, ,

  • Study found one in ten Brits will not attempt local language abroad 
  • 12% of those will also attempt to speak English in local dialect
  • Still, many travellers do take the time to learn key words and phrases 
  • Spain, France, Portugal are most popular half-term destinations

With the October half-term approaching, a new study from AXA has found that Spain, France and Portugal are the top European destinations to visit.

But before you jet off, take heed: one in three Britons will offend the locals while on holiday.

AXA has found that failing to speak the local language is the top indiscretion committed abroad, with one in ten admitting to it.

A survey found that one in ten Brits do not attempt to learn the local language while abroad

Of those, one in eight (12 per cent) also tries to be understood by speaking English in the local accent.

Interestingly, the reason most Brits don’t attempt to speak the language abroad has very little to do with disrespect.


1. Speaking English over local dialect – 15%

2. Adding salt to a meal – 10%

3. Using a knife and fork to eat – 9%

4. Pointing your index finger – 9%

5. Wearing shoes indoors – 8% 

6. Showing the soles of your feet – 8%

7. Blowing your nose in public – 8%

8. Wearing white after Labour Day – 6%

9. Exposing knees and shoulders in a religious building – 6%

10. Turning down a drink from your host – 6% 

Over two thirds of those surveyed said they feel embarrassed or annoyed when they can’t make themselves understood – so they don’t even try – with the most likely to speak English being those from the South East and East Midlands. 

And while it may seem offensive to imitate the local dialect, 63 per cent admit to speaking slowly or raising their voice in an attempt to make themselves understood, while one in 12 even resort to drawing pictures to get their point across.

It’s worth noting however that this tendency is more likely to be seen in men.

Only one in six women will exaggerate their words or attempt a local accent in effort to be understood. 

Still, many travellers do take the time to teach themselves foreign phrases and key words – and it seems that manners matter most. Seventy seven per cent of those surveyed rank ‘thank you’ at the top of their list of phrases to learn, closely followed by ‘please.’ 

‘Can I have a beer please?’ is deemed the most important travel phrase by one third of all men, but it seems to be more common among younger holidaymakers. 

Nevertheless, it’s also important for tourists abroad to take note of a faux pas that can be made inadvertently – offering to split the bill in France, for example, is a common mistake.

Head of AXA Travel Insurance, David Vincent, said: ‘Whilst our report shows an encouraging two in five people do make the effort to learn some local lingo so as not to offend, it also reveals that a third of us have committed a faux pas when on holiday in a foreign country.

‘Although no one can expect to be word-perfect in a foreign language before they jet off abroad, reading up on a few of the cultural traditions and key phrases ahead of time can make the world of difference and avoid any unnecessary embarrassment.’  

Daily Mail