Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever traveled abroad and felt confused or lost?

Do you ever wonder what you should be doing when you’re in another culture?

Getting confused happens often, especially when you are traveling to another part of the world.

We’re going to talk about this confusion in other parts of the world.

We’re also going to give you some great phrases to help you to express this confusion–and they may even help you to get a bit of help when you need it.

Today’s episode is a very special one because it was created as a live podcast recording during our Native English Power Weekend in Japan in May of 2019.

Students and native speakers participated to help us create this episode.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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Working Through The Challenge

It can be really confusing and challenging at times when you travel to another part of the world.

The more that you go somewhere else, the easier it gets.

There are certain things that can confuse you when you travel abroad though, and you want to be aware of that.

It’s quite normal to make mistakes–and sometimes you get lost and confused so easily and that’s all part of it.

There are so many rules and you don’t know if you’re breaking them.

This can be true in so many environments where you just aren’t sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

It may be eating in a restaurant and you don’t know the rules or what plates or utensils to use.

In Japan for example, it is customary and acceptable to slurp Ramen–and this can take some getting used to because it’s not acceptable in the US.

Working to understand these sometimes confusing traditions and norms can be difficult, but there are ways to overcome this.

Trying To Break Through Confusion

You may often find yourself in unusual situations or feel unsure of what exactly is going on around you.

You might say “what on earth?” is going on.

This means that you have no clue or no idea what to do next or how you are supposed to be acting.

It may be about something that you ordered at a restaurant or something that you are doing that you may not be sure is okay.

In Japan, you may order pizza or even sushi and find a bunch of mayo in it.

Is this normal?

This isn’t something that you would ever see in the US, but it may be completely fine within Japan.

People can be confused, as discussed on the show, as to why Tokyo is so clean but yet you don’t see any trash cans anywhere.

In this situation, people take their trash to their home and they get rid of it there–you just don’t throw it out in public because it’s not done that way.

Ways To Express That You Are Clueless

When we talk about cultural differences, there are so many things that come to mind.

This can bring to mind certain phrases that help you to express that you have no clue as to what is going on.

If you want to express that you really don’t understand, you might say any of these phrases.

  • What the heck: This is a great phrase and it’s all about the tone of voice that you use to deliver it. You may feel unsure, clueless, or just have no idea what is going on. If you find yourself in a situation like this, then you may say “what the heck is going on?” People will understand that you need some clarification. It’s a great phrase for everyday conversation.
  • What on earth: This is along the same lines because it expresses that same level of confusion. People will understand that you are trying to figure it all out and you feel lost. You might say “what on earth are they doing over there?”
  • What in the world: This third phrase is universal and works just the same way. It indicates that you have no idea what to do or think or say in that situation. It can be used in your conversations and people may offer you help because they know that you are confused. You might say “what in the world do I do when I get to that restaurant?”

These phrases all work quite well in everyday conversations.

They help you to indicate that you have no idea what to do, and they can even get you help when you need it.

They help you to indicate that you have no idea what to do, and they can even get you help when you need it.


When you travel abroad, there are times when you may feel really unsure about things.

You may not know what to do or how to act in certain situations.

There are certain phrases that can really help you to convey that confusion.

Try using these phrases in your everyday conversations, and see how they can help you to talk about your confusion.

Using these phrases may ultimately help you to get a bit of help when you need it too.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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