Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here are some tips from Europe traveler expert Rick Steve
1. Speak slowly, simply, politely: Speak with simple words, pronouncing every letter. Make single nouns work as entire sentences and begin each request with PLEASE (e.g. "Bitte, toilet ?")
2. Can the slang: American dialect has become filled with slang not familiar to most Europeans. The sentence "Can the slang," for example, would baffle the average European.
3. Use internationally understood words: Many Europeans will draw a blank if you say "vacation," but light bulbs turn on when you say "holiday." If you say "restroom" or "bathroom," you will get no room — "toilet" is direct, simple, and understood.
4. Be melodramatic and not self-conscious: Exaggerate the local accent and use hand signals and body language to communicate. In France you will communicate more effectively (and have more fun) by sounding like Inspector Clouseau (and the locals will not be insulted). Use whatever French you do know. In Italy be melodic and exuberant. You must be uninhibited. Self-consciousness kills communication.
5. Figure things out: Most major European languages are related and come from Latin. The French word for Monday (our "day of the moon") is Lundi (lunar day). The Germans say the same thing — Montag. Sonne is sun, so Sonntag is Sunday. If "buon giorno" means good day, "zuppa del giorno" is soup of the day.
6. Practice: Read time schedules, posters, multilingual signs, graffiti in bathrooms, and newspaper headlines. Develop your ear for foreign languages by tuning in to the other languages on a multilingual tour. It's a puzzle. The more you play, the better you get.
7. Use a notepad: Words and numbers are much easier understood when they are written. To repeatedly communicate something difficult and important (such as medical instructions, "I'm a strict vegetarian," "boiled water," "well-done meat," "your finest ice cream"), write it in the local language on your notepad.
8. Go with your educated guess: The key is to see most communication problems as multiple-choice questions. Make an educated guess at the meaning of a message and proceed confidently as if you understand it correctly.
9. Fake it: Faking it applies to rudimentary things like instructions on customs forms, museum hours, and menus. With this approach you will find that 80 percent of the time you are correct. And if you are wrong, it does not really matter (and your trip will become much more interesting!).
10. Relax: Don't worry about making mistakes, and just try to relax. You will be surprised at how well you can communicate with a 20 word vocabulary by just making an effort and breaking the ice.

Should I take cash? travelers checks? credit card?...
My suggestion is ATM cards or a pre-paid card. If you get one with Visa/Mastercard logo on it. It can be used as an ATM or Credit card and get the best exchange rates. Read this article to help you make a decision on what to do with all that cold cash http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/moneytip.htm

Friday, March 10, 2006

Questions of the Week:
Are we traveling to the Airport together? When do we need to be at the airport?
Transportation to Detroit Metro is left to each traveler. This way, if one person is late, we are not all late. Many choose to car pool if their parents cannot drive them to Detroit. I will get your tickets about 2-3 weeks before departure and pass them on to you asap. I will give out the tickets for unaccompanied minors at the airport (cause am the mommy on tour). For security reasons, we will meet at the airport a full 3 hrs before our flight time. This will give us ample time to check in, get our barings, get relevant info and chillax before our long voyage. The international portion of Det/Metro airport is like a shopping mall so time will pass quickly. You can see what I mean on this picture.