Learning to mind your Ps and Qs in a foreign language is an elementary task to get under your belt before setting off on your travels.

Want to know how to say “please” in a foreign language?

Asking nicely is never a bad thing. Here’s some starters for 10, (with phonetic pronunciations included for languages where the words don’t sound like they look):-

  • Cantonese – M’goi
  • Danish – Venligst(ven-isht)
  • Icelandic –Vinsamlegast
  • Maltese – Jekk jogħġbok (yek yoj-bok)
  • Norwegian – Vennligst
    Polish – Proszę (prosheh)
    Portuguese – Por favor
  • Swedish – Vänligen
  • Turkish – Lütfen
  • Welsh – Os gwelwch chi’n dda (os gwelwch yn dda)

 Say “thank you” in a foreign language, too

At the opposite end of the scale, it’s a good idea to be able to express your appreciation in your foreign language of choice, too:-

  •  Arabic – Shukran (shoe-kran)
  • Chinese – Xiexie (shye-shye)
  • Dutch – Dank u (dahnk u)
  • Finnish – Kiitos (key-toss)
  • French – Merci (mEHR-see)
  • German – Danke (dahn-kah)
  • Hebrew – Todah (toh-dah)
  • Italian – Grazie (grahts-yeh)
  • Japanese – Arigato (ah-ree-gah-toh)
  • Spanish – Gracias (grah-syahs)

Basics covered. But, it’s important to bear in mind that a fundamental please and thank you isn’t the beginning and end of minding your manners when you’re travelling abroad.

Politeness Abroad Isn’t Always What You’d Expect  

Knowing how to express common courtesies verbally in a foreign language is a phenomenal start. But manners are expressed differently, in weird and wonderful ways, around the world. So, it’s also wise to get a flavour for what’s considered good and bad etiquette before your start your journey.

Sophie-Claire Hoeller gave Business Insider a few examples of local etiquette that might not be what you’d expect – “…many Latin American cultures, notably Argentina, would consider it bad form if you showed up to a dinner party right on time”, she explained.

And, speaking of dining, she continued, “To Americans, finishing a meal shows the host how much they enjoyed the meal. In other countries, like China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Russia, it signifies that you’re still hungry and that they failed to provide you with enough food.”


At La Academia, we help hundreds of students every year to mind their manners in word and in deed when they’re abroad for work or play. Get in touch about dusting your diplomacy off ahead of your travels.

25 common American customs that are considered offensive in other countries, Sophie-Claire Hoeller, Business Insider