Monday, October 24, 2011

India - Mini Europe

Before I embarked on my "Official Eurotrip", many people told me rather scared me about the "Language Problems" of Europe. It being my first real foreign travel ( Thailand has more Indians than Bangalore :P ) , I did get a bit freaked. I translated basic statements like "Where is the ticket counter?" "Which direction is this building?" "What time is the train?" to Dutch, scribbled it in a paper and started my journey.

My first endeavor with a foreigner in Europe was at the Amsterdam airport. In spite of all the Google Translate, I asked in plain English "Where is the train ticket counter?" He pointed me towards the counter and said "Goedemorgen" (which I later learnt was Good Morning), I smiled, said Thank You and left. After that I have often had to ask for directions in Netherlands and most of them have responded in English to me. At times they spoke just disjointed words but communication is all about getting the message through and that ALWAYS happened.

Next scary junction was the Paris Trip. The French don't speak English. That meant rigorous planning and taking millions of printouts of Google Maps and Tram Routes. First encounter was with a French Policeman outside Paris Nord Station. The man genuinely knew nothing of English. So I thrust my  hotel address in his hand, and in my best deaf-and-dumb act, asked him which way to go standing at a 5 roads crossing. He politely pointed a road and we started walking. At a point of time, I thought he had misled us, until we bumped into Abhishek and I was glad we weren't lost. We traveled whole day in trams and metros, language didn't seem to be a barrier for a single moment.

Also, we hail from the densest populated nation. If we add the few other millions of Hindi speaking people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Arab countries, you sure will meet a Hindi speaking fellow wherever in the world you are. No wonder at Amsterdam Airport's Burger King outlet, am greeted as "Yes madam kya chahiye?" or at Utretcht Central's Smuellers Counter "madam change hai for 1 euro?"

Now coming to the name of this post. It shocked me when a friend said that he is uncomfortable of travelling to Himachal Pradesh because his Hindi is weak. It made me think that my country is like a Mini Europe. People here get scared of travelling because they don't know the local language. To some extent, it is valid as India doesn't have a high number of Automated Ticket Counters or Cab Booking Places. So if you do not speak the local language and if you look like a foreigner in your own country, then there's a high chance you might be robbed by auto / cab drivers.

The northern half of India is united in Hindi and believe it is the National Language of India. Though there is the blend of Gujrati, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Kashmiri and what not. To the South, they are all Hindi speaking people. The east has a mixture of Bengali, Assamese and a few other tribal languages.The south totally brackets us in the Hindi speaking group. Tell that to a North fellow and he'll be laughing and rolling on the floor at our Bong Hindi. To the North, entire South is Madrasi. Strangely, the southern languages are more different from each other than the Northern set. Comparing the North and South set is beyond me! Our languages are as different as German is from French or Dutch is from Spanish. That's why being an Indian helps in surviving in Europe!


  1. U should have tried speaking in Hindi to the French Cop ! :P

  2. u hvnt writtn abt d match !! yet :(