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Brits abroad over-tip 'by millions' due to mispronunciation embarrassment

Many Britons are undecided over the right amount of tip. Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Brits on holiday over-tip by an additional almost £20m ($26m) a year due to embarrassment over mispronouncing orders in restaurants, according to a study.

Despite Brits reportedly taking an average of 1.9 holidays outside of the UK in 2019, it seems many UK holidaymakers are allowing their fear of mispronouncing words and phrases when abroad limit their experiences, according to a survey of over 1,000 adults by cruise agent Bolsover Cruise Club.

The study found that one in 10 UK adults actually refuse to try new food and drink items when abroad due to being unable to pronounce them correctly, with ‘sriracha, poke and gyros’ being the ingredients Brits are most reluctant to say out loud.

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In fact, just a fifth of Brits are willing to branch out and try new things every time they dine out abroad.

Other reasons given for avoiding ordering certain dishes, included following vegan or vegetarian diets (15%), admittedly being a fussy eater (15%) and being reluctant to try new things (13%).

Embarrassment, it seems, comes with a rather hefty price tag, as 15% of Brits admitted they will actually tip higher when abroad as a way of apologising for the language barrier, meaning an additional £19.5m paid out per year on average in tips alone.

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When tested on their ability to correctly pronounce specific food and drink related terms, when it came to some of the produce Brits are likely to regularly come across in the supermarket, there was still plenty of room for error.

Less than half (46%) of those who believed they could correctly pronounce espresso succeeded in doing so, incorrectly replacing the “s” sound with an “x” (ex-spreh-soh).

Despite being homed within the UK, just 37% of Brits can identify the correct pronunciation of Worcestershire sauce.

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Although just over 10% of Brits stated they were confident in their pronunciation of the polish sweet treat, Paczki, just 15% actually picked out the correct way to do so.

Similarly, more than a fifth shared they would happily rightly identify the pronunciation of Vietnamese dish, Pho, on the other hand, yet less than 15% actually were able to when tested

Just 7% of those surveyed could spot the correct way to pronounce the Greek delicacy, Gyros, compared with the 30% who believed they could do so when initially asked.

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Michael Wilson at Bolsover Cruise Club said: “While language barriers can understandably be a daunting factor for many holidaymakers, they certainly shouldn’t stop us from branching out and trying new things, especially when it comes to food and drink.

“Cruises are a great option for those of us who want the opportunity to try something a little different, in part because there is a plethora of choice when it comes to dining on board, as well as the opportunity to visit a whole host of destinations within a single trip. 

“Of course, we would encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone when on holiday, to give a new language a try, even if it’s just a handful of phrases, and to fully immerse themselves in the culture – you won’t regret it!”