Tuesday 9 July 2013

Words I wish I knew before going on holiday

By Paola Bassanese

Holidays. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and see yourself lying on a beach or walking up a mountain in the fresh air. Reminder: open your eyes.

So far, so good.

But then, while you are on holiday, you will need to engage in conversation with the locals, at one point or another. As long as you can order a beer and some food you'll be fine, right?

That's what I thought too a few years ago before going on holiday to Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. I took a beginners' course in both Spanish and Portuguese in a group setting and off I went.

Little did I know that those phrase books you take with you on holiday display all those case scenarios that apply to other people but not to you.

To give you a bit of background: I am a massage therapist and when I go on holiday, I like to reward myself to a few massage treatments.

If only I knew how to communicate my preferences to a therapist in Portugal who was wrapping me in warm mud! Don't worry, I did request that treatment. I just did not know how to explain I was getting a bit too warm. I could not wave my arms around miming “I am too hot” as I was mummified with bandages.

Or that other time when, in Spain, I had a haircut followed by a massage and I had no idea how to explain what hair style I wanted or the type of pressure I needed during the massage. I ended up with a super short haircut and a wishy-washy massage.

Worse still, that time in Brazil when I really needed a strong massage but because I did not understand the spa's massage menu, I ended up having some crystals applied to my body and then the therapist left me alone in the room to “soak up the energy”. Probably the most disappointing spa treatment I ever had, but then again at least the venue was beautiful and the customer service excellent. I just wanted to kick myself for not knowing enough vocabulary to explain I really needed a deep tissue massage.

Those group classes I took years ago were quite useful but I now realise that I needed extra tuition to get more familiar with different terminology. In an ideal world, next time I am planning a holiday, I will have one-to-one language tuition to make sure I know how to explain that my shoulders are tight and that I hold a lot of tension in my calves. Hopefully the local massage therapist will not bring me a couple of baby cows.

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