Language Barrier in Europe and hitchiking

Travel Forums Europe Language Barrier in Europe and hitchiking

1. Posted by farleyUL (Full Member 125 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

I've heard that you can generally get around most places with English, but I'm just wondering where you might have problems getting around without knowing the native language.

I've also heard that it's generally quite easy to hitchhike in Europe...any truth to this? And what kind of problems would you anticipate only knowing English and trying to hitch? Thanks alot!

2. Posted by coldwarspy (Travel Guru 1108 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

hey there

It really depends where u go.

In west euro u wont have any trouble really. ofcourse if u go to a Gas Station in the middle of Andulusia, dont expect to be talkin much in English, but otherwise youll be fine. When u hit the East u will engage less and less in English the further east u go. Knowing a wee bit of German will help here.

Mainly the younger generation in places like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary will all speak English ok. Russia - forget it! I wont go back without atleast an understanding of the alphabet and basic Russian.

Try and pick up basic phrases before u go to a country - it will help as well.

3. Posted by nickla (Respected Member 223 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi there, I have encountered problems with just speaking english all over Europe. Obviously these will be more pronounced in eastern that western europe, but this is not to say it is all easy going in the west. I am fortunate enough to speak French, german and Spanish at a decent enough level to cope and im glad i did. Had some problems at the gare Du Nord in Paris, and if it wasnt for speaking french i would have had some issues.

My best buy when i was travelling round Europe was my Lonely planet European phrasebook. This was absolutely invaluable, it had all of the useful phrases, and when u have no idea of the language at all, all u need to do is to write down in advance what it is u need. This saves a lot of trouble and u dont offend the natives by speaking really loudly in english and gesticulating wildly!!

Good luck.

4. Posted by sunny1985 (Budding Member 12 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi farleyUL. I think you can easily use english in northern Europe, almost everybody there speak at least a bit of english. As for the rest Europe � I don�t know but I think European phrasebook will be very helpful.
As for hitch-hicking, I found it rather saftly to travel in Europe by this meaning of transport! :) at least in Scandinavia it is so. But if you have som friend with you and keep safety points of hitch-hicking ( like � you don�t hitch-hick in the evening or night, you don�t sit in the strange car and so on..) then you will be ok. I suppose. Well, at last I know some people who hitch-hicked round Europe, and I hitch-hicked in Finland and all of us are alife and ok now!
Well, wish you good luck and good journey!:)

5. Posted by steff (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi farleyUL,

I would say you definitely shouldn´t have any problems getting around Germany without speaking any German. Especially the younger generation loves to practice their English. On the other hand wouldn´t it be fun to learn the basics in several languages? I bet the locals would appreciate that as well ;)!

6. Posted by farleyUL (Full Member 125 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!


It would most definitely be fun to learn the basics in several other languages, which I'm sure will happen as we go from place to place. And if not, then it sounds like a European phrasebook is the way to go :)

7. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi farleyUL,

I found that a few helpful phrases in the local language went a long way. Once people see you're making an effort, they either switch to help you out (which sometimes makes it hard to practice) or else you end up playing a friendly game of wild gesticulations. Either way, you end up figuring out what you need to know.

8. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hitchhiking with just English is perfectly possible in most of Europe. A few words or phrases (at least a good Thank you type phrase) can be useful and even recommendede, but you only really need a dozen or so basics. A phrasebook can be useful, but i personally don`t bother - a couple of photocopies of basics plus bits ive picked up from other trips does me fine. One thing that is helpful though, is to know both versions of the place name, and if hitching using a sign (sometimes i do, sometimes not) write the place you want in local, plus sometimes as well the English transliteration version, but not just the English. I@ve successfully hitched in many countrries without knowing a single word of local without problem.

9. Posted by stevieh (Respected Member 616 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi Farley,
You really need to learn the basic phrases for the countries you intend to visit. On my RTW trip I found Europe a bigger language problem than asia. In Asia, everyone tries to learn English. In Europe, a lot of people (usually older) have no need or desire to.
Yes, young people in most countries will speak much more English, but they don't own all the shops do they?
France is notoriously intolerant of people who don't make the effort, and remember that althoug Gelli says, hitchhiking is no problem, people who pick up hitchhikers will be a t least prepared for the possibility that the hitcher won't speak their language.
If you're sticking to major cities, you will be fine, but if you disappear into the countryside, why should the local baker have learned English?
Scandinavia and Holland are the exceptions, where English is spoken all over - probably better than it is in England!

If you are a traveller, you will enjoy learning, getting by, pointing and laughing about it. It's all part of the experience, but make it your aim to learn along the way, and you will be doing future travellers a good service.

10. Posted by ReinierNL (Inactive 207 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hiya FarleyUL,

I agree with most that English is not commonly spoken in Eastern and Southern Europe, regardless of the place (urban or countryside). Young people are most likely to speak (some) English. German would be most useful as an alternative language to English. Buy a phrasebook and learn some phrases. The locals will appreciate the effort.
If you are going to hitchhike you may want to check with the following website:

Have fun!