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To Biere or not to Beer? A guide for Brits abroad


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You may think you’re all set for your 2016 gap year adventure, with your flip-flops, board shorts and factor 50 at the ready. But, if you’re not a foreign languages student, you might want to brush up on the basics; a survey from fashion retailer Jacamo UK has found that almost a third of British men cannot order a beer in the local language when abroad. 

Holidaymakers heading for sunspots around the world admit they hope the barman will understand English, or resort to miming what they want, or simply point.

Jacamo’s survey found that words such as ‘cervezas’ and ‘biere’ (used in Spain and France) are incomprehensible to 31% of men. 

Nearly one in ten (8%) confessed that, rather than trying to speak a foreign language, they wave their arms around trying to mime instead. A further 5% choose to just speak ‘louder in English’, while 8% only get as far as ‘hello’ in a foreign language. 

The research found less than one in five (18%) were able to hold a conversation in another language. Spanish was named as the most useful language to know (52%), followed by French (51%) and German (40%). 

Some people do think it important to know a little of the language of the country they are visiting, with one in four (25%) saying they try to master a few sentences. Three in ten (29%) claim to know a few words and 26% said they know at least one word in two languages, while 21% are able to say something in three languages. 

To help ensure Brits abroad don't miss out on their favourite tipple, Jacamo has created a useful video phrase book showing how to order a beer in seven different languages. 

Carie Barkhuizen, spokesperson for Jacamo said: ‘It seems Britons are jetting to the sun with a real lack of the local lingo. We don’t want them getting embarrassed and thirsty while failing to get a drink so we’ve created a video to help them find success - at least when it comes to the drinks order - be it at a poolside bar, beach bar, restaurant or hotel’. 

Some admitted embarrassing encounters of trying, and failing, to speak a foreign language abroad, with some rather amusing results. One fellow admitted: "The first time I tried to order butter in Spanish, I ordered a donkey." 

Another revealed: "I was returning from Oktoberfest. I’d imbibed a few beers. I saw a pub, jumped off the coach, ran through the doors, put two steins on the counter and said: “Zwei beer, bitte”. In impeccable English, I was told, “this is a bank, the pub is next door”’. 

Yorkshire came out on top as the region who could order beer most successfully in at least one other foreign language (75%). This was also on a par with London (75%), and Scotland (75%). However, the worst region was Northern Ireland with a total of 59% unable to quench their thirst in a foreign lingo, followed by the North East (37%). 

However, there are signs that future generations will be more sociable when it comes to speaking to local residents. Almost two thirds (63%) of 18-24 year-old men said they were at least moderately fluent in a foreign language and 27% boasted they were ‘very fluent’. The worst were the over 55s, with a tiny 3% classing themselves as ‘very fluent’. 

To avoid encountering this very British problem while abroad, take a look at Jacamo’s essential video, and be prepared to get a round in wherever you are – Skål! 

*A survey of 1,000 UK men was undertaken by Censuswide on 8th July 2015, split between age and geographical location

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