7 unavoidable awkward moments abroad

(And how to survive them with your head held high!)

1. That awkward moment when you don’t quite understand the question because your Spanish is rusty and you’re just like:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Foreign languages are hard and how people speak in, say, Spanish class is different than how they speak on the streets of Madrid. Learn how to ask someone to repeat something more slowly and be honest when you really don’t understand a question. Part of living abroad is learning how to rely on the kindness (and patience) of strangers.


2. That awkward moment when you’re taking photos at a museum and the guard is like HEY you can’t do that:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Most museums have signs when you enter that say whether or not photography is allowed. Check those signs or ask a local employee before you start snapping pics.


3. That awkward moment when you walk up to a local with a question and then your mind goes completely blank:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Practice your question a few times beforehand while you’re walking over to someone, almost like a mantra.


4. That awkward moment when you see some loud compatriots making a scene nearby:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: There’s nothing you can do about compatriots making idiots out of themselves. Just ignore them and realize that people are aware that there are fools out there from every country. Though you may be embarrassed by them, just remind yourself that you’re also abroad and are offering another perspective on your country and its people.


5. That awkward moment when you feel pressured to like the local cuisine when you secretly aren’t that into it:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Decide with a friend that together you’ll order one new dish and one dish that’s more comfortable and well-known. That way you can both at least have half a dish that you know you like, even if the other plate isn’t to your fancy.


6. That awkward moment when you’re still not quite sure how to greet locals:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Relax. Adjusting to different greetings takes time, the most important thing is to just maintain a smile and a relaxed attitude and follow what other people are doing.


7. That awkward moment when someone asks you something that you should know about your home country and you’re just like:


that awkward moment when


Survival tip: Own up to it. Obviously you can’t know everything there is to know about your home country. This is an opportunity to improve your knowledge about where you come from as well as learning about a new country.



Sources: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7


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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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