It’s difficult sometimes, the language stuff.
You know, when you say the wrong word and you don’t realize. I used to think I was good at that though. When I was 12 and traveled to Estonia with my mum and she accidentally said “Good Night” when she meant “Thank You”, I thought that was really funny.
It’s even more difficult in countries with less tourism, because you don’t really get any help. I mean, unless people recognize where you’re from, they won’t know anything about your country that you can chat about.
For instance, we often get to hear “Ah, Sweden… Ibrahimovic!” and that means we can start talking football. But in places like Somaliland where the tourism is still a rare exotic happening, it’s different. There, someone screamed after me on the street: “Hello, are you from Korea?”
That’s when you feel it’s time to take it all from the beginning.
Anyhow, I had learnt in Africa to use “Tamam” to say “Good!”.
Since this was one of the very few Arabic words I knew, I went all wild using it. “Your country – TAMAM! And this food, I must say – TAMAM!”
And people always smiled and looked very proud.
When we entered Turkey, I tried to pick it up again. Though the Turks don’t speak Arabic, I heard people using it. A lot. “Tamam, tamam!”
So I did the same. Thought it was useful while hitchhiking.
“Turkey, tamam! And your car, also tamam! You are tamam!”
The only problem was people never really reacted, or if they did, they didn’t exactly look happy. I figured I used the wrong accent.
It wasn’t until weeks later when I found out that “Tamam” means “OK” in Turkey, not “Good”. Imagine what a bomb drop this was for me. Poor drivers, listening to me going like “Wow, your country, it’s OK, it’s alright! Your car is also fine!”
Embarrassing again. Very embarrassing. Hope my smile made it up for them. Remember this story when you hear a word you know from a different country being used. It might help you not sound as stupid.
Good Luck, folks!