite drink and learn the numbers one through three so you can survive the journey to the bar.

FRENCH: Une bière, s’il vous plait.
SPANISH: Una cerveza, por favor.
PORTUGUESE: Uma cerveja, por favor.
DUTCH: Een biertje, alstublieft.
GERMAN: Ein Bier, bitte.
FINNISH: Yksi olut, kiitos.

Nice to meet you.

This is less about knowing a phrase that’s super useful and more about knowing one that’ll be mildly impressive when you meet native speakers.
FRENCH: Enchanté de faire votre connaissance.
SPANISH: Gusto en conocerlo.
PORTUGUESE: Prazer em conhecê lo.
DUTCH: Aangenaam.
GERMAN: Schön, Sie kennen zu lernen.
FINNISH: Hauska tavata.

Go away.

Even if you don’t look like Captain Tourist, there’s a good chance you’ll be accosted at some point by someone selling or hocking something. Sometimes you just need to tell them no thanks and sometimes you need to be a little more forceful. It’s also a fun phrase to use on your friends!

FRENCH: Vas-t’en!
SPANISH: ¡Váyase!
PORTUGUESE: Vá-se embora!
DUTCH: Ga weg!
GERMAN: Gehen Sie weg!
FINNISH: Mene pois.

No, thank you.

Lots of people learn how to say “thank you” before going to a place, but lots of times people forget to learn how to say “no, thank you,” which is a super useful phrase to know. More often than not you’ll need to tell people to leave you alone.

FRENCH: Non, merci.
SPANISH: No, gracias.
PORTUGUESE: Não, obrigado.
DUTCH: Nee, dank je.
GERMAN: Nein, danke.
FINNISH: Ei kiitos.

My hovercraft is full of eels.

The best phrase from Monty Python’s Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook.

FRENCH: Mon aéroglisseur est plein d’anguilles.
SPANISH: Mi aerodeslizador está lleno de anguilas.
PORTUGUESE: Meu hovercraft está cheio de enguias.
DUTCH: Mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling.
GERMAN: Mein Luftkissenfahrzeug ist voller Aale.
FINNISH: Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.