Sometimes you do need to know the written language
Most often when we travel to foreign countries we do not know the language. We try to learn a few basic words, which always helps to smooth the way, and our guide books have some menu translations, so you know what you’re eating. Maybe the menu has pictures of the dishes and you can just point or, like in Japan, almost all restaurants have plastic models of the dishes they offer and you just point. And, more and more, service people in tourist places speak at least some English.
Grocery shopping can be a different experience though. We’ve lived in France before and speak reasonable French, so going to the shops there is not a problem. When we lived in Japan, our host took us to the supermarket the first few times and showed us where everything was. Then I would remember the position of the butter, for example, or other packaged items. Bread, fruits and vegetables, and meats were easy as you can see them.
While on Korcula Island in Croatia we stayed in a small apartment and decided we could easily do our own breakfasts. So, off to the local Konzum supermarket we went. Bread and bananas, no problem. Juice, fairly easy as there was a small fruit picture on each bottle. Then to the dairy section, all nicely grouped together. Yoghurt we eventually worked out, and then we looked for butter. There were tubs of what must have been spreads, as they had a long list of ingredients (which we couldn’t read). Next to those were small slabs
wrapped in gold-colored foil, similar to butter we can buy at home. Plus, there was a a picture of a pastry on it. So, we grabbed a couple of those. Big mistake, as we discovered the first breakfast. It was hard, had a strange consistency and taste, so definitely not butter.
We asked Pero, who rents out the apartments, and it turns out that was a cake of yeast! We had a good laugh about that, realizing the importance of language.
If only we could have read Croatian!