Skip to main content

Travelers' funniest language gaffes

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
Tourists trying out the local language can make lots of funny or offensive mistakes.
Tourists trying out the local language can make lots of funny or offensive mistakes.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Survey reveals common and hilarious language gaffes tourists make abroad
  • Greek word for good morning, "kalimera," is very close to "calamari" (squid)
  • In France, saying you're full can be mistaken for saying you're pregnant
  • Portuguese word for condom is similar to preserves
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- It's happened to all travelers at one time or another: You want to be a friendly tourist, so you try speaking the local language only to find you've left the locals giggling or worse, completely offended.

A new survey of more than 300 British travelers has revealed some common and hilarious language gaffes tourists make abroad. They're enough to leave lots of people red-faced and scrambling for their dictionaries.

The poll was conducted by Owners Direct, a British company that advertises vacation properties.

A traveler trying to offer a polite greeting in Greece ended up calling an elderly woman a "squid," probably mixing up the Greek word for good morning, "kalimera" with "calamari" (squid).

Another tourist was trying to ask for a hair dryer in Italy, but ended up asking for her "head baked al forno." "Al forno" is Italian for food from the oven.

In France, be careful how you express contentment after a meal. A common mistake is to say "I am full (or "plein" in French)," which can be mispronounced as "pleine" -- indicating you're pregnant.

One of the respondents in the survey also said she was extremely embarrassed when she mistakenly told the locals in Cantonese that she worked as a "prostitute."

Meanwhile, tourists ordering fruit preserves for breakfast can easily prompt lots of double takes in Portugal. If you say "preservativo," be aware you're asking for a condom.

Many travelers also confessed that they mistakenly say "good morning" at night.

The poll found 95 percent of respondents try to talk with the locals in their native tongue.

The most commonly used words and phrases? "Hello," "please," "thank you," "goodnight," "where are the toilets?" and "a bottle of house red, please."

What are some of the language gaffes you've made while traveling? Let us know in the comments section below.