After almost 18 months on the road, with trips home bridging luxuriously long stretches of travel, my brain has turned into a swirling, percolating mess of foreign words. Like most travellers I know, I try at a minimum to learn the basics in any new country's language: how to say "hello" or "thank you", how to ask "why" or "where" and in Asia how to say the word for "dumpling". But the first real expression I try to learn is always the same, no matter where I am on earth: how to say "no problem."

Truly feeling the "no problem" vibe can be difficult when you are intensely entangled in the chaos of a new country. For example, keeping your cool when you've just gotten off an overnight bus, have no idea where you are staying and you also happen to be ravishingly hungry can be an interesting exercise in personal tolerance. But I've found that arming myself with my expression of choice goes a long way toward breaking the ice and finding a new friend in a strange place.

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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