Smart Travelers Speak “Stupid”


Two of our friendliest fellow passengers are Ray and Nedy, who both immigrated to the United States from the Philippines.

Nedy and Ray Photo by Joan Gilomen

Nedy and Ray
Photo by Joan Gilomen

Before I tell you about their travel smarts, I have to tell Ray’s story.  Baby Ray was born during World War II, and when the Japanese invaded, he was put in line to be bayoneted.  Just as his turn came, the soldier fell dead.  He’d taken a bullet from an American sniper.

Ray and Nedy learn everyone’s names, especially staff members.  They believe in using the local language, even if it’s only a few words.  To reinforce the rudeness of asking a local if she speaks English, Ray said, “Would you like it if someone came up and asked if you speak French?”  I knew the answer was supposed to be “no,” but, um, why?

I remembered something my witty friend told me about her years in Germany.  All her cleverness evaporated in German.  In English she ranked third in our high school class.  In German, she was a dolt.  So…asking Germans (or whomever) to speak English puts them at a disadvantage.   My ignorance casts locals as dim wits.  On the other hand, if I start by fumbling a few words in the local’s language, he comes off brilliant by comparison.

Figuring that out made me feel really smart.  Please don’t ask me to explain it in Filipino.


About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.

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