According to an article by Yoko Kubota on washingtonpost.com this week, Tokyo’s Disney resort is possibly alienating visitors because Mickey, Goofy and the gang only speak Japanese. “The problem is the language,” said Chanida Towithelertkul, a Thai tourist who said her Chinese, English and Thai-speaking tour group was frustrated by the language barrier at the resort.
On the one hand, good for Disney that their famous characters speak something other than English. But on the other hand, who knew they spoke in person at all? The good news is, however, that when in another country where you don’t speak the language, there are some things that are universal, and sometimes relaxing, being flexible and staying in the context of the situation can help you be understood.
I still remember what I thought would be my biggest nightmare…being in a Japanese restaurant alone with everything written in Japanese. But, luckily, “tofu” and “soba” are the same in English and Japanese, and I always make a point of learning to say “please” and “thank you” wherever I am…it never hurts to be polite, as in “soba tofu, kudasai?”
And then, there are some things that are really universal for anyone of almost any age, like the sounds animals make. Learning from my husband’s experience of successfully ordering a chicken dinner in China by clucking loudly for the waiter, we had a great meal at a Japanese barbecue in Kyoto that included moo, cluck cluck, no oink oink, and a little…no sound needed, just pucker up and move your lips up and down. If you don’t get kissed, you should enjoy some delicious fish.